‘Snake Oil’: Housing First Advocates Sneak Attack DAs & Sheriff’s Plan to End Homelessness

A lie by omission is particularly devious

Last week the Globe ran a Special uncut op ed by three District Attorneys and the Sacramento Sheriff stating that they can end California’s homeless crisis in one year, and that way is to end the drug crisis.

District Attorneys Jeff Reisig of Yolo CountyAnne Marie Schubert (Retired) Sacramento County, Greg Totten, CEO California District Attorneys Association and Retired DA of Ventura County, and Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper presented their “comprehensive new approach” which “takes a modest step in the direction of several progressive states which have had success combatting homelessness.”

The DAs and Sheriff say prosecutors need to have the discretion to charge hard drug possession as a new class of crime called a “treatment mandated felony.” The judge would have the final say on whether the defendant should be charged in this manner. The factors that the prosecutor and judge would consider in the decision would include:

  • The defendant’s prior history
  • The quantity of drugs in the defendant’s possession
  • The defendant’s amenability to drug treatment
  • Other offenses coupled with the drug possession such as illegal weapons possession

If the defendant is charged with this new, “treatment mandated felony,” an addiction specialist would be assigned to provide a complete suite of services to the defendant including:

  • Shelter
  • Drug and mental health treatment (outpatient whenever possible)
  • Job training

They note that several states with high housing costs have low homelessness – something which rankles “housing first” advocates who continue to insist the hundreds of thousands of drug addicts living on the streets, parks, beaches, rivers and golf courses in California would not be there if they could afford housing, even calling the drug-addicted homeless the “unhoused.”

Almost immediately after the op ed ran, the “Housing First” advocates and media sharpened their knives and attacked. One such attack came in a letter to the editor Sunday to The Sacramento Bee from a fellow who signed the letter as “Ned Resnikoff, Emeryville” – as if he’s just a guy with strong opinions about affordable housing. Here is an excerpt of his letter:

“Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper and Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig claim to be offering your readers a plan to end homelessness within the next year, but they’re really just selling snake oil.

The real reason why these states have lower rates of homelessness isn’t a mystery: they have much lower housing costs. The fact of the matter is that California will not be able to end homelessness in the space of a year — least of all by simply arresting our way out of the problem. To end the homelessness crisis, we need to end the housing crisis.”

Well, low and behold, it turns out Ned Resnikoff of Emeryville is the Policy Director of California YIMBY – the “Yes in Our Backyard” group, a very active political pro-housing advocacy movement. YIMBY is supposed to contrast NIMBY – the “not in my backyard” class.

Mr. Resnikoff’s LinkedIn profile is rich with his housing first credentials and activities:

I am the policy director at California YIMBY, a nonprofit that works at the state level to put California on a path of broad-based economic prosperity and create vibrant, livable, and inclusive communities for everyone. I primarily work on long-range policy planning and education for the organization.

I previously served as Policy Manager for the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI) at the University of California, San Francisco. While there, I worked with BHHI’s researchers to assess the policy implications of their findings and educate other stakeholders — including policymakers, advocates, and the general public — on those implications.

Mr. Resikoff also says he “spent 7 years as a journalist writing for publications such as msnbc and Al Jazeera America. I also have had bylines at The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Nation, and elsewhere. My last position in journalism was as senior editor for policy at ThinkProgress.”

Mr. Resnikoff has impressive housing first credentials, AND journalism credentials – something he and The Sacramento Bee editors should have included in his letter to the editor. It’s a lie by omission, which is particularly devious.

The Globe has covered the homeless crisis extensively and agree with the DAs and Sheriff, and note that focusing only on housing rather than what’s really at the root of homelessness – drug addiction and mental illness – is merely Democrats controlling the language rather than solving the homeless crisis.

One fine example is Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, from a Globe article in March:

“In California, we are using every tool in our toolbox – including the largest-ever deployment of small homes in the state – to move people out of encampments and into housing,” Gov. Newsom said, while announcing his administration will be supplying 1,200 tiny homes statewide, including 500 for Los Angeles, 200 for San Jose and 150 for San Diego County.

