New Legislation Will Help SF Tackle Homeless Shelter Crisis

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) – Flanked by supporters at a hotel converted to shelter the homeless, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announced a bill to give San Francisco flexibility to build homeless shelters and transitional housing for unsheltered homeless residents.  The bill faces its first hearing in the State Legislature next week.

“Business as usual is failing to solve our homeless crisis,” said Ting.  “We need the freedom to think and act big, without the conventional bureaucratic challenges that bog us down.  This bill will give our community the flexibility and freedom to craft innovative, local solutions to get the best use out of the resources we have to fight homelessness.”

Assembly Bill (AB) 932 streamlines until 2027 processes for building homeless shelters and supportive housing in San Francisco upon the declaration of a shelter crisis.  In lieu of compliance with state and local building, housing, health, habitability, or safety standards and laws, San Francisco would be able to adopt by ordinance reasonable local standards for homeless shelters and supportive housing.  The California Department of Housing and Community Development would need to review and approve the ordinance to ensure it addresses minimum health and safety standards.

“San Francisco shelters, navigation centers, and supportive housing are highly successful programs,” said Jeff Kositky, Director of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing.  “Since 2011 San Francisco has ended homelessness for over 10,000 people with various city programs.  Despite these successes, there are still thousands of people in need of assistance.  To meet this need San Francisco must have more urgency and flexibility around the opening of navigation centers, shelters, and supportive housing projects.”

“With the homeless crisis that's facing San Francisco we need to do everything that is possible to expedite the building and production of supportive housing, shelters and navigation centers,” said Gail Gilman, Chief Executive Officer of Community Housing Partnership.  “This legislation will give San Francisco the flexibility to bypass cumbersome laws and the freedom to create its own regulations to expedite the production of homes for those who are without.”

“We help over 5,000 parents and children each year at Compass Family Services.  The reason for why families fall into homelessness is bar none the lack of affordable housing and shelter,” says Compass Executive Director Erica Kisch. “Assemblymember Ting’s AB 932 is a courageous step in the right direction because it will allow the City to build emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing when it’s most in need – during a formally-declared shelter crisis, such as the one we’re in right now.  As one of the most socially progressive cities in the world, we can’t continue to allow mothers, fathers, and their children to live without roofs over their heads.  AB 932 will help build those roofs, and so we’re proud to support it.”

A 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report found 62.3 percent of the 6,996 homeless people in San Francisco are not sheltered.  This equates to the 6th largest homeless population and the 5th highest rate of unsheltered homeless among major cities across the country.  Of the 118,142 people experiencing homelessness in California, 66 percent live without shelters.  This is 44 percent of the nation’s unsheltered homeless overall and the highest percentage of unsheltered homeless among the states.  All five of the nation’s major cities with the highest rate of unsheltered homeless are in California.

San Francisco has approximately 1,600 year-round shelter beds, including 168 navigation center beds, available for adults and families experiencing homelessness.  Currently, there are over 1,100 people on the shelter bed waiting list. 

Shelters are designed to provide a safe and temporary place for people stay when experiencing homelessness.  They rarely provide 24-hour operation, privacy, or a secure place to store personal belongings.  Navigation centers are designed to help chronically homeless people connect with benefits and access caseworker services such as overcoming addiction, mental illness and physical disabilities.  They help individuals who have stayed out of shelters because they don’t want to be separated from a partner, friends, or pets to find permanent housing.

A recent San Francisco Chamber of Commerce poll shows San Franciscans overwhelmingly support action on homelessness.  Ninety percent support navigation centers for the homeless and 77 percent support having one in their neighborhood.  The poll also found 79 percent support prioritizing the creation of 4,000 new shelter beds.

In May 2016, a San Francisco Board of Supervisors resolution urged Governor Jerry Brown to declare a State of Emergency on Homelessness and to “create permanent housing opportunities with the right level of services to ensure that housing opportunities are stable and successful in the long-term.”

###

CONTACT: Anthony Matthews, tel. (916) 319-2019