SF over halfway to goal of housing chronically homeless

February 24, 2010 7:03:49 PM PST
San Francisco's mayor announced Wednesday that the city is making progress on one of its most difficult and persistent challenges, what to do about so much chronic homelessness. Still, if there is progress, why are there still so many people on the streets?

If you live, work or visit San Francisco, chances are good panhandlers can be seen on the streets, but according to Mayor Gavin Newsom, most of them are not homeless. He says it is a problem of poverty, not housing.

According to the city's figures, more than 10,000 single adults have left the streets or shelters for permanent housing since 2004, but others are finding their way onto the streets every day.

Newsom points out "It's not a static population" and that's the challenge. The mayor says the city has developed 1,679 units of permanent housing for the chronically homeless in the last five years. That puts San Francisco over the halfway mark of 3,000 units called for in the city's Ten Year Plan To End Chronic Homelessness.

The city says it spends $200 million a year on homeless services. Advocates say it is more like $94 million and they believe more of the money should be spent helping homeless families rather than single adults.

Newsom made that announcement at Wednesday's 33rd Project Homeless Connect. Project Homeless Connect is a program that provides on-site resources for poor and homeless ranging from social services and employment counseling to medical services like free dental care and acupuncture. It has become the model for dozens of programs nationwide.

ABC7 met Robert Colucio as he was chatting with Newsom. Colucio said he saw the Mayor on Market Street three weeks ago, told him he was homeless, and Newsom helped him get housing that very day.

"I met him on Market Street and I asked him about housing because I'm a veteran and he got me a place the same day," said Colucio.

The Coalition on Homeless, which is often at odds with the administration and advocates on behalf of homeless people, praised the city's housing progress.

However, executive director Jennifer Friedenbach believes it is now time for the city to give more priority to families with children rather than single adults.

"When we have only seven percent of the number of housing units that are going to homeless people going to families, and yet families with children make up 40 percent of the homeless population, we have a real inequity," says Jennifer Friedenbach from Coalition On Homelessness.

Newsom aggress more needs to be done.