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San Francisco expands program that pays for homeless individuals to return home

Homeless people are seen on streets of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco on October 30, 2021. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

San Francisco is expanding a program called Homeward Bound that pays travel expenses for people experiencing homelessness in the city to return to their hometowns, said the Mayor's Office on Thursday.

Starting on Apr. 10, the city's Human Services Agency (HSA) will offer travel expenses home through the program, which costs around $180 per person on average, in addition to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH).

“This is part of the larger work we are doing to provide a range of solutions to help those in need in our City,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement.

In September 2022, HSA restarted the Care Not Cash Program, which offers a guaranteed shelter bed to eligible homeless individuals plus a cash grant up to $105. That program was suspended under COVID due to the closure of some congregate shelter settings.

According to the Mayor's Office, a number of people have requested assistance to travel home since the Care Not Cash program resumed.

The expansion of the Homeward Bound program to HSA is intended to simplify the process for people seeking travel assistance, who might otherwise have to go to a separate access point managed by HSH.

The Homeward Bound program has helped 11,000 people return home since it was first started in 2005, according to HSH executive director Shireen McSpadden. The city believes there to be a low rate of return.

HSA said in a statement that clients will be able to access travel home directly at their benefits office at 1235 Mission St., either on the same day or the day after it is requested, depending on bus or train schedules.

“Offering same-day or next-day Homeward Bound travel directly from our benefits office will enable more people to end their homelessness by returning home to their family or to other support networks,” said Trent Rhorer, HSA's executive director in a statement.