Mayor Lee to create new department to combat homelessness

- San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced plans Thursday to create a new Department to End Homelessness and spend $1 billion over the next four years helping homeless residents move into permanent housing.

Lee vowed to commit at least $250 million per year over the next four years toward homelessness prevention and solutions in the city in an effort intended to help 8,000 homeless individuals by the end of his second, four-year term.
  
"Despite decades of best efforts, we haven't eliminated homelessness, and as we house and serve thousands, they're replaced by new thousands," Lee said.
  
The mayor has described a plan to solve street homelessness in the city, saying it would "require cooperation like never before."

According to the mayor's office, ending street homelessness will require that the city move forward with progressive approaches to mental health. That includes an expansion of the city's homeless navigation center program and a coordinated focus on long-term care for the seriously mentally ill.

He said the Department to End Homelessness will also focus on housing families, veterans, the long-term homeless, as well as utilize the Homeward Bound program, which presents homeless individuals with bus tickets to travel home or to family members outside San Francisco.

The Department to End Homelessness will be developed by Barbara Garcia, director of Public Health, Trent Rhorer, director of Human Services, and Sam Dodge, director of HOPE SF, along with service providers, homeless advocates and national experts, according to the mayor's office.

Bevan Dufty, the former director of HOPE SF, said Thursday the consolidation of city services offered to the homeless could be key to bringing clinicians (who are managed by the department of Public Health) into shelters (which are managed by the Department of Human Services).
  
Dufty said the consolidation of these services could also remove the bureaucracy that currently only allows the city's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to fill just 45 of the 1,200 shelter beds in the city.

While more clinicians have been assigned to tend to the needs of people living on the streets, Dufty said there needs to be beds made available for those homeless individuals who clinicians and the HOT team recommend for housing in the city's shelters.

Lee said the city would be expanding the Navigation Center program, which has aimed to remove barriers to entry into the shelter system by allowing individuals to stay at the center without being separated from their friends, pets or belongings.

Additionally, Lee called for stepped-up police enforcement to curb predatory drug dealing around Navigation Centers, shelters, and other homeless service locations.

The mayor is also asking existing philanthropic partners and business leaders, as well as any new funders, to help bolster the city's efforts to end homelessness.

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