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Advocacy Plan: Solution to Youth Homelessness in San Francisco
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Solution to Youth Homelessness in San Francisco
Youth homelessness is a problem in San Francisco to the point where the thousands of
young people who are aged 18 to 24 years who live on the streets have become significant
sources of concern for residents and local authorities (Schutte, 2017). According to the scholar,
the one out of the five homeless people in the city is a youth while an estimated 40 percent of
this demographic of the vulnerable population do not possess a high school diploma or general
education diploma. Aside from the high level of illiteracy among the homeless youth population
in San Francisco, the problem is a source of public health problem concern since a study
conducted by Quimby et al. (2012) showed that an estimated 30 percent of the homeless youth
population in the city suffer from one form of mental health disorder. The need for this
potential future generation to battle with the mental and physical challenges that they are
exposed to on the streets highlights the depth of the problem. Therefore, it is imperative to
examine the historical factors that were responsible for the failure of current and past solutions as
the basis for gaining insights into the persistence of youth homelessness in San Francisco. The
outcome of this historical evaluation should guide the formulation of the advocacy programs for
ensuring that financial resources and policies for addressing the systemic institutional issues end
the problem in the city.
Evaluation of Initiatives and Programs to Combat Youth Homelessness in San
The evaluation of the issues that made the 1,441 unsheltered or temporarily sheltered
homeless youth in the city showed that the failures in the child protection system, lack of
economic opportunities for these young people to get income, and other social services that
could help overcome the challenges of living on the street. Molly (2017) stated that the magnet
effect is an additional aspect of the historical causes of youth homelessness in San Francisco. It
is making homelessness persist and defy the solutions that public and private agencies have
implemented to deal with other factors that result in the loss of housing for youths in the city and
the few percentages of the population who come from other parts of the country. The scholar
noted that the city’s investment in the provision of subsidized housing and some social services,
as well as favorable climate, is attractive to homeless youth population in the city. Consequently,
the insufficient housing services and other resources that are needed to meet the physical,
economic, and mental health needs of the homeless youth is evidence of the significance of
developing new measures for dealing with the problem in San Francisco.
Youth homelessness in San Francisco has remained a major problem because the efforts
of the city departments that are responsible for fixing the problem are using social service
programs and laws that are based on models that are inconsistent with the causative factors of
homelessness. First, the city’s plan to build 400 housing units for unaccompanied and
unsheltered youths that was launched in 2006 has only resulted in the construction of only 188
units that the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has used to meet the needs
of other demographics (Asch, 2017). Secondly, the host-home subsidized housing program for
homeless LGBTQ youths that was proposed by the mayor during his campaign in 2018 has not
taken off in most parts of the city because of public apathy. Although this program is designed to
provide shelter for young people in the homes of a trained member of the community and despite
the level of success recorded in the Minneapolis with the host-home housing program, the
perception of the people regarding the dangers posed by homeless youth have resulted in limited
Meanwhile, an additional evidence of the failure of the efforts of local authorities to deal
effectively with the problem of homeless youths in San Francisco is the problem is Proposition
Q. Turner (2017) claimed that the ordinance has not only criminalized homelessness in the city
but through the sit-lie ordinances and the removal of the tent encampments but exacerbated the
homeless problem in the city. Rather than provide the temporary housing units that are needed by
this population to exit the streets, these enforcement approaches are designed to address public
concerns regarding the spaces on the roads that are occupied by the young people. Also, an
aspect of the problem is the lack of the financial resources that are needed for the construction of
temporary shelters since housing is the most critical needs of the people who are living on the
streets of San Francisco (Larkini Youth Service, 2015). Consequently, the programs that would
be designed to remove the long-time encampment on the streets of San Francisco would need to
focus on the issues that this population in the most significant ways.
Furthermore, youth homelessness in San Francisco has remained a major social and
public health problem because the programs and initiatives are not based on relevant data and
information about the significance of the issues and other factors that would make
implementation effective (Jones & Willis, 2017). In this regard, the few services in the city are
inadequate for the needs of the homeless youths because they cannot perform a needs assessment
of how to meet the demographics of the population. Also, the increasing number of the youth
population is a representation of the pressures on the temporary housing units that lead some of
its residents back to the streets when the spaces are unavailable (Schutte, 2017). Therefore, any
program that would be implemented to address the problem should be defined according to data
models that represent the dynamics of the problem within the period of its conduct.
Proposed Solution to Youth Homelessness in San Francisco
The analysis of the various aspects of the state of youth homelessness in San Francisco
showed that there is an urgent need for a coordinated community program with the primary
objective of reducing the number of first-time homeless youths in the city (London Breed, 2018).
