San Francisco's top leaders discuss strategy on tackling homelessness

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Thursday, December 7, 2023
SF's top leaders discuss strategy on tackling homelessness
San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Police Chief Bill Scott and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins answer questions on tackling the city's homelessness.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- According a citywide count, there are nearly 8,000 homeless individuals in San Francisco.

The city spends 5 percent of its $14 billion budget tackling homelessness. When questioning the top three city leaders on the crisis, the audience pointed out that many of those living on the streets seemingly disappeared during APEC and Dreamforce and the audience wanted to know why - and how - it was done so quickly.

"I must say we've made significant progress and the fact is, it wasn't because of APEC. We made progress because we got clarity on a court decision," said Mayor London Breed.

Mayor Breed blamed the Ninth Circuit court decision for preventing the city from moving people who declined shelter for part of the homeless crisis.

"After the Ninth Circuit court decision happened and there was clarity from that case, because we were not able to move people the way that we are able to move people now, so we offer someone shelter or any type of housing so they are no longer involuntarily homeless. What we are doing is being as aggressive as we can to get people off the streets and get them an ultimatum," said Mayor Breed.

Take Action SF: Mayor, city leaders answer questions about future of city - FULL VIDEO

ABC7 News hosts an hour discussion with San Francisco Mayor London Breed, D.A. Brooke Jenkins and Police Chief William Scott about future of city.

The court decision came after the Coalition on Homelessness brought forth a lawsuit.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director for the coalition was sitting in the front row when the mayor brought up the legal challenge.

"We always have groups that are suing the city for the things that we are and aren't doing," said Breed.

"Did you notice that she looked at you when she talked about suing the city? I did notice that. You know, the lawsuit is a way for us to push the city to have more shelter, guess what - they added more shelter beds since we filled this lawsuit. Guess what else? - they did not have a shelter waitlist, they finally opened back up again the shelter waitlist directly as a result of our lawsuit," said Friedenbach.

According to the mayor, the city offered 300 people housing and shelter in the month of November. Only 100 accepted. The executive director for CODE Tenderloin pushed back on why many tell her they decline shelter.

MORE: A look at SF's struggle to clear homeless encampments as hundreds wait for shelters

"There are reasons why people don't want to go into shelter. People are turning down shelter because it's not a safe place for them. We have to come up with out-of-the-box solutions for people being housed," said Donna Hilliard, executive director of CODE Tenderloin.

A recent city report found 54 percent of people experiencing homelessness decline shelter.

Phil Matier: "Question, District Attorney Jenkins. Is there anything legal that can be done for that? Fifty percent, that's half of the homeless population in San Francisco that just basically says I don't care how many times you come out and see me, I don't want to go - what's the recourse?"

Brooke Jenkins: "The recourse is obviously outside of the criminal justice system."

Matier: "But is it?"

Jenkins: "It is. I mean, they have to be made to be uncomfortable, is the truth of the matter. We cannot make it comfortable for them to pitch a tent on our sidewalks and stay."

ABC7 Take Action San Francisco brought opposing views face to face.

After the town hall, we noticed Chief Scott and the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness talking.

"At the end of the day for Jennifer and me and I think for everybody, is that we have to work together on these things. We are not always going to agree," said Chief Scott.

After one hour of tough questions for San Francisco's top leaders, there was consensus.

"What we need more of is more of this. We need more sessions, more working groups where people can come together," said Hilliard.

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