Solutions to Reducing Homelessness

Solutions to Reducing Homelessness

On June 24, the San Francisco Foundation held a donor briefing lifting up solutions to reducing homelessness. A panel of SFF grantee partners discussed the initial results from the Bay Area’s “Point-In-Time (PIT) count” of people who are unhoused. In the first official count taken since the pandemic began, the initial numbers show that the Bay Area staved off the catastrophic increases in homelessness that were feared due to the pandemic. Although the numbers from the count are better than anticipated, homelessness continues to be our region’s biggest challenge, with root causes preceding the pandemic. The panel stressed an important takeaway message:

We know how to solve homelessness. It’s time to double down on investing in and implementing the solutions we already know work.

SFF’s Senior Program Officer for Policy and Advocacy, Christa Brown moderated the conversation with All Home, Bay Area Community Services (BACS), and the Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC).

Joanne Karchmer, Chief Impact Officer at All Home, kicked off the event with a somber reminder of how interconnected many social and environmental issues are. The day of our event was the day Roe v. Wade was officially overturned, with that decision being certain to have the greatest impact on the same folks who are already struggling and finding themselves in the precarious position of facing eviction and potential homelessness. The decision impacts our ability to deal with issues beyond just reproductive health and justice—for instance, it will have profound implications for housing insecurity and poverty.

Joanne provided an overview of the initial numbers from the PIT count across the region. Pandemic-response investments into programs like Roomkey and Homekey, as well as eviction moratoria and emergency rental assistance programs, helped keep people housed and move families back into housing. These responses proved we can move quickly, cutting red tape to invest at a new scale in order to protect thousands of our neighbors—bringing them off the streets and helping them keep their homes. A regional press release from All Home is available and includes links to individual county press releases.

Martina Cucullu Lim, Executive Director of the Eviction Defense Collaborative, shared the policies and programs that contributed to a decrease in homelessness in San Francisco, for example, the Right to Counsel Program, legal services, and emergency rental assistance, many of which took years to build up, and resulted in keeping families housed in the crisis.

Jamie Almanza, CEO of Bay Area Community Services, shared the successes of programs like Keep Oakland Housed and highlighted their work to get enough permanent supportive housing built in the region to ensure everyone has a healthy, affordable place to call home.

The panel discussed solutions, challenges, and bright spots across the Bay Area, and recognized that, while it can feel like our homelessness challenges are getting worse, it’s important to recognize the solutions that have already proven they work. We know how to solve homelessness, so now it is a matter of doubling down on investing in implementing and expanding those solutions.

Watch a recording of the June 24 donor briefing.

SFF has taken an all-in approach to the Bay Area’s housing crisis through our policy work, grantmaking, partnerships, and program-related investments. With people of color comprising nearly three fourths of the region’s tenants who are behind in rent, it is clear that our housing crisis is also a racial justice crisis. We encourage our donors to support on-the-ground organizations working at the intersections of these challenges.

Here are ways to help: