A Blueprint Covered In Red

Nearly five years after the Mayor Gavin Newsom’s release of the Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, the majority of San Francisco’s homeless population is still out in the rain. Mayor Newsom created a 33-member council of advocates, legislators and service providers to advise the most effective strategy to end chronic homelessness, and guide his policy-making in the areas of homelessness.

“The plan produced by the Ten-Year Planning Council is both a blueprint and a bold step toward a new and revolutionary way to break the cycle of chronic homelessness,” concluded Newsom, in his office’s press release following the release of the plan in June 2004.

It unfortunately appears this blueprint has been collecting dust, and lays the ground work for a home the homeless will never see.

The plan’s central strategy is a housing first model. The “Housing First” model emphasizes immediate placement of the individual in permanent housing, where they have access to services, on site, necessary to stabilize the individuals and keep them housed.

A few key statistics found in the Ten-Year Plan:

The cost to provide one chronically homeless person permanent, supportive housing, with treatment and care is nearly one-fourth of the cost to care for the same person using Emergency Room services and/or incarceration costs San Francisco. ($16,000/year versus $61,000/year.)

San Francisco has the highest per capita rate of homelessness of any major American city.

7,000 homeless people live in SF at a given time. Some estimates put the number as high as 15,000.

There are 1,623 homeless kids in the San Francisco school system.

Up to 20% of homeless people have full-time jobs; 30% of adults in homeless families have full-time jobs. (The National Coalition for the Homeless)

52% of Bay Area cities said more mental health services is the most effective way to reduce homelessness. (U.S. Conference of Mayors 2007 Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness)

With the looming budget crisis and drastic cuts threatening the already starved social service programs, many of the programs required for this plan to work are facing devastating funding reductions, if not complete elimination. The 2009 bi-annual city-wide homeless count was conducted January 27; the results of this count will perhaps shed light on what progress has been made.

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