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Mayoral candidates reveal how they plan to end homeless crisis

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Ideas include more Navigation Centers and new modular housing

Homeless Numbers Remain Unchanged From 2011 Despite Increase In Funding Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

With San Francisco’s special mayoral election less than three months away, candidates are vying for voters’ affections by making big promises about the homeless crisis.

First, Mark Leno, a former supervisor and state legislator, released a plan last week that promised to end “street homelessness” in San Francisco by 2020.

Yes, 2020.

“Ending street homelessness means a dramatic reduction in the number of chronically homeless people in San Francisco by ensuring that everyone sleeping without shelter on the street or living in a tent will have a bed in a shelter or a navigation center,” writes Leno in an 11-page pitch. Presumably it would mean reducing that number to zero.

How does Leno intend to do it? A few perks of his plan:

  • First, he promises to “create 15,000 units of affordable, workforce, and permanent supportive housing to move people off our streets and under a permanent roof.” (Since Leno also says this will happen on a ten-year timetable, the intended effects won’t be ready in time for his predetermined 2020 deadline.)
  • In addition to the aforementioned units of housing, Leno says he will “make use of the $100 million dollars” he secured as state senator to create 400 units of permanent supportive housing.
  • Leno promises to “immediately move at least 1,000 people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing,” a population that’s equivalent to roughly one in six or seven homeless persons in San Francisco, depending on the count. He notes that roughly 1,500 SRO units are vacant in the city, but he doesn’t mention how he intends to persuade building owners to move homeless renters into those units.
  • The plan also promise more Navigation Centers, although it does not specify sites or neighborhoods.

Well, at least nobody can say it’s not an ambitious agenda.

Homeless Numbers Remain Unchanged From 2011 Despite Increase In Funding Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

London Breed, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, took to Medium with a proposal on how she plans to curb San Francisco homelessness.

“We cannot continue to accept tents on the sidewalk, encampments in our parks, or [...] to have our hospitals and jails serve as some of our largest shelters,” said Breed in a 4,000-plus word blog that includes a lengthy list of promise:

  • Breed tells voters she will “build 5,000 more housing units each year,” the “more” part presumably indicating that this is on top of the current levels of construction. According to U.S. Census estimates, SF has added an average of 2,644 new units/year since 2010.
  • That includes investing in modular housing, as Breed suggests “a $50 million General Obligation bond” with matching funds to build “over 600 modular homes.”
  • Breed doesn’t go so far as to say she’ll end homelessness, but she does promise to “end long-term tent encampments within one year of taking office.” The plan doesn’t include any details more specific than employing “increased outreach, resources, and oversight.”
  • Like Leno, Breed promises more Navigation Centers. She notes that “centers aren’t a permanent solution, but they’re an important component.” However, her current proposal floats no particular sites or neighborhoods.

Supervisor Jane Kim, the other candidate who polls in the top three along with Breed and Leno, has not yet released a comprehensive homeless plan of her own. However, her campaign site promises she will “declare an immediate state of emergency on homelessness” and press Sacramento for assistance.