California has more than 170,000 homeless transients living on the streets, and the governor and Mayors are all excited about 1,200 tiny homes.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced the state will purchase and install 350 tiny homes in Sacramento “as part of a statewide push to assist California communities in addressing the crisis of unsheltered homelessness.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

The Left Gaslights Us on San Francisco’s Problems

Primitive projection has become all too frequently a substitute for political debate in this country.

Elon Musk lived in San Francisco until late 2021, when California’s lockdown policies, a serious uptick in crime rates, and a general decline in the quality of life prompted him to move Tesla to Texas.

He hasn’t regretted the decision. He recently commented on a Twitter feed about eleven major San Francisco retailers, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Whole Foods, closing their stores this year alone. “So many stores shuttered in downtown SF. Feels post-apocalyptic,” he tweeted. “The philosophy that led to this bleak outcome will be the end of civilization if extended to the world.”

Musk’s comments have prompted a backlash from progressives, who claim he has it all wrong about San Francisco. Last month, in the wake of the murder of Cash App founder Bob Lee, it was discovered that he was killed by someone he knew, not as part of a random act of violence. Miguel Almaguer, the local correspondent for NBC, reported that “San Francisco leaders fired back at Musk,” insisting that “the tragedy that unfolded could have happened anywhere.”

Indeed, San Francisco district attorney Brooke Jenkins lashed out at Musk for calling the city’s crime “horrific.” She said Musk’s tweets were “reckless and irresponsible” and “served to mislead the world and their perceptions of San Francisco.”

Just for the record: San Francisco lost 7.5 percent of its population between April 2020 and July 2022, a rate of decline unprecedented among major U.S. cities, including Detroit in its worst days.

Lee Ohanian, an economist at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, has calculated that San Franciscans face about a 1-in-16 chance each year of being a victim of property or violent crime. That makes it “more dangerous than 98 percent of US cities, both small and large. To put this in perspective, Compton, California, the infamous home of drug gang turf wars, and which today remains more dangerous than 90 percent of all US cities, is almost twice as safe as San Francisco.”

If that doesn’t sound like civilization being threatened, I don’t know what does.

Because of this record, the Left is pulling out all the stops in trying to distract attention from the damage San Francisco’s progressive policies have caused. Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, had the gall to author last year in the San Francisco Chronicle an article headlined “Soft-on-crime liberalism isn’t fueling San Francisco’s drug crisis. Libertarianism is.”

This is what is called the politics of projection — accusing others of one’s own flaws — and it’s being used by the Left everywhere, from explaining how inequality has grown under President Biden to accusing Republicans of opposing energy development by voting against the Green New Deal.

A 2019 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that projection confuses virtually every aspect of our politics. It makes us assume a greater degree of consensus on the big moral questions than there really is. When that consensus is shown to be an illusion, it generates more hostility as “people project their own polarization onto others.”

Sadly, the more radical someone’s politics are, the more radical they imagine everybody else’s politics to be.

Of course, projection is practiced on both the left and right sides of the spectrum. Donald Trump’s penchant for attacking his opponents by projecting onto them his own personal attributes and self-assessments has been a consistent trope of his rhetoric.

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times calls Trump a “master of projection” and noted that many Trumpian projections were uncannily predictive of his future actions as president. Examples include his roundly criticizing Mitt Romney for failing to release his tax returns and berating Barack Obama for watching too much TV in the White House and playing too much golf.

“Trump tells other people that they are what he is,” Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, noted in 2019. “It’s a common enough defense mechanism in early childhood, but as an adult, using it all the time, it is what we would call primitive.”

Primitive projection has become all too frequently a substitute for political debate in this country. When I began appearing on cable TV shows in the 1990s, most guests debated me by trying to make logical arguments. Over the years, the amount of commentary of the “insult comic” variety grew. There also grew to be fewer debates — almost all cable shows now feature only one guest at a time or a completely like-minded panel.

These trends have gone hand in hand with a collapse of confidence in the media. Edelman, the world’s largest public-relations firm, conducts an annual survey on trust and credibility. In 2021, it found that less than half of Americans said they trusted the mainstream media, and 56 percent of Americans said they agreed with the following statement: “Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

Click here to read the full article in the National Review

As Crisis Grows Worse Under Mayor Bass, LA City Council Extends Homeless Emergency Declaration

‘Inside Safe’ a housing first program, has spent $34 million of the initial $50 million in funding

The Los Angeles City Council extended the city’s homeless emergency declaration on Tuesday, while also tightening the leash on Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Safe initiative by asking for more frequent reports on how the floundering program is going.

Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Szabo appeared before the City Council on Tuesday to give a report on how Inside Safe, a “housing first” homelessness initiative that places many homeless in hotels and motels, was doing. So far, since it began five months ago, Szabo has said that 1,205 homeless people have been placed into program housing, with 11 housing fairs and 15 encampment sweeps occurring since the same time.

In addition, the program has also spent $34 million of the initial $50 million in funding. The largest chunk, $12.8 million, has been spent on 22,437 hotel room nights in 25 hotels and motels around the city. Other large expenditures in the program have surrounded the Grand Hotel, with $6.4 million going towards the contract extension with the hotel for another year of housing homeless following the end of a Project Roomkey contract and $3.2 going to service providers at the hotel.

“Based on the work that’s been done since April 28, the homeless emergency account will incur $34 million of obligation,” added Szabo on Tuesday. “By June 30, the city is projected to expend approximately $44 million overall.”

Deputy Mayor for Housing Mercedes Marquez also noted that 15 more affordable and permanent housing projects had been streamlined for approval recently, adding to the hundreds of other projects currently under Inside Safe to reduce homelessness.

However, many on the Council stressed that more reports on how Inside Safe was doing would be needed, as this was only the second report to the Council on the program in the last five months. While the Council had originally wanted bi-weekly reports on Inside Safe spending, it has not happened, with the program only averaging a new report every two to three months. With the Council expected to vote on the city budget for the next fiscal year, which includes a proposed $1.3 billion in homeless funding by Bass, of which $250 million would go to Inside Safe, the need to see how the money is being allocated is higher than ever.

Inside Safe funding questions

“This is such a big program, yet they are only giving a few reports on what is happening with it,” said “Miguel,” a staffer at the Los Angeles City Hall, to the Globe on Wednesday. “The program is going to see a huge jump in funding too, and a lot of people here are concerned about it. Everyone wants to reduce homelessness and get people off the street, but the way they are going about doing it is really divisive. It may look like everyone working for the city is 100% behind inside safe, but that is not the case. We’re seeing the crisis grow worse under Bass and stories trickle back to us of so many people refusing to be housed through the program. There needs to be more accountability and management, and the way you do that is through the frequent reports that the Council wanted.”

Overall, the program has been unpopular, with everyone from hotel and motel owners to even homeless people largely against the program.

“It’s pretty telling from only the handful of hotels that actually agreed to do this and the number of people choosing to stay in the street that this program has problems,” added Maurice, who helps run a church-based shelter in LA, to the Globe on Wednesday. “But I regularly talk with others who run shelters, the homeless, and even some motel owners. There is just too much red tape and restrictions to make it viable. For example, so many homeless people leave those shelters because they’re so restrictive that it hurts their ability to get and maintain jobs.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Man Bites Off part of LAPD Officer’s Finger During Metro Station Altercation

A man bit off a chunk of an Los Angeles police officer’s finger at a Metro Red Line station on Thursday, April 27, authorities said.

Officers assigned to the subway were patrolling the station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Avenue at around 10 a.m. when they say they came across a man aboard the train who seemed to have illegal drugs.

Police attempted to escort him off the train when they say he became violent. While they were attempting to restrain him, he bit off part of a sergeant’s finger.

An officer then used undisclosed force against the man, who police say sustained minor injuries and was taken in custody to a hospital. The sergeant also went to a hospital.

RELATED STORY: Metro responds to rising crime with more drug arrests and ‘transit ambassadors’

Police did not further describe what drugs the man was suspected of having. It is unclear how badly the suspect injured the sergeant’s finger.

“I’m deeply disturbed by the vicious and gruesome attack on our sergeant as he and other officers were simply conducting routine patrol of the transit line,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in a statement. “We remain committed to our work each day to improve the safety of the entire transit system with dedicated patrol engaging.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Daily News

San Diego to Pursue Buying Three Hotels to House Homeless People — at a Cost of $383,000 Per Room

San Diego Housing Commission would use state funds toward $150 million purchase of extended-stay hotels

The San Diego Housing Commission will apply for state funds to help purchase three extended-stay hotels with more than 400 rooms that could provide homes for people experiencing or facing homelessness.

