San Francisco mayor announces $30 million initiative to help homeless families

Homeless encampment

The city of San Francisco has joined a partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District, as well as nonprofit organizations and private companies, intended to help reduce homelessness for San Francisco families, Mayor Ed Lee announced today.

The Heading Home Campaign is a public-private partnership that will raise $30 million to provide housing to homeless families, according to the Mayor.

The city has invested $4.5 million into the campaign on top of the $35 million spent annually on family homelessness.

Additionally, $15 million has already been raised in private funding, including a $10 million challenge grant from philanthropists Marc and Lynne Benioff.

Donations have also come in from Salesforce, Google, the San Francisco Giants, the Hellman Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Foundation, the Congregation Emanu-El, Zendesk founder and CEO Mikkel Svane as well as Facebook co-founder Dustin Muskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna, the mayor's office said.

About 1,800 students in the city's public schools are either homeless or live in single room occupancies, hotels, shelters or transitional housing, cars or the outdoors, according to the mayor's office.

"In our city where so many have done so well, it's unacceptable that 1,800 students attending San Francisco's public schools are homeless," Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff said in a statement.

"I hope that other companies and individuals will join us as we take these initial steps in helping all the homeless children in our city find permanent housing."

The campaign's goal is to reduce the time the students and their families experience homelessness from the average 414 days to a maximum of 90 days through rapid re-housing, according to the Mayor's office.

"Through the Heading Home Initiative the city will be able to dramatically change the trajectory of families experiencing homelessness," director of the newly created San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Jeff Kositsky said in a statement.

"Moving families to permanent housing within 90 days will improve the lives of parents and their children, while improving the shelter system's ability to accommodate the shelter needs of families in crisis."

Rapid re-housing rental assistance is a tool to help families and individuals access permanent housing.

Through Heading Home, a portion of the family's rent will be paid directly to the landlord for up to 18 months and families will work with staff to find apartments, move in and settle into their new home with ongoing support services.

Rapid re-housing assistance is available without preconditions, such as employment, income, absence of criminal record and sobriety.

The resources and services provided are tailored to fit the needs of each individual household. Case managers are then assigned to connect with families on a monthly basis to ensure that they are following through with their plan, increasing their income and connection with the community, according to the Mayor's office.

"With a common vision and a clear goal we will help over 800 homeless families find housing over the next 3 years," President of Hamilton Families Clay Smudsky said in a statement.

A key component involved in creating the Heading Home Campaign was the existing partnership between the school district and Hamilton Families, which aimed to identify and improve outcomes for children experiencing homelessness.

Since 2015, the number of homeless families within the school district has been reduced by 20 percent. "Children who experience homelessness are much more likely to struggle with school, have behavioral challenges and repeat grades," San Francisco Unified School District Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh said in a statement.

"The Heading Home Campaign is a community-wide effort that will dramatically reduce the amount of time children are homeless, helping thousands of students achieve the stability they need to be successful in their studies."

"Together we will move hundreds of families into permanent housing, ending the trauma of homelessness for so many children in San Francisco," Lee said in a statement.

"The Heading Home Campaign is a fantastic example of civic leaders, non-profits and the city working together to make San Francisco better for all residents."