Homelessness has become a crisis in our region and throughout the state. We need a compassionate and effective response to help homeless residents get the help they need to get off the streets permanently. Sweeping tents out of downtown and into our neighborhoods is not a response – it just moves the problem around. Instead we need real solutions.
Jane Kim has spent years working to provide housing and supportive programs for homeless residents. She’s also looked at innovative solutions to keep people from becoming homeless and deal with the negative impacts homelessness has in our communities.
The primary solution to homelessness is housing. That is why experts nationally advocate for a Housing First approach to ending homelessness. The lack of affordable housing has pushed many residents and families onto the streets. Rising evictions have also taken their toll. In the most recent point in time count on homelessness in San Francisco, 13% reported eviction as the primary cause of homelessness and another 3% reported a rent increase.
Jane Kim has worked to crack down on frivolous evictions to make it easier for San Franciscans to stay in their homes. She passed the toughest tenant protections in the city to help prevent evictions for minor causes such as hanging laundry outside, parking a bike in a hallway or adding a roommate. Her “Tenant Protection 2.0” legislation is working to close loopholes all too often exploited by landlords who seek to evict tenants for the most minor and fixable violations.
Creating More Housing
Jane also understands we need to create more affordable housing options to help expand housing stock for low-income and formerly homeless families. She has negotiated record levels of affordable housing in new developments and, critically, that affordable housing has included housing specifically for formerly homeless families and seniors. The landmark agreement she reached on the 5M project, for example includes a significant number of new units of housing for formerly homeless families as well as housing for low- and middle-income residents. She has also worked to provide more funding for housing for homeless seniors (including the Vera Haile Building) and additional housing at Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings.
Jane also worked with Sisters Rize! to create the first women’s only floor at an SRO in recognition of the fact that many women are on the streets due to domestic violence and are vulnerable to harassment in co-ed SROs.
A Statewide Emergency
Homelessness is impacting cities around the state, some of which have declared states of emergency. Jane Kim believes we need a state of emergency across California to unlock state resources and allow for a rapid response to provide additional housing. She has called on Governor Jerry Brown to declare a statewide emergency because she understands no one city can tackle this problem on its own.
Housing is the long-term solution to homelessness but we also need to provide shelter right now. Currently, the average wait time for a shelter bed is about five weeks. Misguided propositions such as Prop Q would make this problem worse by requiring City officials to provide overnight shelter space for any encampment resident who is removed via sweeps. It would allow those individuals to shortcut the line and encourage others to erect tents in hopes they would be provided with shelter beds (only to end up back on the streets the next day).
Jane has supported low-barrier shelters in her district and supports expanding the current Navigation Center which has successfully provided shelter for hundreds of homeless residents by creating more Centers throughout the City.
Jane also knows that we need to build more supportive housing for homeless residents right now. She is working on a pilot project to build pre-fabricated, modular housing on City-owned land for homeless residents. These units can be built more quickly and at a lower cost than traditional apartments and can potentially provide longer-term, supportive housing for hundreds of currently homeless residents.
Jane understands we need to look at every possible solution to address this crisis and that unlocking the innovative thinking of our City can help us provide the support homeless residents need.
Assistance for Those with Mental Health or Addiction Problems
Many homeless residents end up back on the streets because of a mental health crisis or due to struggles with drug or alcohol addiction. Jane Kim knows that homelessness is a public health crisis as much as it’s an economic crisis and has worked to provide more resources to expand medical respite beds and provide a Mobile Integrated Healthcare Practice team to connect patients with health care providers.
She also knows that our current mental health system is not meeting the needs of most homeless residents. All too often, those experiencing a mental health crisis end up in jail rather than getting the care they need. They may remain in jail for a few hours or a few days but in the end they are back on the streets – a situation that is unsafe for those residents and our larger community. Jane has advocated that instead of expecting law enforcement to deal with these health crisis, we create a secure Behavioral Health Justice Center where mentally ill homeless residents can get the treatment they need to manage their illness.
Addressing the Hygiene Needs of Homeless Residents
Recognizing that lack of publicly accessible, clean and safe restrooms is a major issue for homeless individuals, Jane Kim led the effort to raise private funding for the Pit Stop program to install fully staffed public toilets in the Tenderloin. That successful pilot program has since been expanded throughout the Tenderloin and SoMa and has garnered national recognition, as cities, including Miami, Los Angeles and Honolulu are considering similar public toilet programs. It has also led to a reduction in the amount of water needed to clean streets and sidewalks, a 60% reduction in steam-cleaning requests in the Tenderloin, and a reduction of used needles on the streets. She is currently leading the effort to expand this program citywide.