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San Francisco mayor to ramp up homelessness spending despite budget deficit

A person in a bedroom
Mayor London Breed tours a one-bedroom at the 711 Post St. shelter in San Francisco on July 19, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants to carve out $692.6 million in homelessness spending next year to help meet the city’s five-year plan to cut homelessness in half. 

If approved, the spending would create 600 shelter beds and 545 housing units over the next year, Breed said at a press conference Tuesday at the site of 70 tiny homes for homeless people in the Mission District. Breed and the Board of Supervisors will negotiate the specifics of the city’s budget over the next month toward the goal of closing an estimated two-year deficit of $744 million. The mayor must sign a balanced budget by Aug. 1.

“Despite a significant budget deficit, our investments in homelessness will continue,” Breed said.  

The city currently has just over 3,000 shelter beds while around 4,400 people sleep on the streets, according to the most recent count. The city also has over 12,400 units of permanent supportive housing, though 825 of those units are sitting empty, according to the most recent report. 

Breed credited Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, a strong proponent of adding more shelter beds, for pushing her to pursue a “shelter first” approach. 

That approach has drawn criticism from some homeless advocates, including the city’s own Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which has voiced concern that prioritizing shelter would ultimately exacerbate homelessness. However, the department has acknowledged the need for more shelter while pushing for more balanced investments in both approaches.

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing's current budget for the 2024 fiscal year sits at $636 million. Approximately 62% of those funds are allocated for housing, while 20% goes toward shelter and the remaining funds go toward prevention, outreach and personnel costs.   

Mandelman told The Standard on Tuesday that he doesn’t see Breed’s allocation as an abandonment of the city’s so-called "housing first" approach. 

Instead, Mandelman said, the investments in shelter are part of an attempt to more immediately reduce the amount of people sleeping on the city’s streets.

“I don’t think we’re abandoning housing first. […] If we had infinite resources, that’s what we would do,” Mandelman said. “San Francisco is increasingly realizing that it doesn't have infinite resources, but we do want to end homelessness for as many people as we can.”

David Sjostedt can be reached at

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