20 Proactive Approaches to Homelessness

Homelessness is a complex and tragic issue that has a range of impacts on individuals, neighborhoods, cities and counties. It is a problem for which obvious solutions are not readily apparent, yet it is an issue that many communities on the west coast continue to grapple with, to an unprecedented degree, and for which many creative and innovative programs are being tried and tested all the time.

Tonight the City Council will be hearing a list of recommendation from its own Homeless Coordinating Committee and determining how to integrate the recommendations into the FY18 work plan and budget.

After a six-month process reviewing best practices in a variety of communities and analyzing an abundance of data, the committee has identified 20 actional recommendations for council review. The recommendations span a wide spectrum in terms of implementation cost and scale, but the majority centers around initiatives that are practical and possible to implement in the immediate future.

The recommendations are thoughtful and on point. By focusing initially on mechanisms that increase and expand crisis intervention and case work (1,2,3,4,8,17,19) and guaranteeing that much-needed services (5,6,7,17,18,19) are coupled with support, provides the highest result for helping individuals move out of homelessness, and address individual issues that will provide for a more integrated and independent lifestyle. Services without support, though may be necessary for emergencies, are not sustainable.

It is also important to note, as the recommendations do, that homelessness is not a problem isolated to the city limits, and it is essential that the city continues to work with other local governments and agencies to work on a regional, state and even federal level towards solutions (1,9,10,11,13,14).

Finally, it can be said that the most obvious solution to homelessness is getting people into homes. While that is more than an oversimplification, it is true that the housing stock needs to be addressed. While the report does not pretend that we can simply build our way out of the homelessness crisis, it does acknowledge the importance of supporting efforts to create more housing in our community (10, 12,20).

Downtown Association staff has reviewed the report and greatly supports the recommendations and the work of the Homeless Coordinating Committee.

It is an ongoing discussion as to where the responsibility lies for addressing homelessness and what the best approach is. These recommendations balance taking proactive steps with the understanding that the city can not tackle this issue in isolation. In order for homeless services to be sustainable and effective, we must understand this as a regional issue and we must continue to have the conversation with everyone at the table.

City Council will review the recommendations at 7:00 pm this evening and hear public comment. You can also contact the council by email.

Recommendations (see full report here)

Short term (0-3 years)

1. Support the Implementation and Success of Coordinated Entry
2. Increase Homeless Outreach Services & Mobile Behavioral Health/Mental Health Response
3. Contract for Homeless Jobs Engagement Program
4. Create a Triage Location/Expanded Recovery Center for Crisis Intervention
5. Secure Electronic Device Charging Resources
6. Secure Storage Facilities
7. Secure Hygiene Resources: Restrooms and Showers
8. Continue to Fund Homeward Bound
9. Create a 2X2 Committee with the County
10. Explore Potential for Local Help from No Place Like Home (AB 1618) Legislation
11. Engage in Strategic Planning with the Homeless Services Center, County, and Other Service Partners
12. Develop a Revenue Source for Housing
13. Coordinate State Advocacy with Other High-Ratio Homeless Communities
14. Engage and Advocate Federal Representatives on Homelessness and Mental Illness Needs
15. Improve City’s Internal Coordination System and Homeless Protocols from Front Line to Public Safety Staff, and Ensure Training and Support
16. Create Homelessness Information and Resource Page on City Website

Long Term (5+ years)

17. Consider San Francisco Navigation Center Model
18. Pursue Permanent, Regional Year-Round Homeless Shelter Center
19. Explore a Day Center with Basic Services and Case Management
20. Cultivate Development of Housing

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