Proposed in July 2020, San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s Homelessness Recovery Plan aims to provide 6,000 placements into housing and congregate shelters by July 2022 – but rehoming is not a straightforward, black and white process. There has been significant pushback from the community experiencing homelessness as obstacles arise. Homelessness is a complex issue that requires people-first-oriented solutions.
In the 2019 report of San Francisco’s biennial Point-in-Time homeless count, 8,035 individuals were experiencing homelessness, a 14% increase from 2017. As the count for 2021 looms closer and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we can only assume that number has since increased. An elevated population experiencing homelessness will escalate the need for multifaceted aid.
Though Breed’s Homelessness Plan offers a housing solution to San Francisco’s population experiencing homelessness, it also ignores people’s obstacles in the rehoming process. Consequently, some individuals are bound to fall through the cracks.
According to Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, an individual experiencing homelessness may decline housing opportunities for several reasons:
Required rehabilitation and sobriety
separation from a loved one
Untreated mental illness
Facilities that lack ADA accessibility or prohibition of companion animals.
Nowhere in Breed’s recovery plan were solutions for these obstacles included.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Breed stated, “When we offer you an alternative to sleeping on the streets, we’re not going to let you be comfortable sleeping on the streets. We’re not going to let you set up a tent and set up shop when we’re giving you a way out.”
However, the “way out” is not a smooth process. In an interview with SFGate covering Healthy Streets Operations Center (HSOC), the San Francisco agency that conducts homeless sweeps, Freidenbach stated, “[People experiencing homelessness] have to scramble and pack up really quickly. A lot of times, we see people that are elderly and can’t move that fast, or they have impaired mental functioning, developmental disability type stuff. You can imagine how hard it is having to get everything together that fast.”
The San Franciscan government must rectify the Homelessness Recovery Plan’s obstacles that could lead to individuals experiencing homelessness falling through the cracks. By implementing equitable practices that address these limitations in their policy and adjusting HSOC sweep procedures, they will be better able to meet the needs of the community experiencing homelessness as it suits the community and not just the assumed circumstances of the majority.