Grand jury reviews SF homeless programs

July 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The San Francisco Civil Grand Jury released a report Wednesday on homeless housing spending that encourages the city to develop a tracking system for the people staying in housing units, as well as for taxpayer money spent on various programs.

The civil grand jury, which investigates the operations of different departments and agencies in San Francisco, estimated that close to $200 million of the most recent city budget was being spent on homeless-related services.

According to the report, that money has helped make 4,500 housing units available to the homeless, but civil grand jury member Nick Gaffney said that taxpayers have yet to see a discernible difference.

"Despite all this housing, there are still people out on the streets," Gaffney said.

The report concluded that people are using the housing, but continue to panhandle and engage in public drinking and drug use, thus creating the impression that the city still has a large homeless problem.

Gaffney said that a lack of a computerized system to track those using the housing allows individuals to easily slip through the cracks in the program.

"My understanding is that if you're in this program, that there is almost no tracking by individual, whether he's been arrested, or has some sort of health problem," Gaffney said. "They're just not collecting the information in any meaningful, useful manner."

Gaffney also said that the city should create a tracking system for the program's spending to see "where it's going, how it's being spent."

The report also recommended that a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of current programs should be conducted by the city.

"They need to incorporate into this program some kind of component that factors in the quality of life," Gaffney said. "Is it enhancing the quality of life of individuals in the program and also people in the city paying for the programs?

"They're successful at (building the housing), and people are using it, but that's where it seems to end," Gaffney said.


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