In a move contingent on funding from the state, commissioners voted 4-0 at the board’s April 20 meeting to pursue the purchase of the 107-unit Extended Stay America Hotel at 3860 Murphy Canyon Road for $40.7 million, the 140-unit Extended Stay America Hotel at 7440-7450 Mission Valley Road for $52 million and the 165-unit Extended Stay America Hotel at 2085-2095 Hotel Circle South for $65.2 million.

The total cost of the three buildings would equate to about $383,000 a unit, which is greater than the per-unit cost of two hotels the city bought for housing three years ago.

Each unit will have a kitchenette and be near public transportation routes and other services.

As with the purchases from 2020, some funding for the new purchases would come from the third and final round of funding from the state’s Project Homekey, which was created by Gov. Gavin Newsom as a competitive grant program for public agencies to quickly develop housing through the use of hotels, motels, hostels, multifamily apartments, manufactured housing and other means.

The latest round has $736 million throughout the state, and $34 million has been set aside for the San Diego region. On top of the money set aside for San Diego, local agencies also can apply for a share of the statewide funds.

As part of the application process, the Housing Commission will begin due diligence on Thursday, which SDHC Vice President of Real Estate Finance and Acquisitions Buddy Bohrer told commissioners involves zoning conformance, pest control, inspections for potential environmental hazards and peer-review appraisals, among other steps.

Bohrer said the Housing Commission also will have to invest $750,000 to perform due diligence as part of the application process, which it would fund through its federal Moving to Work funds.

Applications for Project Homekey funds will be submitted in May or June, and awards are expected in August or September. If all goes well, the anticipated close of escrow will be in October, Bohrer said.

The per-unit cost of the three properties would be about $380,000 for the Murphy Canyon Road hotel, $371,000 for the Mission Valley Road hotel and $395,000 for the Hotel Circle south hotel for an average price of $383,192.

Commissioners praised their staff for working on the proposal that could house hundreds of homeless people at a time when the area’s median home price is about $750,000.

“This seems like a fantastic value proposition here,” Commissioner Ryan Clumpner said.

“These programs are incredible when you see the cost at the door,” Commissioner Stefanie Benvenuto said, referring to the per-door cost.

“When you can find a way to pick up 412 rooms and begin housing people and close in October, you have to be thrilled about the opportunity,” said Commissioner Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell.

This is the second time the Housing Commission has pursued hotels with Project Homekey funds.

In October 2020, the San Diego City Council approved the Housing Commission’s plan to buy two extended-stay hotels.

A 190-unit hotel on Hotel Circle South cost $67 million, or $353,000 a room, and the 142-room hotel in Kearny Mesa cost $39.5 million, or $278,000 a room.

The $383,000 per-unit cost of the three hotels being pursued by the Housing Commission is greater than the cost of the two hotels purchased in 2020 and other similar projects, but less than some affordable housing projects built from scratch.

Father Joe’s Villages purchased a South Bay hotel that was converted to housing and opened in October 2020 as Benson’s Place. The 82-room hotel and its reconstruction cost $24.5 million, or $299,000 a room.

In February 2022, Father Joe’s Villages opened Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa, a 407-project that cost $145 million, or $356,000 a room.

Earlier this month, the 95-unit affordable housing Amanecer Apartments in Linda Vista opened at cost of $51.1 million, or $538,000 a room. The project developed by Community HousingWorks required the demolition of existing projects and was supported with Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers from the Housing Commission and $7 million from the county.

San Diego Union-Tribune article from September 2020 asked several people in a variety of fields if purchasing hotels to house homeless people was a good use of tax dollars. Three said no, citing the cost and suggesting other solutions, while 10 people said yes.

Bob Rauch of R.A. Rauch & Associates, which owns and operates hotels, was among the people who thought the last purchases were bad deals, and he has problems with the proposed cost of the new ones.

“They’re nuts,” he said. “They overpaid last time during a pandemic, and they’d be overpaying again.”

Rauch said extended-stay hotel rooms would fetch more than regular hotel rooms, but still sees the Housing Commission’s proposal as too high.

