What do you believe to be the appropriate role of local government in approaching homelessness?
Homelessness is a nationwide problem. Therefore, one important role of local governments is to push the federal government to address what is really a problem of poverty and lack of public investment in affordable housing. In addition to advocacy at the federal level, local governments also make many important decisions related to how resources are allocated or what kind of policies are used to address homelessness in their own communities. Even in a climate of shrinking state and federal funding, local governments can allocate their own resources to housing, emergency shelters, and services, to support people who are homeless in reaching their goals. Local governments can choose whether to spend money on these types of services, or to focus resources on punitive measures, such as the tremendous number of “quality of life” citations issued under the current Administration in San Francisco. I do not believe that such punitive measures are an effective local policy response to homelessness.
As supervisor, what, if anything, would you attempt to do to address homelessness in San Francisco?
The first thing I would do is talk to people who are homeless and those who work with them (as service providers or advocates) to make sure I had an understanding of the most pressing issues for all of the diverse communities experiencing homelessness in the City. I would ask them what programs are most effective and advocate for continued funding of these programs if they received City funds. I would also work at a budget and policy level to advocate for long-term solutions that have proven effective, such as affordable housing (including supportive housing), mental health and substance abuse treatment on demand, job training programs, and community-building and organizing efforts.
How would you handle San Francisco’s affordable housing shortage?
For the last 15 years I have worked to preserve and increase affordable housing in San Francisco. Based on my experience, I know that the biggest challenges to preserving and building new affordable housing in SF are: limited land, limited local sources of financing to pay for affordable housing development, and loss of rent-controlled housing. Therefore, I would work to ensure that publicly-owned parcels were prioritized for affordable housing development, and maximize available land for new affordable housing by limiting construction of market rate housing, especially along commercial and transportation corridors. (Such limits can be made through zoning policies, beginning with the Eastern Neighborhoods Rezoning plan.) I would work to pass measures such as the SF Housing Fund to guarantee a local source of funds for affordable housing development. I would support policies that maintain and strengthen the Rent Ordinance and Rent Control in San Francisco to protect our largest stock of affordable housing.
What is your opinion of Care Not Cash?
My opinion of Care Not Cash is that it has not provided an adequate amount of “care” to truly help people exit homelessness.
First, many people who had their G.A. checks cut have not even gotten housing. Instead, they are only offered a shelter bed. This is not only unfair to those who now have to pay for emergency shelter—it is also creating a back-log in the system that blocks access to shelter for others who are not on G.A.
Even those individuals who did receive housing were simply placed into a residential hotel without adequate services and then expected to turn their lives around. I believe that if the City truly wants to invest in a Housing First model, we must not simply warehouse people, but rather provide environments where people feel supported and empowered to make the changes they want to make in their lives.
Another major problem with Care Not Cash is that it only leaves people with $59 per month—a lot less money than it costs to get off the streets. So even though people may have housing, they do not have resources to buy food, clothing, and other basic necessities that would help them stabilize their lives.