Demand independent oversight of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing
Please call only these supervisors and only if you are their constituent:
Sandra Fewer (D1) - (415) 554-7412
Catherine Stefani (D2) - (415) 554-7752
Vallie Brown (D5) - (415) 554-7630
Norman Yee (D7) - (415) 554-6521
Rafael Mandelman (D8) - (415) 554-6968
Ahsha Safaí (D11) - (415) 554-6975
Update: Gordon Mar (D4) has become a co-sponsor of the measure! Thank you to Sup. Mar and to everyone who called his office!
Hello, my name is _____________ and I am a constituent of Supervisor ___________.
I am calling to ask my Supervisor to support the creation of a Homelessness Oversight Commission. Homelessness is the #1 issue in our city and San Franciscans deserve to have more oversight, accountability, and transparency over the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH).
Can I count on the Supervisor to publicly support the creation of the Homelessness Oversight Commission?
Supervisor Haney has introduced a ballot measure to create a commission to provide oversight of the San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH).
HSH is one of the only city departments that does not have an oversight commission in place. Community members often provide recommendations to improve HSH policies but most go unheard and unanswered. Additional oversight mechanisms are needed to improve public accountability and transparency over the critical funding priorities and policy decisions that this important city department makes.
Supervisors Walton, Ronen and Peskin support this proposal, but we need all supervisors to make public statements of support.
A. Problem Statement
Homelessness is our most urgent crisis as a city, and yet the department that oversees our response has less oversight, accountability, and transparency over its budget and policies than nearly every other city department.
The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) currently lacks a public venue for department-wide comment, goal setting, and decision-making. The main avenue for homeless individuals, service providers, advocates, and community members to inform the policies of HSH is through the Local Homeless Coordinating Board (LHCB). Unfortunately, LHCB lacks the independence and formal authority to provide meaningful input and oversight over HSH. Community stakeholders often provide policy recommendations but most go unheard and unanswered.
In addition to LHCB, there is an ad hoc advisory structure including the Shelter Monitoring Committee, Shelter Grievance Advisory Committee, SRO Taskforce, and new Our City, Our Home Oversight Committee that the Department interacts with. The Board of Supervisors is often involved in HSH policy-making, and the Department is asked to participate in numerous community meetings regarding policy changes.
A more streamlined and strengthened oversight mechanism is needed to improve public accountability and transparency over HSH.
Examples of recent policy-making and funding priority changes that have occurred without sufficient notice or input include:
Establishing a prioritization criteria that excludes families living in SROs or living in overcrowded “doubled-up” units from being considered for housing opportunities through the city’s Homelessness Response System
Reducing the length of the city’s rapid re-housing rental subsidy program from 5 years to 2 years. The change turned out to run afoul of a local ordinance by the Board of Supervisors and the department retracted the policy change.
Entering into significant contracts without the approval of the Board of Supervisors
Altering the department’s inclement weather policies in advance of an extensive public hearing on the matter
B. The Goal
With additional oversight, opportunities for public engagement, support for the Department, and a streamlined and coordinated advisory structure, the City will be more effective at fulfilling HSH’s vision of making homelessness rare, brief, and one time.
Everyone agrees: we need to get more services more quickly to the people who need them the most. The goal of the Commission is to address barriers to effectively meeting our Strategic Plan, as identified by providers and the Department.
C. The Proposed Solution
The proposal is to establish a “Homelessness Oversight Commission” to oversee HSH, similar to Commissions that oversee nearly every other Department. The Commission shall be established by a Charter Amendment and shall become the body to which all other homelessness-related committees report and coordinate.
Commissions exercise a great deal of authority and play a critical role in reviewing and approving policy and funding priorities for their respective departments. They are a function of good government and protect the public’s interest in open government, transparency, and good policy.
The standard role of a Commission is outlined in Charter Sections 4.102, 4.103, and 4.104 and includes (but is not limited to) holding public meetings and hearings, approving departmental budgets, reviewing and approving policies for the department, guiding overall strategies, and making recommendations to the Mayor or the Board of Supervisors.
Having department policies reviewed by a Commission would help ensure that:
The public and providers are sufficiently informed of proposed policies and how they may be affected by them before they take effect;
The public can comment and provide additional data and information to the department, which serves to identify unforeseen consequences and strengthens policies
The department collects, analyzes, and actively considers the public's comment when finalizing its proposed policies.
The Homeless Oversight Commission will consolidate and strengthen oversight over HSH. The Commission will consist of:
3 seats appointed by the Board of Supervisors
3 seats appointed by the Mayor, subject to BOS confirmation
1 seat appointed by the Controller