Although the City of San Francisco has created over 3,000 units of supportive housing since the adoption of its Ten Year Plan “to abolish chronic homelessness” in 2004, and the number of supportive housing units in the city now totals over 4,600, the number of homeless individuals hasn’t declined. In fact, the number of homeless in San Francisco has increased over the past decade, from an estimated 6,248 in January of 2005 to 6,436 in January of 2013.
And with the cost of developing new housing in the city skyrocketing, and the last Master Lease for subsidized housing approved by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors running $1,190 per unit per month, over 50 percent higher than the next highest cost Master Lease that the city has signed ($791 per unit for the Le Nain Hotel at 730 Eddy Street), San Francisco’s Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office has come to the conclusion that the City needs to develop a new plan and approach for combating homelessness in San Francisco.
When the Ten Year Plan was adopted in 2004, it was a step forward in the City’s policies to end chronic homelessness. Previously the City’s model to provide services to the chronically homeless population was the “continuum of care”, in which services, such as substance abuse treatment, were provided to the individual prior to providing housing. Under the Ten Year Plan, the model is “housing first”, in which the City provides permanent supportive housing designed to accommodate the homeless independent of prior history, and support services are provided at the housing site.
The Ten Year Plan considers supportive housing to be permanent and does not discuss whether and how residents may become more self-sufficient, to transition out of intensive housing into other living environments that provide less or no support. The City does not currently assess whether residents of supportive housing can move from housing with a high level of support services into other types of housing. As noted above, residents of supportive housing have access to but are not required to use on-site services, nor do existing performance measures identify the overall improvement in residents’ well-being and self-sufficiency. Existing performance measures also do not adequately track residents’ transition to less-intensive housing, including publicly-funded housing, housing with family or friends, or other types of housing.
The City needs to consider whether intensive supportive housing should always be permanent housing or whether residents can transition from more intensive to less intensive housing.
Last year, San Francisco’s budget for leasing and operating supportive housing in the city was $57,225,474, or roughly $12,925 per unit, a number which does not include any of the costs associated with developing or financing the units themselves.