He also said he has a high-end, 120-room extended-stay hotel in Del Mar, and its value is about $300,000 to $325,000 a room.

Alan Gin, an economic professors with the University of San Diego Knauss School of Business, said homelessness and the housing market are serious and related problems that should be addressed.

When compared to the Amanecer Apartments, Gin said the proposed purchases were a good deal, but he also said he would have to research the market more.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

Ordinance Banning Encampments on San Diego Sidewalks to Get Its First Hearing This Week

SAN DIEGO —  A proposal to ban homeless encampments on San Diego sidewalks, parks and other places is expected to get a hearing this week.

Councilmember Stephen Whitburn’s proposed ordinance is scheduled to be heard Thursday by the Land Use and Housing Committee, which could lead to it advancing to the full City Council for approval.

Whitburn and Mayor Todd Gloria announced plans for the ordinance last month. The proposal comes at a time when downtown encampments in the council member’s district have surged to record highs and residents in the area have expressed frustration at what they see as the city’s lack of response.

Change isn’t going to happen overnight, however. Besides having to first go through a committee hearing and then approval by the City Council, Gloria said last month that enforcement would begin after new resources for homeless people are created.

The mayor was referring to a new safe parking lot for people who live in vehicles and Whitburn’s plan to create a “safe sleeping” area, an alternative to shelters that would provide people in encampments a place to legally live outdoors.

Federal law prohibits people from being cited for sleeping in public places if there are not other options, such as shelters. The addition of a new safe parking lot and safe sleeping area would give the city more flexibility for enforcement.

The safe parking lot is expected to open this month, but Whitburn has not found a place for the safe sleeping project.

“The safe sleeping initiative is going to take longer, but I’m hoping that by the summer we’ll get our first safe sleeping site up and running,” Whitburn said. “We have not settled on a location definitely yet.”

Homeless shelters, safe parking lots and even storage facilities used by homeless people often are opposed by community members who don’t want any homeless services in their neighborhood, and Whitburn already has run into opposition to his safe sleeping plan.

He had discussed using an under-used parking area called Inspiration Point in Balboa Park as a safe sleeping site, but community groups that support the park have come out against the plan as an inappropriate use.

Whitburn has not abandoned the site, but isn’t committed to it as the only location for a safe sleeping area. But even after a site is located, there still would be many time-consuming steps before it could open.

Funding will have to be identified, possibly with the help of philanthropy, and the property would have to be prepared to accommodate the project. The city also would have to put a contract out to bid to hire a service provider to run the operation, adding more time to the process.

With all those steps in mind, Whitburn is hopeful enforcement of a new ordinance could begin by mid-year.

“My intent is people will begin to see a downtown and a city where more people are living in shelter and safe sleeping sites and other better options, and fewer people living in encampments,” he said. “I’m confident we will get there. I don’t want to put a specific timeline on that because I’m more interested in doing this right, but I do think we will be making progress this summer.”

The word “homeless” does not appear in the proposed ordinance, which amends an existing municipal code, but it does contain new language about camping.

The ordinance prohibits camping on any public property, including sidewalks, and violations would be prosecuted as misdemeanors.

Camping would be prohibited regardless of the availability of shelters in certain areas, including within two blocks of a school or a shelter, waterways, any transit hub or trolley platform, in Balboa Park, Mission Bay Park, Presidio Park and parks near beaches.

Following an agreement that has been in place for several years, the ordinance states there will be no enforcement of the rule against public camping between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

“If people share my view that we need an ordinance like this, I would encourage residents to make their feelings known and help advocate for this ordinance,” Whitburn said about the upcoming meeting.

Click here to read the full article in the SD Union Tribune

‘No Light at the Other End’: Impending Loss of Pandemic CalFresh Boosts Could Trigger Hunger Spike

Food banks across California are bracing for a feared spike in hunger amid inflated prices after a pandemic-era boost in food aid ends in April.

March is the last month CalFresh recipients will get the additional benefits, as the federal government cuts off the “emergency allotments” that have kept food stamp allowances higher than usual for nearly three years now. 

The average household on CalFresh will lose about $200 a month, said Becky Silva, government relations director at the California Association of Food Banks. A single-person household, for instance, could drop from $281 a month in food aid to as low as $23 in April.

