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Supes Spar Over How to Get Every Homeless San Franciscan into a Shelter: ‘The Streets Cannot be a Waiting Room’
Monday, May 16, 2022

Supes Spar Over How to Get Every Homeless San Franciscan into a Shelter: ‘The Streets Cannot be a Waiting Room’

Supervisors are sparring over how to get every unhoused San Franciscan into a shelter bed, with a proposal that one lawmaker says will undermine an effort to hold the city accountable to an important deadline.

Under Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s plan, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing would have six months to figure out how to find shelter for all the city’s homeless residents. But he worries that changes introduced by Supervisor Myrna Melgar to secure permanent supportive housing for each person in the program could delay his push to add more short-term shelter.

“The streets cannot be the waiting room for people to get more permanent housing,” Mandelman said. 

Melgar pitched the amendments to Mandelman’s “A Place for All” plan as a way to strengthen the streets-to-housing pipeline. Her changes passed through the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee by a 2-1 vote Thursday and will need to be heard again by the subcommittee on May 26 to give the public a chance to weigh in. 

Supervisor Catherine Stefani voted against the amendments at Thursday’s hearing; supervisors Gordon Mar and Connie Chan voted in favor. If passed again in two weeks, the amended legislation will go to the full Board of Supervisors for a final vote.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani speaks about the “A Place for All” legislation before the Board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting on May 12, 2022 in San Francisco, California. | Chris Victorio

Mandelman penned the proposed law in summer 2020 but got pushback from homeless advocates who called for a policy that does more to get people into long-term housing.

“The voters have said that we are ‘housing first’ city,” Melgar said during the committee meeting, pointing to a majority vote in 2018 to approve Prop C, a tax on certain businesses that pays for homeless services. “The right thing to do is to put [A Place for All] in the context of what we’re trying to do and what we’ve funded.” 

Mandelman told The Standard after the meeting that he worries the amendments make perfect the enemy of the good. Besides, he added, the city is already trying to bolster its stock of long-term housing.

Since July 2020, the city has added 2,544 permanent supportive housing units. But 800 remain empty, according to a recent report, and many pose serious health risks to tenants.  

Mandelman said his plan complements the city’s push for stable housing—and offers an immediate option for people who might not be ready for long-term accommodations.

“Are we supposed to have a plan for permanent supportive housing for everyone?” he asked. “I don’t think it’s feasible, I don’t think it’s a good idea and that’s not what my legislation was about.”

San Francisco’s most recent point-in-time count in 2019 counted 8,035 homeless people in the city proper. The Department of Public Health later tallied a much higher number: 18,000 individuals who accessed homeless services in 2020. 

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Mandelman pointed to an uptick in encampment fires as well as the public health hazard that sidewalk tents pose for the housed and unhoused alike.

Melgar also introduced an amendment that would create a hotline for homeless people to find shelter. This amendment, she said, addresses issues around the accessibility of shelter—which is often only offered when a homeless person is being moved from the sidewalk by the Healthy Streets Operation Center. 

The city’s 311 line used to offer the ability to reserve shelter beds before the pandemic. But the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing discontinued the service to allow for longer stays at the temporary facilities. Many homeless advocates have pushed to reinstate the service. 

“Homeless people actually had, for a brief period … the ability to just request a bed,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director for the Coalition on Homelessness, said at Thursday’s meeting.  

Mandelman said he thinks the phone service should be part of separate legislation.

Even if the amendments are concerning, Mandelman said he’s hopeful that the proposal seems to have enough momentum to become law—unlike last year, when the proposal died in committee.

David Sjostedt can be reached at [email protected].
  • The performative meddling surrounding Mandelman’s “shelter bed” legislation is yet another example how our Board of Supervisors continues to “fiddle while Rome burns”.

    A textbook demonstration of the incredibly low caliber of politician that district elections has brought to the City — a 20-year stretch of incredibly poor performance; an utterly failed “experiment”

    We need to return to the city-wide election of Supervisors.

  • The coordinated entry program that the city instituted has been a failure. They’re not even getting people into available permanent housing that’s already sitting here waiting. I wonder sometimes who’s on drugs, the unhoused or the people in charge of getting them housed.

  • There should be enough shelter beds in the City to accommodate any homeless person that needs shelter.
    Long term housing should only be provided to those that are willing to enter and stay in treatment.
    These “rules” would clear the streets permanently – as those that need a bed will get one. Those that are willing to enter a treatment option would be rewarded with stable housing.
    All other homeless don’t have to go home, but they would mo longer be welcome to live on our streets in tents.

  • San Franciscans are sick and tired of the homeless dictating what they will have or not have. Either they accept services — for which taxpayers are paying in spades — or they go to jail and participate in community service to “give back” to San Francisco.

    A jail doesn’t need to be behind bars; it could be an outdoor camp or other shelter. The point is that we take our streets back.

    Vote Shellenberger for governor; Erica Sandberg for mayor.

  • Melgar is prolonging suffering and the abysmal conditions of our streets.

    Agree we need city wide elections on supervisors so hold this idiots accountable.

  • Again, Connie Chan goes in the opposite direction of her constituents. Since covid, we have learned that in actuality, progressives are not able to make society better for tax payers, though they certainly campaign otherwise.

  • Connie is clearly anti Asian. She wants so badly to be recognized as progressive white that she wouldn’t mind a few more dead Asians. Just make sure not to name the race of the perpetrator because it will hurt Connie’s feelings.

  • I will never understand the reverence this city has for the homeless or the logic of offering shelter as it will only increase the homeless population. Some of these supervisors would much rather advocate for the homeless than for their constituents. Housing is a right, but no one has an inherent right to live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. For all those folks who advocate for the homeless, I wish they would invite a homeless person to live with them.

  • G*d Bless Sup Mandleman for trying and Sup Stefani is the best Supervisor. Ever.

    It is past time to remove the homeless problem from our streets, our sidewalks and our bike lanes.

    Oh and rad photo of “my” badazz Supervisor, Supervisor Catherine Stefani

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