San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has vowed during his campaign for four more years in office to address the city’s worsening homeless problem, pledging to devote the kind of time and attention to it as he did to creating jobs and boosting the economy during his first term. [...] the delayed response — nearly five years since becoming interim mayor in January 2011 — has left some San Francisco residents wondering, “What took so long?” In the past 12 months alone, the city’s Department of Public Works has steam-cleaned more than 10,000 pieces of feces and 765 puddles of urine from streets and sidewalks. San Francisco’s Alley Crews — which clean up after the homeless — have picked up close to 800,000 pounds of trash and more than 12,000 hypodermic needles in that same time span, much of it from homeless camps. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not stepping over someone who has fallen asleep in the middle of the sidewalk or there’s broken glass or there’s human feces or it smells of urine or there are tents. The mayor said that when he has focused his administration on being “very deliberate” and collaborative about solving a problem — pension reform and bonds to pay for transportation and housing are examples — he has succeeded. “I’m going to do the same thing with two of the most challenging issues of our time: affordable housing and homelessness,” Lee recently told The Chronicle’s editorial board. The reality of the homeless crisis lies at street level — and for San Franciscans, scenes of human misery are routine. Parker and her colleagues dress mostly in tough-guy black and could be mistaken for a biker gang, but they make up the Homeless Outreach Team formed by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004. Unlike traditional shelters, it allows homeless people to move indoors with their belongings, partners and pets, and doesn’t impose strict rules about curfews. [...] 63 people from the center have moved into supportive housing, 45 were given a free bus ticket home through the Homeward Bound program, 20 left on their own, and 17 were asked to leave. A new controller’s analysis shows that of the 59 people who entered the center and then moved into permanent housing by Sept. 1, 58 were still housed as of Oct. 1 — which shows the center is helping people find some stability. The Iraq War veteran said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that the dogs help him stay calm. A traditional shelter would never allow that, and it’s proving hard for his case manager to find permanent housing that will take three dogs, even though Gonzalez has a federal housing voucher for veterans to help pay the rent. Former Mayor Willie Brown, now a Chronicle columnist, made dismantling the criminalization of homeless people under his predecessor, Frank Jordan, a highlight of his 1995 campaign. Lee, on the other hand, repeatedly said the focus of his administration would be “jobs, jobs, jobs” and concentrated on the so-called Twitter tax break, pension reform, a shift in the way businesses are taxed and other economic policies. Lee has stayed largely quiet on homelessness — until August when he pleased nobody by saying that the homeless population “would have to leave” for the city’s upcoming Super Bowl parties. The count also found that neighborhoods around the city are seeing more homeless people, including upscale locales like the Castro and Pacific Heights. City officials believe development South of Market has pushed homeless people out of their tucked-away hideouts and into the open across the city. During the Homeless Outreach Team’s recent visit, a large piece of cardboard sat on the ground and sleeping bags, bikes and cartons of food were piled on top of it. Nearby, Chinese senior citizens performed tai chi to loud music on the plaza, a toddler chased pigeons, and a woman walked her leashed ferret in the children’s sandbox. The outreach workers helped load Newsome’s belongings into the back of their white van. “You’ve got to give me something that’s viable, that leaves my pride intact,” he told the outreach workers. Data obtained from Public Works, which include service requests from both 311 and internal sources, also show a massive spike in the number of encampments the city deals with. In 2012, the earliest year with complete data, there were 877 service requests for encampments recorded by Public Works, most of them downtown, South of Market and in the Tenderloin — although there were clusters in the Mission and near Golden Gate Park. The retired flight attendant bought a condo there in 1992 and said that for many years, the homeless population was part of the neighborhood and that she and her friends gave them food, socks and blankets. San Francisco spends $167 million a year on supportive housing for formerly homeless people and services for those still on the streets, but Gould doesn’t see the payoff. Asked to describe the city’s homeless problem under Lee compared with previous mayors, Rann Parker of the homeless outreach team said housing options have dried up. “It’s a challenge to try to place people — not just for the Hot team but for the entire social services network in San Francisco,” she said. The city’s economic boom has made it hard for people of all income levels to find housing and has made available housing for homeless people even more sparse. Because it has so few beds to offer, the outreach team has switched to offering primarily medical care on the street and moving people into the 75-bed Navigation Center when there’s any space. Parker, other outreach workers and the three homeless people from Portsmouth Square pulled up outside the Navigation Center. Trent Rhorer, director of the city’s Human Services Agency, is quick to point out that a lot of work to house homeless people has been going on under Mayor Lee — even if the issue hasn’t been as front-and-center as under previous mayors. Since January 2011, when Lee took office, the city has placed 3,551 homeless people in supportive housing. In that same time span, 3,432 people have been sent home with a free bus ticket to willing friends and family under the city’s Homeward Bound program. In the last dozen years, using the same strategies, the city has moved 21,000 homeless people off the streets — think of moving half of a capacity crowd at AT&T Park. The answer is we are making significant progress, and we do know how to house people and how to end homelessness at the individual level. [...] Navigation Center staff called Katrina Newsome inside. Kisha McCoy, who sat at the front desk, took her photograph, recorded her Social Security number and briefed her on the rules. Another staffer gave Newsome a tour of the bathrooms, the laundry facility, the dining room that’s always open and, finally, the large dorm room with a bed for her. An outreach worker drove the elderly man back to his bench in Portsmouth Square and said the team would try to provide case management and medical care to him on the street rather than work to get him inside.
|Scooped by Rosetta Carrington Lue|
Another great use of 311 data to understand your customers concerns. San Francisco's residents appear to be more fed up than ever, according to data from the city’s 311 call center. Complaints about human waste, camps and needles have surged this year.