The proposed solution in this advocacy proposal for ending youth homelessness in the city
originated from the examination of the elements of current public and private initiatives for
dealing with the problem. One of the primary objectives of our proposed coordinated solution to
homelessness in San Francisco is the removal of the multiple institutions that require several
processes to provide temporary housing or shelter to young people who are experiencing
episodic homelessness. According to Turner (2017), the long waiting period for the transition
from child protective services and ejection from the homes of these youths is responsible for
exacerbating some of the problems that this population faces without meeting their specific
needs. Therefore, the proposed coordinated solution to youth homelessness in San Francisco is
designed to address some of the institutional challenges that turn a temporary and solvable
problem into a long-term one that would complex solutions and more resources to end.
The second goal of the proposed solution is the contribution of data and models to the
development and implementation of policies by local housing authorities that ensure that youths
who are experiencing episodic homelessness are connected to permanent housing resources
whose unavailability is responsible for the historical challenges to the efforts to end the problem
in San Francisco. It is an objective that is based on the findings of the study conducted by
Schutte (2017), which showed that short-term rental assistance and other social services such as
mental health consultation eliminate the barriers to the immediate rehousing of youths after the
loss of their homes due to the factors that were described in previous sections. Also, this
perspective is supported by evidence from the strategic framework of the Department of
Homelessness and Supportive Housing (2015), which posited that coordinated process that
connects people according to the urgency of their needs would reduce the level of the
problem.Thus, the proposed solution would not just be effective for dealing with the problem but
address several of the historical causes that have prevented some of the efforts of the government
to deal with the problem permanently.
The high level of job skills deficiency and poor education is one of the major sources of
the factors that are responsible for the continuous existence of youths on the streets of San
Francisco. It is a dimension of the historical cause of youth homelessness in the city that the
proposed coordinated program aims to address through the provision of educational
opportunities according to the recommendations of Larkin Youth Service (2014). One of the
potential positive impacts of this aspect of the proposed plan is its contribution to the economic
stability that would lead to the long-term disengagement of the target population from the streets.
An additional positive effect of this element of the coordinated program is the strengthening of
the decision-making capabilities of the unsheltered and unaccompanied youths regarding their
physical and mental health status. Therefore, the aim of this aspect of the proposed coordinated
program is the improvement of the illiteracy level of a significant percentage of the homeless
youth who lost their housing due to the high cost of rental housing in San Francisco, especially
when existing models have emphasized the application of this skill improvement model for
dealing with the problem.
The final aim of the proposed coordinated program for dealing with this problem is to
increase the number services that are available to homeless youths in the city and improve the
level of awareness on their positive impacts to the problem. In this regard, partners in the
program from the public and private sectors will work together to develop policies that would
address the substance-abuse related mental health problems that unaccompanied and unsheltered
youths in San Francisco faces. One of the elements of this aspect of the program is the
coordination and support for the implementation for Safe Injection Initiative by the Mayor. It is a
program that London Breed (2018) considers as an effective method to reduce the prevalence of
injection drug use among homeless youths, which is the leading source of public health concern
from the problem. An additional aspect of this component of the coordinated program is the
establishment of mental health counseling services at the few shelters and temporary housing
units for homeless youths in the city. We consider these additional objectives as critical to the
goal of the housing program to decrease the number of youths who return to homelessness after
obtaining accommodation. In a nutshell, the proposed solution to the high prevalence and
incidence rate of youth homelessness in San Francisco consists of models that would shorten the
time that young people spend on the streets and address their mental and physical health needs
due to their victimization and exploitation.
In conclusion, the analysis of the various dimensions of the historical causes of the
problem of homeless youth in San Francisco showed that the social issue has remained prevalent
despite the huge investments of resources into housing and social programs. It is the premise that
informed the examination of the factors that were responsible for the failure of the programs to
deal with the problem permanently without creating other long-term challenges. Also, the
proposed coordinated youth rehousing program is considered a potential long-term solution
because it is based on the principle of cross-sector collaboration between important stakeholders
in the public and private sectors of the city’s economy. An additional rationale for the potential
of the proposed coordinated program to serve as the central organization is the inclusion of a
comprehensive strategy for funding, program priorities, and needs assessment.
Although these elements are contained in some of the failed programs of the government,
the difference between our current proposal and existing ones is the involvement of all
stakeholders and principal actors from the public and private sectors. Thirdly, the issue of data
collection and tracking of beneficiaries that make program planning difficult would be addressed
through the implementation of a central database for all participating organizations and agencies
in the program. Finally, the program would include a community awareness and support
campaign to obtain stakeholder support for some of the aspects of the coordinated program such
as the allocation of spaces by landlords of buildings with extra spaces, participation of residents
in some of the activities for the project as volunteers, and support for some of the policies and
laws for dealing with the problem.
Asch, S. (2017). Local and national efforts to end youth homelessness. San Francisco Public
Press. Retrieved from
Breed, L. (2018). A bold approach to homelessness. San Francisco Medium. Retrieved from
Jones, C., & Willis, D. (2017). Amid affluence, youth homelessness surges in the Bay
Area. EdSource. Retrieved from
Larkin Youth Services (2015). “Youth homelessness in San Francisco: 2014 Report On
Incidence and Needs.”
