Updates on Our Coronavirus Response — May 2020
With the killing of George Floyd and many other Black Americans, the anguish in the streets has only heightened the urgency of our work to serve people experiencing homelessness. This anguish is warranted. It is, as Dr. King said, “the crying out of the unheard for justice” and it must inform our work and a larger transformation of our way of living. We cannot allow ourselves to yearn for comfort—we must develop habits amidst this discomfort that preserve our outrage as a source of motivation to overcome systemic racism.
Coronavirus had shocked an already overburdened system here in San Francisco, a system that, despite tremendous effort and resources spent, has not been able to provide housing to the thousands of people who need a home or the support they need to maintain one. We are seeing more need than our community already had, and increasing instability, leaving so many people on—or over—the edge. What will happen now that the engines are sputtering.
The fact is, even after the 2008-2009 Recession, when we faced economic calamity, San Francisco did not see a significant increase in chronic homelessness. Aided by a massive expansion of our Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) supply, we actually saw chronic homelessness decline 50% in San Francisco from 2009-2014. This gave us the confidence to believe in 2017 that, if we were similarly bold and focused, we could once again reduce chronic homelessness 50%.
Today, despite economic headwinds, I still believe this. Moreover, I believe that we can turn some of the temporary housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness during this pandemic into permanent ones that ensure our neighbors remain housed for the long-term. Our vision—Project Home Key—is that every person temporarily housed in a hotel room exits to a permanent home with services. We do this by using the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool (Flex Pool) to rapidly turn homes all over San Francisco into additional PSH, and helping unhoused people currently sheltering in hotel rooms transition into these homes as soon as they can do so safely. Working with our city and state partners, we can bring these solutions to scale and ensure that hundreds of San Franciscans never return to homelessness again.
We need innovative strategies like the Flex Pool to enlarge the solution space until it can contain the challenge of homelessness. Thank you for all that you do each day to help us work towards a San Francisco where everyone can get—and stay—housed.
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