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Enlarging the Solution Space

I am convinced that over the course of the two years, even with COVID, it is possible to significantly reduce the number of chronically homeless people in San Francisco. — Chris Block, CHI Director

During the Recession sparked by the 2008 financial crisis there was a significant increase in homelessness in San Francisco, but targeted interventions such as expanded construction of permanent supportive housing and time-limited rental assistance quickly led to a decrease in chronic homelessness to pre-recession numbers. We need a comparable investment and sustained political will to ensure that the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 does not lead to a spike in homelessness.

Our sense of urgency has gotten over 1200 people off the streets into hotel rooms, RVs, and other temporary shelter. But, it will take a fundamental change in addressing homelessness to assure that they never sleep on the streets again. We are at a critical point in the life of the City, and the choices we make now will impact how we emerge from this crisis. If we do not make a significant improvement on homelessness in San Francisco, people and businesses will decide to go elsewhere, not only during this public health crisis but for many years after.

In June 2017, Tipping Point launched the Chronic Homelessness Initiative (CHI) — a $100 million commitment to reduce chronic homelessness by 50 percent over five years in partnership with the City of San Francisco. Since we began, CHI has proven that targeted and leveraged investments in the Homelessness Response System can lead to new strategies to get people housed quickly while improving the system itself. Over the remaining life of the Initiative, we will continue to enlarge the solution space until it is large enough to hold the challenge of reducing chronic homeless while creating lasting changes that help the system achieve further reductions over time. The ultimate goal is a San Francisco where homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring. We have no alternative but to achieve this goal if we want to continue as a world class city for everyone who treasures San Francisco — from long-time residents to recent arrivals and even tourists on vacation.

Recently, CHI completed an extensive analysis of the progress that San Francisco will make toward its goal of reducing chronic homelessness by 50%. It is critical that we know what it will take to achieve a 50% reduction in chronic homelessness by 2022, and that we hold ourselves accountable to achieve this goal. We anticipate that system-wide interventions, in combination with specific efforts by CHI over the next 2-3 years, will create a significant overall reduction in chronic homelessness in San Francisco.

Charting Chronic Homelessness

Charting Chronic Homelessness serves as our tool to continually model the homelessness response system’s progress and to adjust our strategies, as needed. For each remaining year of the Initiative, we estimate inflow (the number of people who become newly homeless) and planned efforts by the City and CHI to help people regain housing and prevent chronic homelessness. Accounting for an estimated inflow of nearly 1,000 people per year (based on annual inflows dating back to 2007 and including the last Recession), we are cautiously optimistic that we can create enough new housing and prevent enough people from becoming chronically homeless to reduce the population of chronically homeless San Franciscans to 944, a decrease of more than 50% since 2017.

We must remain committed to our course and continue to reach for every opportunity to help more people secure homes with services – quickly and for good – we can emerge from this pandemic period not only intact, but better than we entered.

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