Part of a special report on Homelessness and Mental Health in San Francisco in the Fall 2014 print edition. Stories to appear online this fall.
San Francisco has been struggling to solve the chronic homelessness problem for more than 10 years. While the current consensus advocates the “live first” principle – stabilizing people by moving them off the street to basic shelter – there is little agreement on the optimal policy to be followed. We asked eight citizens for their ideas on how the lives of thousands of people currently living on the streets and in emergency shelters can be improved.
Lieutenant Governor of California, Former Mayor of SF
“This is one of the big problems that got me into politics. I was really sick of it because people were dying on the street and the emergency rooms were overwhelmed every night. It has been the subject of mayors for decades, but it is no more. There was no accountability. “
Director of the SF Public Health Department
“We saw fewer hospitalizations for people who were housed in units. We achieved this because our health department has a residential component – we are one of the first. “
Mayor of San Francisco
“We know chronic homelessness has not been eradicated, and we know more needs to be done, but we will continue to make the necessary investments in the people of San Francisco for everyone who calls our city home and the families in San Francisco Keep Francisco in their homes. ”
Lawyer, former President of the Supervisory Board
“We don’t prevent homelessness, we create it. The key to ending homelessness is funding psychiatric care – it’s so obvious. We need to put more money into permanent supportive housing. “
Director, Coalition for Homelessness
“We always agreed on the first housing policy. However, the idea of prioritizing a population based on length of homelessness never seemed like a good idea to us. It creates barriers for people. Because people are homeless for long periods of time, the trauma of living on the street causes other health complications – be it mental, physical, or addictive disorders. “
Director, Homeless Programs, SF Mayor’s Office
“In my experience, I find that people are ready to accept living space, but it has to work for them. It doesn’t work for that many right now. If someone has to leave their partner or dog or shopping cart with items for accommodation, it will not work. “
San Francisco County Sheriff
“More and more people are entering the prison system now, and that has been the case for years. We’re actually the largest mental hospital in the city and county of San Francisco. If you ask people on the street whether they know or not, they’d be a little surprised. “
San Francisco Supervisor, District 2
“We have a moral imperative to do everything in our power to continue to end homelessness. Our city has made tremendous progress, but we know that there are still far too many people living on our streets and shelters who have nowhere to call home. “
Illustrations by Anna Vignet
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