In his recent “State of the City” speech, Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garrett, stated that “homelessness isn’t an issue, homelessness is the issue.” Candidates to become San Francisco’s next mayor appear to agree. Frontrunners London Breed and Mark Leno have each offered comprehensive plans to end homelessness. Jane Kim has identified a framework with which to tackle the problem. Angela Alioto previously led a municipal commission on homelessness and has stated that “homelessness is the biggest concern in this upcoming mayoral election, and it should be.”
Leno issued a comprehensive set of steps that he claims will end street homelessness by 2020. It’s an ambitious goal, given that Mayor Ed Lee hardly made a dent in his effort to take an additional 1,000 human beings off the street last winter before he died. The centerpiece of Leno’s plan is immediate utilization of 1,000 single-room occupancy units he maintains are unnecessarily vacant presently. The candidate also plans to build 400 additional supportive housing units, and significantly expand capacity at shelters, Navigation Centers and associated mental health services.
Breed suggests that the City experiment with modular homes, improve mental health and addiction services, offer safe injection sites, make it easier to conserve the most difficult to serve individuals, and increase Navigation Center capacity. “With commitment and the right institutions, we can create a San Francisco where no one is forced, relegated or allowed to sleep on the streets,” she said.
According to Breed, her efforts to increase public awareness of safe injection sites were effective, evidence of the importance of fostering citizen acceptance of challenging concepts. She’s worked with labor unions to discuss development of non-standard housing, such as modular units. “When I am mayor I will not let up until there is a visible difference,” she said.
Kim wants to simplify the process for homeless residents to access shelters, increase the number of Navigation Center and shelter beds, extend lengths of stay, and build additional 24/7 “medical respite” accommodations.
All four candidates agree that it’ll take a comprehensive approach to meet the homeless challenge, including adding non-permanent shelter capacity, and that a one-size-fits-all program won’t work.