Will Prop. 1 help solve CA homelessness? Experts weigh in on $6B bond for mental health facilities

Luz Pena Image
Tuesday, February 13, 2024
Will Prop. 1 help solve CA homeless crisis? Experts weigh in
Proposition 1 on the ballot this March would use over $6 billion in bonds to provide housing for 11,000 people with mental health needs across the state. But not everyone agrees this is the best approach.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Mental health treatment is front and center for Californians during this upcoming ballot.

Proposition 1 would use over $6 billion in bonds to provide housing for 11,000 people with mental health needs across the state, but some say this is not the solution to homelessness.

On a given night there are over 4,000 people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.

Dr. Larry Kwan with St. Anthony's Foundation sees the need up close every day in the city's Tenderloin.

"I see people with mental illness every day who can't find a provider that could take care of them," said Dr. Kwan.

He believes more funding is key to helping cities like San Francisco tackle the homeless and mental health crisis.

RELATED: Bay Area mayors Mahan and Breed join call for Prop 47 reform to crack down on theft, drugs

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan joins San Francisco Mayor London Breed and other leaders in call for Prop 47 reform to crack down on theft and drugs.

"There are not enough psychiatrists and counselors to take care of them. On some level even the staffing isn't quite there yet," said Dr. Kwan and added, "Taking care of people's mental health and recovery needs cost money."

At City Hall, San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is in support of Proposition 1 and the 11,000 people with mental health needs it aims to help statewide.

"Six and a half billion dollars for places for people with severe mental illness to be," said Supervisor Mandelman. "That could be board and care facilities. It could be independent living with support."

Right now San Francisco has budgeted over $1.3 billion over two years to address homelessness. Despite this number, Supervisor Mandelman says more funding is necessary.

"We have drug treatment programs," he said. "We do have placements in county and out of county for people who need to be conserved, but we just don't have nearly enough to meet the need. I think it's the most significant thing we have done about the needs of this population since the hospitals started being closed in the 60s and 70s."

California has an estimated 21,000 psychiatric beds. If approved this bond would add an estimated 6,800 beds for people needing mental health care or addiction treatment and over 4,000 homeless housing units.

RELATED: Counting San Francisco's unhoused -- and why you never ask if they are homeless

ABC7 News followed volunteers as they combed through the streets of San Francisco to find and count the number of people who are unhoused.

"It's actually going to build housing for people who desperately need that kind of care," said Randy Shaw, Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. "It's going to provide the services we've been lacking because we haven't spent the money. I think there is a misconception. People don't realize it's really expensive to treat people with severe mental health problems."

Not everyone agrees Proposition 1 is the best approach.

"It's a proposition that would take money away from community mental health programs and put it in the residential beds," said Shaya French, Senior & Disability Action.

The Senior and Disability Action nonprofit is also concerned Proposition 1 will force treatment.

"My concern is that it means locking people up or cohering them into staying," said French. "Treatment doesn't work if people are not ready for it. If people don't want to get sober they are not going to get sober. It's a really bad experience being having your freedom taken away."

This measure is on the March 5 ballot.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live