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Phil Matier: Officials Concede Little Progress On San Francisco Homelessness Despite Massive Spending

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People walk by a homeless man. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

People walk by a homeless man. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PhilMatier01-370 Phil Matier
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — San Francisco is spending about $458,000 per-day to house and help homeless people—that’s $34 a-day per homeless person. The annual $167 million price tag is $20 million more than the operations budget for the Children, Youth and Family Services department, $6.3 million more than for Public Works and $3.8 million more than for Recreation and Park.

San Francisco has long debated what to do with its homeless. There have many been different plans over the years, including former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Care Not Cash or Frank Jordan’s Matrix—every mayor seemed to have idea to deal with the issue.

The figures were reported in an update to the ironically titled “Ten-year Plan” to end abolish homelessness. The city, obviously, has not met its goal. In fact, it has been sending a lot more money. Recently, a Board of Supervisors committee voted to increase the homeless outreach program funding by $6 million.

So the question now is: how much longer can keep spending it and what will be the results? It’s not a question that City Hall wants to hear. They don’t want to address whether or not the program is effective as way of reducing costs. It’s a tough one.

City officials concede that there has been little visible progress, but without this money being spent, they, along with homeless advocates, say it would be much worse.

There has been a push in recent years to get people off the streets—to get them in stable housing so they could begin to take stock of themselves, get into programs and move on.

About half of the half the money spent on the homeless, $81.5 million, goes into supportive housing. But the problem lies between the housing market and the type of people in the program—many don’t move on. As a result, the housing fills up, and the street homeless population has stayed pretty much steady at about 7,000 for the past 10 years.

San Francisco is an expensive city and so the next step in the ladder is not there. What ends up happening is that the city ends up adopting people for the rest of their lives because they have nowhere else to go.

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