U.S. Department of Agriculture documents show that since November, the pandemic boosts have amounted to more than $500 million a month in additional food stamps coming into low-income Californians’ budgets. 

“There’s no way to overstate how devastating this is going to be,” Silva said. “Families are going to see a dramatic and sudden drop in their food benefits at a time when food price inflation and the cost of living in California especially is through the roof.”

Food stamps are funded by the federal government, which determines benefit amounts annually based on the nationwide cost of living as well as recipients’ household size and income. 

In March 2020, Congress allowed the USDA to give states funding to boost all recipients’ aid to the maximum allowable benefits for their household size, or add $95 on top for those already receiving the maximum. The recent Congressional spending bill passed in December cuts that off this spring in exchange for funding for extra food aid for school children during the summer months.

More than 2.9 million California households receive food assistance through CalFresh, a number that has risen steadily throughout the pandemic. 

The state social services department attributes the increase partially to a more flexible application process during the pandemic, while advocates like Silva also suggest the boost in aid made going through an application more worthwhile for eligible residents. 

The loss of emergency allotments will be felt particularly hard by older and disabled people, many of whom have already seen their food aid eligibility reduced after a historic inflationary bump in Social Security checks in January. In addition to wages, Social Security, unemployment benefits and disability payments all count as income for the person receiving food aid. 

Tom McSpedden, a 69-year-old Citrus Heights resident with Type II diabetes, saw a nearly $60 decrease in his normal CalFresh allowance last month after getting a $109 increase in his monthly Social Security checks.

But he continued to get the pandemic CalFresh boosts, which kept the total food stamps on his benefits card at $281 that month – the maximum allowable aid for a single-person household. 

In April, McSpedden’s monthly CalFresh benefits will drop to roughly $50. 

Nearly half of McSpedden’s monthly $1,368 Social Security check goes toward renting a room; the rest is meticulously budgeted for his phone, car insurance, gas, the portion of insulin and medications that Medicare doesn’t cover and bankruptcy payments. 

“I don’t have the $230 left over each month to compensate” for the drop in aid, he said. “I’m just not going to be able to afford food. It’s that simple.”

There isn’t any plan to immediately backfill the loss. 

The food banks association and other anti-poverty organizations have proposed that the state spend more than $2 billion providing a “ramp-down” of the extra benefits for five months after the federal boosts end. 

But it’s unclear whether the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration would agree on new spending as they seek to close a $23 billion budget deficit.

Advocates are also calling for the state to add its own funds to the regular food stamps program, to boost the minimum food aid grant from $23 to $50 with corresponding inflationary increases. Other ideas include expanding special CalFresh programs that provide extra dollars for those purchasing California-grown produce, or for certain Central Valley households who lack clean drinking water in their homes.

Those proposals are “nowhere near approaching the $500 million a month that will be absent from people’s budgets, dinner tables and California retailers as well,” said Jared Call, senior advocate at the food policy organization Nourish California. “But our approach is, no tool in the toolbox should be unused.”

The California Department of Social Services says it’s warning households of the upcoming decline in aid and directing CalFresh recipients to food banks, which have received additional funding from both the state and federal governments in recent years. 

The state’s network of food banks continues to serve on average 1.5 times the number of clients as before the pandemic, Silva said.

The Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, which provides food in the county McSpedden lives, averaged 150,000 clients a month before the pandemic, said community resource manager Lorena Carranza. In recent months, that number has been about 275,000.

But food distributions can’t replace the flexibility of food stamps that many residents rely on. 

With a special diet to manage his diabetes, McSpedden said food distribution boxes usually only contain a few items he can eat. He’s loath to take a full box when others could use it, he said.

McSpedden worked for nearly three decades as a long-haul trucker until about 15 years ago, when a series of heart attacks ended that career and landed him in a hospital stay that wiped out his savings and retirement accounts.

“I’ve been in predicaments before,” he said. “But this thing here with the extra food stamps, I have no idea. I’m looking into a tunnel with no light at the other end.”

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

San Diego County, City Invest $503K for 20 Youth Shelter Beds

A $503,000 refurbishing project funded by the city and county of San Diego has created 20 additional shelter beds for youth and could end homelessness for about 60 young people each year, the head of the nonprofit running the program said Monday.

