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San Francisco to Receive $18.7M in Federal Funds to Combat Homelessness

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

  • San Francisco is one of 651 jurisdictions receiving direct federal funds to combat homelessness

  • The funds will support Mayor London Breed's Homelessness Recovery Plan, which seeks to expand permanent supportive housing, activate shelter options, and boost preventative measures like rental vouchers

  • Breed also expressed interest in purchasing additional hotels for conversion into supportive housing. The City has already acquired two, Hotel Diva and Granada Hotel, using state funds

  • A coalition of California mayors is also calling on the state to allocate $4 billion in annual funding for homelessness prevention

San Francisco is set to receive $18.7 million in direct funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to tackle the City's growing homelessness crisis.

The new funding was announced last week on a call with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and Mayor London Breed. It's part of a separate pool of federal dollars, and not included in the $636 million in direct aid that San Francisco received as part of the latest COVID relief package.

"The $18.7 million in direct, flexible funding allows us to build up our homelessness prevention efforts and create more permanent supportive housing on a scale that was unimaginable before," said Breed on Friday.

San Francisco is one of 651 jurisdictions receiving federal dollars to combat homelessness, and HUD plans to roll out additional homelessness prevention vouchers in the coming weeks. Neighboring Bay Area counties also received direct aid, and the state of California received $155 million.

The Mayor's Office said that the funds will support a Homelessness Recovery Plan announced last year. The Mayor aims to create 6,000 new housing placements; add capacity in San Francisco's shelter network, including navigation centers and other alternative sites; and boost preventative efforts such as rental vouchers for people at risk of homelessness.

Breed also remarked on Friday that the federal funds could help San Francisco acquire hotels for conversion into permanent housing. California has advanced this strategy statewide through Project Homekey, and granted two rounds of funding to San Francisco worth $29 million and $45 million last year. The City is using those funds to acquire and convert two hotels, Hotel Diva and the Granada Hotel. Those hotels amount to about 360 rooms in their current state.

With the COVID fiscal crisis largely averted and federal dollars rolling in, the next few months are likely to raise debates over how best to leverage funding for homelessness initiatives. In addition to the federal funds, money from the 2018 Proposition C ballot measure, which has been tied up in litigation, are available this budget cycle and expected to generate roughly $250 to $300 million annually in funds for homelessness.

Last week, a proposal by Sup. Rafael Mandelman seeking to mandate that the City provide shelter to all, alongside a likely expansion of sanctioned tent encampments, was shelved at the Board of Supervisors.

In the meantime, San Francisco's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is undergoing a changing of the guard. Mayor Breed appointed Shireen McSpadden, who currently leads San Francisco's Department of Disability and Aging Services, as the new Director of HSH. The prior head, Abigail Stewart-Kahn, announced her departure late last month.

As part of an audit published last year by the Controller, HSH was criticized for high turnover, a high number of vacant positions and a lack of a unified system for overseeing the nonprofit vendors it funds.

Similar concerns were echoed in a statewide audit conducted by California's lead auditor, Elaine Howle, earlier this year.

Howle found that California has spent around $13 billion fighting homelessness since 2017, but lacks a centralized system for issuing guidance and evaluating success. At least nine state agencies administer 21 different programs that address homelessness, and some local jurisdictions do not employ best practices in tracking and improving services, according to the audit.

A state agency estimated that 10,000 people sought homelessness services in San Francisco last year, a 40% increase over the prior year and the largest jump of any Bay Area county.

A coalition of California mayors is also seeking more funding from California to fight homelessness, a rising crisis in the state.

At a press conference on Thursday, Mayor London Breed and a group of other mayors called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to allocate $4 billion in annual funding to cities for homelessness prevention programs.

"The reality is not one city can do this alone; not one city can fully address this problem because it is clearly a statewide crisis," said Breed on Thursday.


Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup

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