Our City Our Home
It’s a NO BRAINER
Many of our local policy makers, if they are not on board already, are considering support for Our City, Our Home.
This measure is fantastic and is being put forward at a magical moment. After decades of going further down the rabbit hole of human suffering caused by the federal divestment from housing its poorest citizens, we have wasted billions on the ripple effects of mass homelessness.
Up until now, we have neglected housing, we have neglected homeless people. Our city has left it for the feds, and the feds have failed. We only spend 3% of the city budget on this issue. Homeless people just get sicker and sicker, we spend more money on them, we don’t house them, we call the police on them, they move from block to block.
This is it. After years of struggling we have the opportunity to turn this crisis around.
The time is right. This is a rare and historic moment where conditions are in place to effect great change for thousands of San Franciscans and transform our neighborhoods.
San Francisco is deep in a housing crisis that exists within great untapped wealth and economic fuel. Property values and rents are skyrocketing while tents proliferate, leading residents more motivated than ever to see homelessness addressed. Raising revenue to address homelessness has been a great challenge given California’s restrictive laws that require 2/3rds approval of voters for any special tax that is dedicated to a particular use.
We have a magical moment. The California Supreme Court ruled that special taxes put on the ballot by voter initiative are only required to have 50% plus 1 of the votes to pass. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association was expected to go to the November ballot to overturn that decision, and they have dropped off the ballot. We have a window of opportunity now to garner revenue. At the same time, President Trump is giving massive tax breaks to corporations that are broadly opposed by San Francisco voters. Our measure would not bring tax burdens above the pre-Trump tax break era.
But we have a measure that can recuperate those cuts and use the money to house and treat thousands while keeping thousands more in their homes.
We can and will win this measure.
We just need ALL our city leaders to get on board – from Mayor Breed on down.
This is a holistic measure that solves homelessness from all sides in a carefully crafted roadmap that the city cannot deviate from. Instead of the small thinking that has only led to increased homelessness, this initiative would create serious results, bringing in $300,000,000 annually to house, shelter, treat and prevent homelessness for thousands of San Franciscans.
It is time for all of us to have secure housing in the city we love.
This measure is about permanent solutions. At least 50% of the fund or $150 million must go to housing. Homelessness ends with a home! This measure would pay for construction and operation of approximately 4,000 units of housing as well as rehabilitation and prevention services with a mandate that families and youth are served. Our goal is to house all those who are currently experiencing long term or chronic homelessness, are sick, or who are families with children or youth. It is critical that we create exits not just for those who are in the worst shape, but that we start early and make sure our children and youth don’t become chronically homeless adults.
This measure will transform our severely underfunded mental health and substance abuse system. At least 25% or $75 million will target this population. This is funding for public health to use on intensive wrap around services, street-based care, treatment, drop in services, residential facilities, and housing that targets our people suffering the most from mental illnesses and addiction.
This measure will close the entryway into preventable homelessness. At most 12% of the fund or $40 million will be for preventing homelessness. This would ensure 7,000 households get legal assistance, permanent or temporary subsidies to stay in their housing, or other forms of help they need to stay housed, such as help with electrical or other bills.
This measure will eliminate the shelter waitlist and help keep our streets clean. At most 10% or $30 million used for immediate needs. This measure will pay for 1,075 new shelter beds/navigation center beds as well as help keep our streets clean by funding dignified bathrooms and showers.
This money cannot be wasted. The measure limits the city to only 3% of the funds allowed for administration.
HOW THIS WILL BE PAID FOR?
This would mandate fair share contributions of an average of .5% from earnings over $50 million from SF businesses. Thus, a company making $54 million will pay only on the $4 million that is in excess of $50 million. Companies with smaller profit rates, such as retail establishments, will contribute at a lower rate, and higher profit companies, such as financial titans, will contribute at a higher rate.
WILL MAYOR BREED SUPPORT IT?
Federal divestment from housing created this crisis – the only way Mayor Breed can make a visible difference on this issue and accomplish her stated goals is to replace the lost federal funding at the local level. Our current spending of 3% of the city’s budget does a lot – it houses 7,000 formerly homeless people and creates temporary beds for 2,500, but we have more than twice that many souls still on the streets. There is not much play in the budget to move funds around. Sure, we can be mildly more efficient – but efficiencies won’t house 4,000 people. Efficiencies won’t eliminate our shelter wait list. The city budget is large, but she would need to massively cut police and fire, as well as DPW to pull together the funding to make a change that voters will notice.
Mayor Breed has been calling for loosening conservatorship laws. We have our issues with the proposed law, but no matter where you stand, it will not make a difference to lives of the hundreds of people with severe behavioral health impairments if they have no stable housing to heal. Our current system of dumping people from Psychiatric Emergency Services to the street will continue. According to a performance audit by the San Francisco Budget Legislative Office, last year we discharged 1,786 homeless people to the streets from Psychiatric Emergency Services without even a referral to outpatient treatment. This measure would provide $75 million to completely rebuild the system to serve an additional 2,500 people and will also add 4,000 units of supportive housing. If the measure passes, which it almost certainly would with her support, Mayor Breed would be able to stabilize the entire population, give them care on the streets, and have that care follow them into housing.
Mayor Breed has also called for clean streets. When SF has 4,000 people living without sewage, garbage service or water, that is pretty difficult to achieve. Currently police respond to over 6,000 calls a month to complaints about the presence of homeless people, they give out over 10,000 tickets a year to folks and DPW is cleaning up feces 600 times a month. Why not just house people and save all the fuss?
Mayor Breed would also like to open safe injection centers, this would give funding to open not just one but several.
Mayor Breed has made homelessness and addressing it center to her messaging.
This will solve homelessness and give her the opportunity to show folks she is independent, prove the doubters wrong, and give her the gift of a whole lot of ribbon cutting ceremonies and definite bragging rights.
It should be a no-brainer.
However, some big businesses are opposing it and pushing her hard to oppose it.
They are not saying that they would be paying more than they did before Trump dropped federal corporate tax down from 35% to 21%. They are complaining that they just got a tax break. They are worried about their bottom line, and they worry that this will set a precedent. However, really, we don’t have a choice here. Too many people are dying out there. The costs to the city are too great in lost life, lost children, lost tourism revenue, lost health care resources. The companies have this wonderful opportunity to be a part of making history, and they can afford it. The city won’t be able to address much of anything as long as this crisis goes unabated, because it will drag the resources of the city down with it. Homeless people have nowhere to go and they do not have magic powers to disappear. SF has a housing crisis and we see the results of that every day on our streets.
Our City, Our Home is a no-brainer.
Let’s win this thing. ≠
(not for reprint)