Researchers from Bay Area universities and homeless advocates have released a report revealing the various barriers homeless San Franciscans face when accessing housing.
The report’s authors — the Coalition on Homelessness and researchers with the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University and Santa Clara University — said the findings will be particularly helpful as the city receives funding from the November 2018 voter-approved Proposition C, the Gross Receipts Tax for Homelessness Services.
Researchers surveyed 600 temporarily housed San Franciscans, with a focus on transgender people. Participants were asked about their experience with the city’s shelter and behavioral health systems.
Among the findings, most respondents said they became homeless because housing was unaffordable.
Participants also reported that shelter conditions, like crowded living spaces and strict curfews, created even more barriers to housing. Fifty-eight percent of survey participants said they would prefer a legal homeless camp with basic amenities like showers and toilets.
About 70 percent of respondents said they would prefer a clean-and-sober shelter over current options, while 34 percent reported having substance abuse issues, and about half of that subset said this included multiple substances.
The report’s authors said the findings reveal inequities homeless transgender people face, and that while the shelter and treatment systems work for some, most homeless people end up cycling between treatment, housing, the shelter system and the streets.
Researchers hope the information can support new strategies to prevent homelessness. A Proposition C task force is to start meeting this month to develop ways to implement the funds, according to Jennifer Friedenbach with the Coalition on Homelessness.
“With the funding from Prop. C, there’s a potential to totally transform the system, and I think if you look at these recommendations as a whole, you’ve got these different bright spots where we’re basically talking about tying everything together so there’s a unified system,” Friedenbach said.
“If all these recommendations were put together as whole, we’d see an incredibly transformative effect on the system. We probably wouldn’t get to zero homelessness, but to a place where homelessness is much more brief and rare, which is where we’re trying to go,” Friedenbach said.
The tax has generated millions of dollars that were to be put toward housing the homeless, but the funds have been tied up in a legal battle.
Although the proposition passed with 61 percent of the vote, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and others sued the city in 2018, alleging that the tax needed a two-thirds vote to pass.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled last year that the tax is legal. That ruling was appealed, and a state appellate court upheld it this summer. Now, it’s on appeal again, to the California State Supreme Court.
“Our legal opinion here is that we won, that it was a 50 percent measure,” Friedenbach said. “The Supreme Court, we’re waiting for them to take the case, and if they don’t take the case, then the appeal stands and Prop. C wins. If they do take the case, … the expectation from our legal counsel is that (the court would rule) before the November 2020 election.”
The full report is available online.