Regulators on Wednesday approved $ 79 million spending on homeless services from the first round of funding generated by Proposal C from 2018.
After a debate between lawyers from the homeless and city authorities over the use of the new funds, the Budget and Finance Committee largely approved a spending plan based on the recommendations of an oversight committee.
The income from Prop. C, a trade tax voter that was passed in 2018 to combat homelessness, has been collected but not yet spent due to a legal battle over its validity. The move was finally upheld in court in September and made $ 393 million available for allocation by the Budget Committee that fiscal year.
The move, also known as “Our City, Our Home,” is expected to raise $ 340 million annually from fiscal 2021-22.
The inflow of funds, however, comes as The City runs a deficit of $ 652 million for the next two fiscal years, causing concern among proponents who fought for Prop. C to pass that the money would be used Replenish underfunded existing programs instead of expanding services. Mayor London Breed earlier this week ordered departments to propose budget cuts of 7.5 percent as the city’s revenue fell.
Citing immediate needs, the Department of Health requested $ 30 million for street crisis response, critical care management, expanded treatment beds and administrative support. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing applied for $ 64 million for affordable housing, shelter and hygiene programs, and homelessness prevention.
The Budget and Finance Committee finally approved the amount requested by DPH and $ 49 million for HSH on Wednesday after the department dropped part of its request.
Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and author of Prop. C, argued that the initial proposals went against the spirit of the measure that promised permanent housing solutions rather than those that would keep the revolving door of homelessness going.
Prop. C was written to determine half of the revenue for programs that put people directly into homes and a quarter for mental health and behavioral services. Up to 15 percent should be used to prevent homelessness and up to 10 percent for temporary housing and hygiene.
“We try to use Prop. C for new exits and new ways out,” said Friedenbach to the examiner. “There’s an overemphasis on front-end or emergency or support services that don’t pay to get people off the streets.”
Our City, Our Home Oversight Committee, which includes the homeless, decided on Tuesday to change aspects of the HSH proposal. Instead, the group tried to shift funding for short-term beds to longer-term beds, increase staff development, finance the cost of extending the extension of hotel leases through July, and ensure care for people outside of hotel internships. Several public commentators called for the recommendations to be followed.
As requested, HSH interim director Abigail Stewart-Kahn pledged to look for alternative sources of funding to keep emergency shelters open and to get about $ 5 million more from the Prop. C pot. Friedenbach said the committee would not speak out against funding vulnerable programs like emergency shelters.
Kahn agreed to highlight long-term fixes and to follow the recommendation of the oversight committee to fund only the first two stages of exits for shelter-in-place hotels while they determine what permanent solutions from the new program work best. This reduced HSH’s reserve application to around $ 49 million.
“It is still our preference to finance all phases,” Kahn told the budget committee. “The department’s ability to plan a year would be very helpful indeed.”
The Department of Health agreed to use $ 7.7 million related to administrative costs and the behavioral health center to purchase a food and care facility such as a hotel, which the Oversight Committee urged.
In the end, regulators approved the release of the funds, largely in line with the recommendations of the Oversight Committee. For Friedenbach this meant that the process set up by Prop. C worked as intended.
“We were able to shift the relationship to the power of the homeless,” said Friedenbach. “We have an opportunity to make major changes in the way the homeless in San Francisco are addressed. This is an opportunity we don’t want to miss. “
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