Funding Solutions to Homelessness: The Prop C Approach

Luisa Montes April 20, 2021

It’s not that we haven’t done anything about homelessness as a city—we have piloted solutions and truly made a difference every time someone moves from the street into a home. But we know that’s also not enough. What we have right now is a unique opportunity to think bigger about homelessness and deliver the solutions that we know will have the biggest impact.

The creation of the Our City Our Home (OCOH) committee and the funds made available through Prop C give San Francisco the chance to transform conditions of our streets and lives of the people who sleep on them. We can’t afford to miss this window of opportunity to make progress at scale.

The OCOH Fund is estimated to take in $340 million in revenue each year, effectively doubling the amount of money San Francisco has to spend on preventing and ending homelessness. 

It’s our job, yours and mine, to hold our city leaders accountable to make strategic decisions in line with our values. To do that, we need to understand the OCOH Fund and its role in reducing homelessness in San Francisco.

The Why and What of the Four Pillars

Housing is where it starts, but it’s  only one part of the equation—to truly end a homeless experience many people need a combination of housing and services. That’s why the OCOH Fund has been broken into four spending categories, prioritized by the impact each category has on ending homelessness.

Each year, 50% of the available funding can be spent on housing, including money for rent subsidies, the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, Rapid Rehousing, new buildings, and other solutions. 

Another 25% of the funds are set aside for behavioral health care to provide the mental health and substance use support to help a person maintain housing.

Preventing homelessness in the first instance with rental assistance, eviction protection, and housing stabilization accounts for 15% of funds, and the final 10% goes to funding for shelter and hygiene services.

The OCOH Committee will make this year’s recommendations to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors according to this breakdown next week. Join our campaign to get a breakdown of the recommendations when they’re released. 


The Power of the People

The OCOH Committee has pledged to center equity in its decisions, promote transparency, and elevate the voices of people with lived experience. That’s why their process for making budget recommendations began with hosting listening sessions with community members to determine the needs and solutions straight from the people who would be most affected. 

Common threads emerged from the more than 800 service providers, members of advocacy groups, and people with lived homelessness experience who participated in 17 listening sessions, like the one hosted with our partners GLIDE pictured here

On one hand, the conversations revealed a rift between the ambitions of a compassionate system to house people and the lived reality for those who continue to feel overwhelmed and face barriers on their journey to a permanent home. Circumstances like insufficient income, lack of affordable housing options, behavioral health, and confusion about accessing City services were some of the biggest challenges faced. 

But in the spirit of resilience so characteristic of this community, there was also plenty of talk of solutions that meet people where they are in life currently, not where we want them to be. Recommendations from the listening sessions overwhelmingly focused on permanent housing and a range of flexible housing options that acknowledge that homelessness is not a singular experience.

Homelessness is complex and far-reaching, and as we’ve said all along, ending it requires a solution set large enough to meet the scope of the issue. 

Based on these findings from the community and collaboration with City Departments, the OCOH Committee will vote on specific funding recommendations that will then go to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The vote will happen on April 20, and we’ll bring you everything you need to know when that happens.

Funding Solutions to Homelessness: The Passage of Prop C

Over the next few weeks, we’re diving into what the OCOH Fund means for solutions to homelessness. Thanks to visionary leadership and incredibly hard work, the OCOH funds are starting to be released. This puts us at a critical juncture, and we can’t afford to miss this chance to use these resources to make our city the place we want it to be, a place where everyone has a home.