Quimby, E. G., Edidin, J. P., Ganim, Z., Gustafson, E., Hunter, S. J., & Karnik, N. S. (2012).
Psychiatric disorders and substance use in homeless youth: A preliminary comparison of
San Francisco and Chicago. Behavioral Sciences, 2(3), 186-194.
Schutte, A. (2017). Assessing and Addressing the Needs of Youth Experiencing Homelessness in
Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Turner, M. (2017). Homelessness in the Bay Area: Solving the problem of homelessness is
arguably our region’s greatest challenge. The Urbanist, 560. Retrieved from
City and County of San Francisco
Letter from the Director of the
Department of Homelessness
and Supportive Housing
people as possible and improve the quality of life for
all San Franciscans, both housed and homeless.
Achieving this vision will require nothing short of a
radical transformation of the work we do.
This Strategic Framework outlines ambitious yet
achievable goals for the next five years. This document is
not meant to be a step-by-step guide for how to proceed.
Rather, it provides a roadmap for reducing homelessness
in San Francisco and ensuring it becomes a rare, brief, and
one-time occurrence. Achieving the goals of this Strategic
Framework will require us to continuously analyze data,
listen to our stakeholders, learn from those impacted by
homelessness, and adapt. We do not presume to have
all the answers—but we have the evidence, drive, and
optimism needed to achieve our goals.
an Francisco faces a crisis on our streets.
Homelessness is a social emergency, and the suffering
of our unhoused neighbors must be addressed with a
renewed sense of urgency. We cannot accept a
“business-as- usual” approach while thousands of adults,
families with children, and youth are without housing.
As a compassionate and creative community, we have
responded to homelessness with a strong commitment,
investing more than $250 million dollars annually in
homeless services. Our collective efforts have helped
approximately 25,000 people exit homelessness since
2005, and provided shelter and support to thousands
each year. We are pleased to have helped so many people
find a respite from the streets and a place to call home.
We are proud that San Francisco has pioneered model
programs to address homelessness. We are thankful
for the tireless volunteers, nonprofit workers, and City
employees who support people striving to overcome
homelessness every day. However, while preparing this
Strategic Framework, we faced the sobering fact that
despite these investments and efforts, thousands of
people still live on our streets.
San Francisco must and will do better. This Strategic
Framework is a call to action and lays out our goals to
significantly reduce homelessness in San Francisco.
We will strive to get house keys into the hands of as many
Success will only be possible by working in partnership
with people experiencing homelessness, nonprofit
providers, advocates, researchers, philanthropists,
businesses, community groups, volunteers, elected
officials, City Departments, and the dedicated staff of
the Department of Homelessness and Supportive
Housing. We are deeply grateful to everyone who helped
develop this Strategic Framework and look forward to
our collective efforts to reduce homelessness in
San Francisco.
Now is the time to focus on compassionate and common
sense solutions. Most San Franciscans want their City to
assist people experiencing homelessness and they want
safe and clean streets. Most San Franciscans want to see
increased investments in homelessness and they expect
to see better outcomes from these investments. We must
have the courage to demand compassion and common
sense while working toward the fundamental systems
change outlined in this Strategic Framework.
I hope that all San Franciscans will join us on this journey,
bringing our collective compassion, common sense, and
courage to help our neighbors struggling to find a way
Jeff Kositsky
Letter from the Director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing
Executive Summary 6
Introduction: The Need for a Strategic Framework 10
Systems Change: From Model Programs to Model Systems
Population Focus: Adults 25
Population Focus: Families with Children 33
Population Focus: Youth 37
Special Focus: Street Homelessness 40
Building The New Department 47
Conclusion: Implementing a Model System 51
Acknowledgments 53
Bibliography 54
Appendix A: Glossary of Terms 56
Appendix B: Current and Planned Inventory 62
Appendix C: Draft Implementation Timeline 64
Each year, San Francisco rehouses nearly 2,000 people experiencing homelessness; we also assist approximately
15,000 unhoused people with food, shelter, outreach, health care, and other forms of assistance. Nevertheless, an
estimated 7,500 people are homeless in San Francisco on any given night. This number has remained stubbornly
persistent for more than a decade, despite our City’s commitment, concern, and considerable investments.
Since 2005, San Francisco has helped approximately 25,000 people exit homelessness. However, our City has lacked
a coordinated, data-driven, and integrated system to ensure these efforts result in permanent, sustained reductions
in homelessness. We also lack the full complement of resources needed to meet the current demand for housing,
shelter, and services. While we should be proud of our accomplishments to date, achieving sustained reductions in
homelessness will require nothing short of a radical transformation of the work we do.
In August 2016, Mayor Edwin M. Lee launched the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) to
fundamentally change the way San Francisco addresses homelessness. Our vision is to make homelessness a rare,
brief, and one-time event. Our aim is …
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