It was a small political win for Supervisor Ahsha Safaí at the SF Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, as the board voted to approve the expansion of a bus program for the city's homeless that he had earlier proposed.

Back in November, Safaí proposed the legislation to formally expand the city's existing Homeward Bound program. The program, which has existed for nearly 20 years, offers homeless individuals bus tickets out of town when the city has been able to get a commitment from the person's friend or family member that they can take them in.

Safaí contended that around 1,000 people per year were taking advantage of the free bus tickets at the program's peak, but during the pandemic years that fell to about 200 people per year. And he proposed that the city should "return Homeward Bound to a stand-alone program, make it clear who is in charge, and expand access to more people — including those residents in our permanent supportive housing — so they can reunite with their families."

Tuesday's legislation puts the Homeward Bound program in the operational hands of Human Services Agency and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, as the Chronicle reports. And unlike before, when the program was primarily targeting those already on city welfare rolls and those who were formerly unhoused, the new legislation expands the program to the city's network of shelters and supportive-housing complexes.

The legislation also requires that the individuals be offered addiction treatment services.

This seems like a piece of campaigning for Safaí, who is running for mayor, regarding a hot-button issue. And Mayor London Breed's camp responded as such, with spokesperson Jeff Cretan telling the Chronicle that the legislation is "not necessary."

Regarding the dip in numbers of those using the program, Breed told the paper that "fewer family members were able or willing to take in family during the pandemic. As that has changed post-pandemic, we’ve seen more people accepting relocation assistance."

It should be noted that Breed mentioned the Homeward Bound program in her own State of the City speech two weeks ago, saying she intended to see that the program serves at least 1,000 people per year again.

The main positive of the program, which was created under Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2005, is that it costs far less per individual to bus them out of town than to find permanent housing for them here. But the program also speaks to the fallacy that "most" of SF's homeless have arrived here from elsewhere, when city data suggests that most do not, and a third have lived here for 10 years or more.

"People who choose to participate in the Homeward Bound program typically live within the state and we’re spending less than $200 for relatively short distances," Safaí tells the Chronicle. "It’s a win-win, strengthening a support network for program participants and savings for the city in social services costs."

Again, both Breed and Safaí support the program, and probably other contenders for the mayor's office will as well — so in November, this is just going to come down to voters think should get credit for it.

Previously: Supervisor Proposes Expanding ‘Homeward Bound’ Program That Buses Homeless Out of SF

Photo via Greyhound Bus/Facebook