Supervisor Dorsey Surprises All with Ask for PSH Hearing

by Jordan Davis

On February 6, I was at the Board of Supervisors meeting, getting ready to make moderate supervisors wince with my acerbic comments once again, when I heard District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey introduce a hearing on permanent supportive housing (PSH). The hearing was to focus on security procedures and safety inside and outside such housing. He cited neighborhood concerns about conditions around these sites as a reason to schedule this hearing. 

Immediately, alarm bells went off in my head. In my public comment, I briefly touched on the issue, but when I got home, I emailed a bunch of tenants and other people involved in PSH issues about how we were not consulted, and about how this could lead to more draconian rules in our housing, and their responses validated my concern. But the most enlightening part was that neither the supportive housing providers nor Supervisor Dean Preston’s office—whose district includes multiple PSH sites—were consulted for the hearing before it was introduced.

It’s widely known that Preston and Dorsey belong to two different political factions: the former is a Democratic Socialist who aligns with the progressives and has a tenants’ rights background, and the latter is a conservative copagandist. If Dorsey had contacted Supervisors Preston, Hilary Ronen, and Aaron Peskin, who all have significant site-based permanent supportive housing in their districts, and offered to put up a united front for PSH and providers, I wouldn’t be writing this column. But in San Francisco in 2024, “bipartisanship” is dead and giving way to polarization, pettiness and political one-upping.

Now, Dorsey has thrown down the gauntlet, and the door has closed on cross-factional collaboration and the community needs to respond in kind.

Just to be clear, this is only an informational hearing with no new laws on the table, and it will likely just be departmental presentations and questions from supervisors, along with public comment. After that, the hearing will be continued, either to a date yet to be determined or at the committee chair’s choice, or it will be filed.  For better or for worse, hearings do lead to concrete policy.

What do PSH tenants think about this? On balance, I believe that we have nuanced views on safety. We are concerned about crime both inside and outside of our buildings, but we also don’t want police boots on our neck. The hearing references on-site security policies for PSH sites, but, as a trans person, I am circumspect about security officers at any PSH site since Banko Brown, an unhoused Black trans man, was killed by an armed security officer at a Walgreens in Dorsey’s district.

And for those people who are concerned about security around permanent supportive housing? There are 2,000 permanent supportive tenants living all over the city, and even if you live far from the Tenderloin, they might be in your neighborhood. That is because the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has a scattered site housing program, where tenants rent private units with a subsidy and mobile services. The fact of the matter is, permanent supportive housing is an asset to our communities, and that we don’t hear enough about success stories, and that the problems in PSH currently are due to dilapidated buildings and mismanagement.