Funding Solutions to Homelessness: The Prop C Recommendations

Luisa Montes May 6, 2021

This year, the promise of Spring brings more symbolism than usual. Vaccination rates in San Francisco are climbing while COVID-19 cases are mercifully on the decline. So many of us are experiencing the thrill of making plans and having something to look forward to after a long winter—literal and metaphorical. 

But what if, instead of a future filled with concert tickets and restaurant reservations, you didn’t know what lay ahead, if you’d be able to find permanent housing or the get treatment you need to survive? With everything the past year has taught us, how can we leap into our own future without knowing if everyone will have the same opportunities? 

The work of the OCOH Committee is one way we can spread that sense of hope for everyone in San Francisco. The OCOH Fund is a shot in the arm for our City, something that—pandemic or not—ensures our unhoused neighbors can realize their hopes for the future. 

Recently, the Our City Our Home (OCOH) Committee voted on their recommendations for spending money in the OCOH Fund, which will then go to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors for final approval. 

This milestone is the culmination of the many hours the OCOH Committee spent listening to stakeholders among City departments, service providers, national experts, and community members to identify the specific strategies and programs that can end homelessness in our city. 

Like the All In campaign, the OCOH Fund centers the voices of people. People like you who are committed to ending the suffering on our streets, and the people who will be directly impacted by the OCOH Committee’s recommendations. 

When we take a moment to reflect on this fact, we remember that this is an issue of humanity. We realize that homelessness may look different than we initially thought. And we understand why it is so important to use these resources to make our city the place we want it to be, a place where everyone has a home.

Understanding the Recommendations

As we explained in our most recent post, OCOH funds must be spent in four specific areas (Housing, Behavioral Health, Prevention, and Shelter/Hygiene), and sticking to these areas fulfills the intent of the OCOH Fund and restores dignity to the lives of our unhoused neighbors. 

The OCOH Fund brings in approximately $340 million in revenue every year, and for the coming budget year, which runs July 2021 through June 2022, the OCOH Committee has recommended spending just over $330 million. So, where will all that money go? And, what will the impact be?

Funding long-term housing strategies

When it comes to homelessness, healing starts with housing and endures with supportive services. The OCOH Committee recommends directing the significant amount of money available in the housing bucket to projects that will add to the city’s housing inventory, whether that’s through acquiring new buildings, fixing old ones, or using the innovative Flexible Housing Pool to move people into homes more quickly.

And since housing is just the beginning, additional focus areas include incorporating workforce training to help increase income and provide ongoing stability. 

Connecting People to Behavioral Health Care, Treatment, and Housing

While COVID-19 dominated much of the conversation last year, equally threatening to people experiencing homelessness is a crisis of mental health challenges and substance use. 

The OCOH Committee’s recommendations for behavioral health care, such as mental health and substance use treatment, seek to invest heavily in spaces for individuals to get treatment and connect them to permanent housing once they exit care. Funds must also meet urgent needs and account for the specific needs of subpopulations, such as young adults, older adults,  and families. 

“Working upstream is where we should be spending our time. We understood there was limited opportunity the older someone got. The heartbreak is that we need to have a system of care that is tailored. We can’t have this one size fits all type of thing.”

Creating a Prevention System that Meets Diverse Needs

The OCOH Committee’s recommendations to prevent homelessness reinforce what our campaign has recognized all along – there is no single way to experience homelessness, and the system needs to provide solutions that meet the needs of our diverse community. From using prevention funds more flexibly and for more time to funding workforce development services to increase income, the recommendations embrace the reality that it is simpler and more cost effective to prevent a homeless experience than it is to rehouse someone on the street. 

“I’m in emergency housing. I had to go through a few hotels til I found a place that was somewhat safe and out of the elements … however, it’s been hard for me to network about jobs or school. .I’m very capable, I’m a Delancey Street graduate two times. I’m just looking for the opportunity to find a place.”

Funding a Range of Shelter Strategies

When working with vulnerable populations, it is crucial that we design services to meet people where they are, not where we want them to be. A variety of shelter options helps bring this to life. We must account for communities of people who have been overlooked – either because of geographic location in the city or risk factors like involvement with the justice system – and are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness. Equally important is the need to fund additional options for people, such as domestic violence survivors and pregnant women, who prefer a less dense shelter setting. 

“Once I had enough of basic needs met, then I hit the ground running. And since then, I just got into graduate school. So when we talk about these people and we talk about housing, these are people that have unlimited potential.”

Funding Solutions to Homelessness: The Passage of Prop C

We’ve shared what you need to know about the OCOH Fund and how the funding decisions are made. Thanks to visionary leadership and incredibly hard work, the recommendations are on their way to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, marking our best chance in 20 years to significantly reduce homelessness in San Francisco. 

These investment recommendations will support thousands of people exiting homelessness in San Francisco. These investments enable the creation of approximately 2,000 new units of permanent supportive housing and access to behavioral health care for thousands more people. Moreover, it invests in homelessness prevention at a scale never seen before in our city.  

This is a momentous opportunity, and it is also just the beginning. Getting it right today sets the tone for addressing homelessness in a way that is grounded in strategy and data and also the expertise of people who have experienced the very issues we are trying to solve. 

Sign our pledge to show that, when it comes to building a future where everyone has a home, you are All In.

xt week. Join our campaign to get a breakdown of the recommendations when they’re released.