COVID-19 exacerbated the already unsustainable street homelessness crisis in neighborhoods. And the residents I’ve heard from over the past 13 months have been clear: Tackling this crisis must be the City Hall’s top priority after the pandemic.
This is why I wrote a law called A Place for All to create a network of temporarily safe sleeping places to ensure a safe, well-managed place for everyone affected by homelessness. One place for everyone – which will have its first hearing before a committee of the supervisory board this Wednesday – does three things:
First, as a city policy, it will establish the San Francisco commitment to provide protection to any unhoused person willing to accept it, and set minimum standards for accommodation that has a safe place to sleep with access to bathrooms, showers and staff around the world Include watch.
Second, the Department of Homelessness and Assistive Housing (HSH) will have four months to work out a plan, along with the proposed budgets, locations and guidelines, on how to achieve this goal over a two-year period. and
Third, HSH must implement the plan pending board approval to ensure that within two years any unhoused person in San Francisco can be offered better than the nearest sidewalk, plaza, or park.
Predictably, my suggestion is to draw fire equally from right and left.
For some “moderates” in San Francisco, my legislation is “too much”. They claim that our city has already spent billions of dollars on homelessness, barring major problems for which there is little to be shown. The answer, they argue, is not to spend more on shelter, but to enforce existing laws.
While I understand their arguments, a 2019 9th appeals court ruling in Martin v City of Boise now prohibits most local enforcement “when no alternative sleeping place is available.” Additionally, their no-investment approach does not recognize that San Francisco has done a good job with the billions of dollars it has invested to successfully get thousands of people off the streets and into permanent homes.
Conversely, my legislation is “not enough” for some progressives in San Francisco. Their opposition is focused on two points, the first being a false claim that A Place For All would create a “right to protection” similar to politics in New York City and Boston.
In fact, my proposed regulation would not create a “right to protection”. It is fully compatible with ambitious solutions developed by local homeless stakeholders and political organizations to fight homelessness by providing housing to the unhodged. That would, of course, require far more federal and state funding than San Francisco has received in four decades. But nothing about A Place For All would rule it out.
In addition, it should be noted that neither New York City nor Boston were beaten up by the United Nations for the “cruel and inhuman” conditions of their street camps such as those in San Francisco. This is a “world class” distinction that no Franciscan should be proud of. A second argument that some progressive critics make against my legislation is that it would lead to the enforcement of unhindered tents on streets and sidewalks by the homeless.
In fact, A Place For All does not go directly to the enforcement issue. I believe the vast majority of the homeless would like to accept an offer from homeless. I also believe that a large majority of Franciscans expect the city to end street homelessness as soon as we can offer safe alternatives. Residential and business district camps are unsustainable, especially with so many non-resident people suffering from severe addictions and / or other mental illnesses.
Finally, critics on both sides criticize my proposal for its cost.
During the coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco piloted a range of safe sleeping berths for the first time. A recent analysis of these efforts found a monthly cost of approximately $ 5,000 per tent, which included 24/7 security, facilities and catering for three meals a day, as well as COVID-19 PPE and distancing internships. These costs were unacceptably high and I am convinced that after COVID they can be reduced significantly through better planning and economies of scale. Even so, decent protection costs money. Safe berths should be a quick and inexpensive alternative to traditional lodging, but there is no reason to believe that they are significantly cheaper in operational terms.
And even if A Place For All cost tens of millions of dollars to fully implement, that money would still be a fraction of the many hundreds of millions of dollars the city spends each year on housing people from homelessness, with little impact on it to have road conditions. If we want to solve street homelessness in our neighborhood, we need to fund policies that aim to solve street homelessness in our neighborhood.
Gavin Newsom sometimes says, “If you keep doing what you’ve done, you’ll get what you have.” It’s time for San Francisco to try something different. It’s time for a place for everyone.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman represents District 8 on the San Francisco Board of Directors.
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