The project expands the number of shelter beds at Urban Street Angels’ downtown program to 70, and youths ages 18-24 years old will begin moving in Feb. 23, said the nonprofit’s founder and CEO, Eric Lovett.

The $503,000 to expand the shelter came from the $25 million County-City Behavioral Health Impact Fund created in 2020 as a resolution to a lawsuit between the city of San Diego and the county over how to spend former redevelopment funds after former Gov. Jerry Brown shut down the state Redevelopment Agency in 2011.

The shelter expansion is the seventh project to use the fund, which also has paid for transitional housing units, vehicles for crisis care teams, telehealth connections and other projects.

Lovett said the grant from the Behavioral Health Impact Fund paid for two new bathrooms, the removal of walls and other improvements. The room had been used as offices for Father Joe’s Villages, owner of the Fifth Avenue building.

Father Joe’s had used the building to operate the Toussaint Academy, which provided homes for teenagers and young adults before closing in 2016.

The 50 upstairs beds are in individual rooms while the new first-floor shelter is more like a dorm, with each of the 20 single beds separated by a small wooden wardrobe. Signs above heads of some beds have inspirational slogans such as “You Matter” and “If You Believe in Yourself, Anything is Possible.”

During a Monday morning news conference announcing the upcoming opening of the shelter, Lovett said there are about 1,000 homeless youths outdoors in San Diego on any night.

“They need hope,” he said. “They need a place to go. What this entire space does is it gives them that.”

Clients also receive meals, clothing, mental health help, job training and other services, with an average stay of 60 to 90 days, he said. The program has ended homelessness for 300 youths each year, and now will help 60 more, Lovett added.

Urban Street Angels also operates a 60-unit home for youths in a former La Mesa hotel the nonprofit bought about a year and a half ago, he said.

Stressing the need to help homeless youths get housing and stable lives, Lovett said about half of homeless adults on the street became homeless when they were young.

The San Diego Housing Commission will pay for supportive services for youths at the shelter, including case management, housing and job placement, occupational therapy and linkage to health care.

The Lucky Duck Foundation and Price Charities provided move-in supplies such as bed frames, mattresses and hygiene products at the new shelter addition.

Drew Moser, executive director of the Lucky Duck Foundation, said the philanthropic group was recognizing the city, county and Urban Street Angels with a Shamrock as part of its Shamrocks and Shipwrecks initiative, which gives Shamrocks as praise for positive achievement in homeless solutions and Shipwrecks for inaction.

Moser said the public/private collaboration that included the city, county and a nonprofit in the shelter project should not be a one-off, but should be replicated on a larger scale.

“Twenty beds is great,” he said. “Let’s do 200 beds. Lets do 500 beds.”

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who helped broker the deal that created the Behavioral Health Impact Fund, also attended the Monday news conference.

“We know we have a lot more to do,” he said. “We know the challenges of homelessness are immense and great, but you’ve got to get up every single day and say, ‘What is it we can do today that’s going to give somebody a shot at a better future?’”

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

S.F. Hoped to Mandate Treatment for Up to 100 More Mentally Ill Homeless People. Years Later, No One Is In The Program

New data shows that a program in San Francisco to mandate more homeless people struggling with addiction and mental illness into treatment has largely failed, pointing to the city’s ongoing struggle to help thousands of people suffering on its streets.

Three and a half years ago, San Francisco started a pilot program to compel more people into treatment who met certain strict criteria. Officials estimated the program could help 50 to 100 people get housing and treatment for six months, but only three individuals entered the program and none remain in it today.

The problem is daunting. In 2019, San Francisco identified about 4,000 unhoused people who also struggled with addiction and mental illness. While many of those people could be helped with more voluntary treatment, some may be too sick to accept care. Despite progress in improving some aspects of the city’s mental health system, an unknown number of the 4,000 remain on the streets.

While the program was meant to help more of these people, in particular those impaired by drug addiction who aren’t covered under other forms of conservatorship, the reality is that the requirements were so onerous, few people met the criteria, according to the health department.

Since June 2019, the city has filed only four petitions for what’s called “housing conservatorship,” one of which was not approved. While other kinds of conservatorship exist, they too have strict requirements that limit who is eligible.

