An update from the Chronic Homelessness Initiative
An update from the Chronic Homelessness Initiative
Dear Colleagues,
As we end the year facing yet another COVID challenge in the form of the Omicron variant, it would be easy to overlook some of the gains we have made over the past year. One such gain was the passage of the American Rescue Plan. While the American Rescue Plan dominated the headlines for months, one aspect went largely under the radar. Significantly, for our work, the American Rescue Plan awarded approximately 70,000 Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHVs) nationwide. Intended specifically for people experiencing homelessness, these vouchers marked a recognition that, without a major investment by the federal government, COVID would likely exacerbate homelessness.

San Francisco received 906 emergency housing vouchers and immediately set out to ensure that the vouchers would reach some of our most vulnerable residents. Knowing that it would take an all-hands-on-deck approach, CHI offered to support the effort, making approximately $1 million dollars in grants to increase the system’s capacity to process voucher applications and secure apartments on the private rental market.

I am very pleased to report that some San Franciscans have already used these vouchers to move from homelessness to new permanent homes. For some, it will be the first holiday season that they have been housed in years. That is certainly something to celebrate.

As we say goodbye to 2021, I hope that we carry a renewed sense of hope and the collaborative spirit that is featured in the Spotlight below with us into the new year.

In community,
Andrea Evans

Emergency Housing Vouchers: An important new tool to reduce homelessness in San Francisco

Research shows that rental assistance and housing vouchers are highly effective at reducing homelessness and housing instability, and thus present an invaluable opportunity to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that impacts so many people in our country. For these reasons, the federal Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHVs) are one of the most important new resources to end homelessness and keep people housed in San Francisco. To be eligible for an emergency housing voucher, an individual or family must be homeless, at risk of homelessness, recently homeless, or fleeing violence (e.g., domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking). 

While 906 vouchers is a significant number, it is not enough to meet the demand for housing in San Francisco. The Housing Authority of the City and County of San Francisco (Authority) and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), therefore, came together to develop a thoughtful, data-driven, and community-informed allocation plan that reaches residents who face the highest barriers to housing stemming from long-standing, harmful policies. Indeed, decades of policy decisions have led to skyrocketing housing costs and exclusionary housing in California. In addition, structural racism has directly contributed to high rates of homelessness for people of color in San Francisco, particularly Black residents. 

Undoing this history requires evidence-based, systemic, equitable solutions that reduce homelessness and racial disparities. Accordingly, HSH and the Authority developed an allocation plan that prioritizes equity by ensuring that historically underserved communities, like Bayview Hunters Point, can access vouchers. In addition, the plan prioritizes individuals with prior involvement within the criminal justice system, as such involvement can present serious barriers to obtaining housing. The plan also dedicates a significant percentage of vouchers to families because we also know that the lack of affordable housing for families is a driving factor in homelessness. It is often extremely challenging to find apartments that are not only affordable but also large enough for families. Because these vouchers pay fair-market rent for even large apartments, they provide a rare opportunity to provide safe and secure housing for families in San Francisco.
Distributing 906 vouchers requires significant coordination among government, non-profit service providers, philanthropy, and the residents themselves. HSH and the Authority have, over many months, met weekly to strategize and ensure efficient implementation. The Authority immediately put a team in place to accept referrals from HSH and to process applications and quickly distribute vouchers. To support the non-profit organizations submitting applications, HSH holds weekly office hours and has conducted extensive training and community outreach. The Authority even created a dedicated space at its administrative offices so that HSH staff could be on-site to assist residents in person through the lengthy voucher application process.
From the outset, HSH knew that they would need to identify additional organizations to help identify housing for applicants. That is where CHI came in. CHI is funding five non-profit service providers to supply this extra capacity. Our grantee partners include: SafeHouse, Bay Area Community Services (BACS), Bayview Hunters Point Foundation, United Council, and 3rd Street Youth Clinic.
To date, almost 350 applications have been submitted and 130 vouchers have been issued. HSH, with the support of the Authority and CHI, is ensuring that every single voucher holder is offered a full package of housing location and tenancy support services by a range of skilled non-profit housing services providers so that they find homes in our challenging housing market.

