[Hpn] Ambitious 10 year plan lacks reality with out affordable new housing..."Tink"

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Fri, 2 Jul 2004 05:47:53 -0400

San Francisco Homeless Program Could Be National Model


By Lee Romney, Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- City officials Wednesday unveiled an ambitious 10-year plan
aimed at one of the United States' most intractable homelessness problems,
saying they hope to "abolish chronic homelessness" by replacing emergency
shelters with permanent housing that includes supportive services.

The new plan, which Bush administration officials have praised as a
potential national model, would try to move the most desperate street people
out of shelters and into permanent housing where they could receive
treatment for addiction, mental illnesses and other chronic health problems.

"It's a significant day in San Francisco," said Mayor Gavin Newsom, who
campaigned last year on a pledge to attack the problem aggressively. "We're
moving ... toward a goal and desire not to manage but to end homelessness.
It's brilliant in its simplicity, if we have the courage to change."

For years, San Francisco has poured funds into social and medical services
for the homeless while dealing separately with the issue of housing. That
approach, officials now say, has proven to be inefficient.

The city government spends about $200 million a year on helping the
homeless. Of San Francisco's estimated 15,000 homeless, 3,000 who are
defined as "chronically homeless" use up about 63 percent of the money, said
former San Francisco Supervisor Angela Alioto, who led the effort to develop
the new plan.

The care of one chronically homeless person using shelters for housing,
hospital emergency rooms for medical treatment or jails, where inmates also
receive medical services, costs an average of $61,000 a year, city officials
estimate. Permanent supportive housing, including treatment and care, would
cost $16,000, they say.

Providing services more efficiently for the chronically homeless would free
funds that could then be used to help the other 12,000 people who are
homeless for shorter periods of time, officials hope.

Mark Trotz, who directs a small, but highly touted, supportive housing
program for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said the trick
will be reallocating money from the criminal justice and emergency medical
systems to pay for more supportive housing units.

"It's a matter of us waking up and realizing that we're spending the money
anyway, but we're spinning our wheels," he said.

The program Trotz runs, Direct Access to Housing, accommodates about 400 of
the city's most dysfunctional former homeless people in renovated
residential hotels staffed with nurses, doctors and counselors around the

The San Francisco plan was hammered out in 84 contentious meetings by a team
of nearly three-dozen government, social service, business and labor leaders
under the guidance of Alioto.

Newsom stressed that the existence of a strong plan on combating
homelessness will enable him to seek financial help from San Francisco's
restaurant industry and its major hotels, which last year launched a
controversial anti-panhandling billboard campaign. "I want the Hotel Council
not to invest in advertising all about what's wrong with this city, but to
invest in programs," Newsom said.

The existence of the blueprint also will increase the city's chances of
receiving federal funds, said Philip Mangano, who directs the Bush
Administration's Interagency Council on Homelessness and has worked closely
with San Francisco as well as other cities on plans to combat homelessness.

Mangano stood with the 33-member planning council Wednesday, saying the
city's approach could have impact across the country if successful.

"I think San Francisco has the most visible experience of chronic
homelessness in our country," he said.

"When people go home, they talk about the beauty and great food, but they
also talk about the homeless people they had to step over. With this plan,
the city has the capacity to be the tipping point on the issue of
homelessness in our country."

Homeless advocates applaud the concept of supportive housing. But "real
supportive housing for people who have real complex and chronic mental
health and addiction issues is expensive," said Kym Valadez, program
director at Swords to Plowshares, a veterans service organization. "We've
seen what happens when you take people with those kinds of issues and fill
up buildings without giving them the proper support."

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times