Of the three people who entered the new program, two were moved to another kind of conservatorship for people with mental illness, the city’s health department said Friday when it released its annual report on the subject. It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the third person.

The program — which sunsets at the end of the year —requires that someone has a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance use disorder and has been placed on at least eight temporary involuntary mental health holds, called 5150s, which send them to a hospital, within a year. The target population was also homeless. People must repeatedly refuse voluntary treatment first.

A law authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, allowed the city to launch the pilot program.

But Wiener said Friday his original law was hamstrung by a slew of factors. It got watered down by another piece of state legislation the next year, making it more restrictive. Next, the Board of Supervisors added more requirements during a contentious political debate. Logistics and paperwork delayed the implementation, and as soon as it got off the ground, the pandemic slowed progress.

“So not shockingly, not a lot of people have been conserved,” he said.

“It is so frustrating to me and so many San Franciscans when you walk down the street and see someone who’s clearly falling apart and dying, and you see that person every day falling apart a little more, and you wonder why is no one doing anything about this, why is no one saving their life?” he continued.

The report said 27 total notices have been delivered to 14 people informing them they’re on a potential path to housing conservatorship. There are no petitions waiting court approval.

The city’s health department said in a statement Friday that multiple barriers have hindered the program. They said those include limited referrals from partners, extensive documentation requirements and challenges receiving confidential patient records from private hospitals.

The health department said “stronger laws and more resources would make the San Francisco Housing Conservatorship programs a more effective tool” in the city’s system.

Wiener said he had planned to come back to the legislature this year to fix problems with his law, but instead is setting his sights on supporting a package of laws to reform a broader form of conservatorship, called LPS, that state Sen. Susan Eggman is planning to put forward. Wiener said he believes that with new leadership in the legislature, reforms will pass this year and help more people into treatment.

Mayor London Breed, who has lobbied for stronger conservatorship laws for years, supported a similar package of reforms last year.

Breed’s health department runs San Francisco General, which sees many of the patients who might be a fit for the program in its psychiatric emergency room and its inpatient psychiatric unit. People frequently cycle through the units because of a lack of long-term care.

The city also runs numerous street outreach teams – some to respond to people with mental illness and others who have just overdosed – where experts have the power to write mental health holds that would set someone on this path to conservatorship.

Recent data shows that in a majority of interactions with the team responding to mental crises, people in 57% of engagements remained in the community. In only 5% of cases were people placed on holds – a rate that two social workers told the Chronicle they felt didn’t reflect the higher need for hospitalization among their clients.

Critics say mental health holds and conservatorship should be extremely limited because it takes away people’s civil rights.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

SF Supervisor Says City’s $1.45B Budget Plan to End Homelessness Won’t Work

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman did not mince words during a sit-down interview with ABC7 News on Wednesday, talking about the city’s housing plan for the homeless.

Earlier in the week, Mandelman called on the Board of Supervisors to have a special meeting to discuss the report issued at the end of last year by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

“We spend a huge amount of money in this city, not solving this problem,” Mandelman said.

The report was meant to be a direct plan of execution after the Board of Supervisors voted in June of 2022 to have the city offer all homeless people in the city a safe place to sleep.

RELATED: SF supervisors vote to create plan offering housing to every homeless person in city

It suggests spending nearly $1.5 billion over the next three years in addition to the money already expected to be spent.

That comes out to about $70,000 per shelter bed per year, according to Mandelman.

“That just seems like way too much to me. It’s more than other communities spend on shelter,” said Mandelman.

Mandelman thinks some of what’s proposed is wasteful and says the city can get rid of encampments for less.

MORE: Homelessness count rises in California despite staying steady nationwide, report finds

And Mandelman certainly isn’t alone. He tells me that quality of life issues such as homelessness are a top concern for both city residents and businesses.

Randy Shaw is the director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.

He says he agrees with many of Mandelman’s thoughts and believes the city should cut down on the red tape surrounding the issue.

MORE: SF closes Tenderloin Center. What’s next for 400+ people who received services everyday?

“We have an emergency situation. We don’t have the luxury to say, ‘Well this luxury over 10 years will be a better investment’. We got to get people housed now,” said Shaw.

Mandelman maintains that the city can end unsheltered homelessness on our streets with the right plan and funding.

Click here to read the full article at ABC News