Who's Making It Happen

Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing
  • Cynthia Nagendra, Deputy Director, Planning, Performance, and Strategy
  • Cricket Miller, Scattered Site Housing Programs Supervisor
  • Adar Schneider, Housing Subsidy Expansion Program Manager
  • Leslie Bilbro, Coordinated Entry Program Manager
  • Laura Jessup, Organizational Change Manager
  • Alan Gutierrez, Housing Subsidy Team Manager 
  • Swati Pande, ONE System Analyst
Cynthia Nagendra, Deputy Director of Planning and Strategy at HSH, was recently appointed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to the HSH executive leadership team. In partnership with the Authority and a cross-cutting team at HSH, Cynthia has been the lead planner of the Emergency Housing Voucher program in San Francisco. She brings over 15 years of experience in designing homeless response systems and programs and has focused her career on effectuating systems change at all levels of government with the goal of preventing and ending homelessness and advancing housing justice.
“These vouchers provide an invaluable opportunity for San Francisco to address racial disparities among people who experience homelessness. By prioritizing a significant number of these vouchers for people who have been historically marginalized in underserved communities, San Francisco is reducing homelessness and  advancing toward equity.” – Cynthia Nagendra, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing
Housing Authority of the City and County of San Francisco
  • Tonia Lediju, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer
  • Linda Mason, General Counsel
  • Kendra Crawford, Director of Public Housing
  • Alice Duncan-Graves, Principal Analyst
Tonia was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Authority in March 2021 after leading a successful restructuring and overhaul of the Authority’s finances, internal controls, and operations. Tonia’s clear vision and ability to create disruptive change while exercising compassion and empathy allowed for the Authority’s extraordinary metamorphosis, which preserved critical public housing programs for thousands of families. Tonia and the Transition Team continue to advise and lead the Authority through its transformation from being a direct service provider to becoming a high-performing contract management and performance-monitoring organization. 
“These vouchers ​provide an opportunity to serve families and individuals that are currently homeless, at imminent risk of becoming homeless, recently homeless and at high risk of housing instability or fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking. We are excited to take on a tangible role in serving high-risk families and individuals ​who are transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing within our community!” – Kendra Crawford, Housing Authority of the City and County of San Francisco

What We're Reading 

San Francisco gets $54.7 million to buy SoMa building for homeless housing
San Francisco has secured $54.7 million in state funds that will help the city purchase a 160-room SoMa building to house formerly homeless people. Officials said Tuesday the money from California’s Project Homekey is to buy and operate the Panoramic building at Mission and Ninth streets. The building was formerly student housing and is especially useful because it includes 40 three-bedroom suites that can accommodate families with children.
In this flashback episode from July 6, 2020, Total SF host Peter Hartlaub talks with San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan about his own experience with homelessness (SF Chronicle)

Our All In campaign recently hosted an evening of performance and storytelling around one of the most important aspects of human life: a home. Performances featured people with lived homelessness experience who told stories of finding community and imagined the experience of living in a windowless 8'x10' SRO - permanently. Featuring performances from Larkin Street Youth Services, the Faithful Fools, Kurt Schwartzmann, and Tipping Point Community Advisory Board member Jesse Johnson. (SF All In)

Chronic Homelessness Initiative Overview

There are approximately 3,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness on any given night in San Francisco. Tipping Point’s $100 million pledge marks the single largest private investment to address homelessness in City history. If you are receiving this email as a forward, subscribe here to receive this update monthly.
For 15 years, Tipping Point has invested in the most promising solutions to break the cycle of poverty in the Bay Area. Because our board covers our costs, 100% of donations go where they're needed most.
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