SF supervisors adopt policy to provide homeless people with a safe space to sleep

San Francisco supervisors have unanimously passed legislation that will provide all homeless people in the city with a safe place to sleep.

A Place for All, the ordinance of District 8’s gay supervisor, Rafael Mandelman, took two years to prepare. At the June 7 supervisors’ meeting, board members made some changes before voting 11-0 for the ordinance.

The initial proposal, introduced in 2020, failed to make it out of the oversight board’s budget and finance committee, which instead backed safe sleeping places or sanctioned outdoor camping spaces. This newer version includes a wider range of options while putting less emphasis on collective dwellings such as shelters, but without removing them.

This time around, when the proposed ordinance passed through the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee last month, it picked up some amendments that Mandelman said strayed from the original intent of the legislation. Enough then, he wondered if he himself would support the proposal.

Eventually he came.

“Some proposed amendments would have fundamentally undermined the legislation, but the amendments that were made were not,” he told the Bay Area Reporter via text message hours after the council passed the ordinance. . “At worst, they’ve muddled the intent of the legislation and complicated its implementation, but it’s still, as I said, a step forward.”

Specifically, an amendment added by District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar diluted the focus on immediate housing with a greater emphasis on permanent supportive housing.

The order requires the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to prepare a strategy to be implemented by Dec. 31, including estimates of the number of people likely to accept offered shelter. , how much it would cost and the total annual cost of the program once it has been implemented. The city agency is headed by bisexual executive director Shireen McSpadden, who grew up in San Francisco and previously headed the city’s Department of Disability and Aging Services.

To increase transparency about shelter availability, the ordinance will require the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to maintain a dashboard on its website displaying the total number of shelters citywide, broken down by type of shelter, number of shelter units and occupancy rate, according to a press release from Mandelman’s office.

It also asks the property manager to identify locations throughout the city that might be suitable for use as shelters – such as the small shacks used at 33 Gough Street and safe sleeping sites – and then submit those findings. with the implementation of the homeless department. to plan.

Notably also, while the ordinance passed unanimously, it was not embraced enthusiastically among all supervisors. (A second and final vote will be required at the June 14 board meeting.)

During the board meeting, District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen was the first to really voice her doubts about the legislation, noting that issues such as homelessness are not just a San problem. Francisco and would be better treated on a regional basis, much like District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan later pointed out that the nine counties in the Bay Area have come together to manage COVID-19.

“I’m voting for,” she told her fellow board members, but, she added, “I don’t think it will do anything.”

Chan was slightly more enthusiastic, but largely because of the amendments that had been added.

“We vote to ask [DHSH] to have a plan and do their job,” she said, referring to the homelessness service. “I think with the amendments and the suggestions from Melgar, we’re giving pretty good parameters. I also agree with Ronen that this is really a regional problem and there needs to be a regional approach.”

Chan said she, too, would “reluctantly” vote for the ordinance.

Melgar encouraged everyone to support the measure, saying, “I think it’s a pretty big policy change. It’s not something we’ve done before.”

Melgar also noted that his amendments, particularly one placing permanent supportive housing among the priorities of the ordinance, caused problems for the measure.

But the order now includes people living in their cars, she said.

“We need beds in transitional youth shelters, we need cabins, we need places where people can park safely,” Melgar said. “We need a bunch of different alternatives. But we need a plan.”

And then she recognized Mandelman for all the work he put into legislation.

“Thank you for carrying this rock uphill for the past two years,” she said.

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston had his own apprehensions, but they were mostly about Mayor London Breed’s priorities.

“We just got a budget from the mayor that zeroes out housing,” Preston said, referring to Breed’s balanced budget proposal she released on June 1. His constituents, he added, “are asking for these things. … We can’t get the administration to buy a fucking $5 million apartment building to house the people in our neighborhood.”

Eventually, all 11 supervisors voted for the ordinance. Mandelman, a pragmatist through and through, was just glad it happened.

“Yeah, I didn’t like all of the amendments, but even with them I think the legislation makes San Francisco a city of refuge for everyone,” he told BAR after the meeting. “Now we need to see what the administration comes up with in terms of the proposed budget and the implementation plan. It’s a step in the right direction, but just a step.”

From then on, he said, his plan was to follow up with DSHS to ensure that the plan they are proposing “meets the intent of the legislation and, in the meantime, continues to do pressure for more shelters and more efficient and consistent encampment resolutions. “

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