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Mayor pledges $29.1 million for homeless services as public gripes

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Mark Farrell promises fixes as SF’s homeless issues move to the fore of election season

An apparently homeless man sits in front of a cyclone fence, with Muni buses behind it. Photo by David Tran Photo/Shutterstock

San Francisco’s homeless problem—and the related problems of addiction and city sanitation—are making national headlines and stirring up both mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns, so Mayor Mark Farrell has once again promised more funding to help clean up the city’s act.

Via a Thursday press release, Farrell’s office pledged $29.1 million in additional funds in the upcoming city budget for homeless services, including:

Doubling San Francisco’s Homeward Bound program, expanded shelter capacity, full funding for the four new Navigation Centers slated to open in the next year, [and] nearly 200 housing units for formerly homeless residents in new affordable housing buildings.

[...] With the 197 new permanent supportive homes, San Francisco will now have approximately 7,700 total units, the most per capita of any city in the [country]. In addition to adding new units, the Mayor’s budget will include $1.5 million a year in enhanced supportive services at permanent supportive housing sites.

Homeward Bound is a city program that locates friends and family members of homeless people and (not to put too fine a point on it) relocates them to live somewhere else.

         By David Tran Photo

The city’s planned new Navigation Centers, including one near the “hairball” bike path that was crowded with tents last year, will add more than 300 new beds. Although City Hall touts the existing four Navigation Centers as highly effective, they have only 358 beds between them.

More than a quarter of the proposed new supportive housing units are in the Minna Lee Hotel, a Sixth Street SRO long vacant after a 2001 fire. Farrell and Supervisor Jane Kim collaborated on a 10-year lease deal with the owner in March.

As with previous budget pledges about street cleaning and needle removal, Farrell (who will only serve as mayor until after the June 5 election) and associates are presumably eager to appear proactive about chronic problems on SF’s down and dirtiest streets, as news about the homeless population and public sanitation problems has again made nationwide headlines in recent weeks.

The question of how to solve the perennial homeless crisis has moved to the fore of the ongoing races for both Mayor of San Francisco and Governor of California, with candidates at a Tuesday governor’s debate proposing everything from hardline enforcement of “vagrancy laws” to doing away with anti-rent control laws.