Grand jury says SF should tackle homeless problem

Daily Planet Wire Service
Thursday May 30, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco's Civil Grand Jury yesterday released a detailed report on the city's response to homelessness, finding a serious lack of leadership and coordination as the problem has worsened over the years. 

Noting that more than 100 people die on the street each year and somewhere around 10,000 lack a permanent home despite a budget hovering above $104 million in services alone, the report concludes that homelessness is “the pre-eminent social issue facing San Francisco.” 

The report was based on a seven-month investigation. 

But instead of creating a new department, as some city supervisors have suggested, the grand jury recommends forming a seven-member citizen commission that would be accountable to both the mayor and Board of Supervisors. At the same time, the panel faults the current mayoral administration for failing to articulate a clear policy and also questions the value of funding the Mayor's Office on Homelessness, which it terms “ineffectual and inconsistent.” 

Similarly, the quality of service varies widely among the city's 10 emergency shelters, according to the grand jurors, and no systemwide tracking has been established to match up those in need with the beds available. Better overall coordination among the various agencies and groups involved is also needed to avoid duplication and waste. 

The grand jurors expressed concern that many San Franciscans do not seem to understand the causes of homelessness, despite widespread media coverage of the issue. Public education and involvement in solutions should also be part of the city's plans, the report concludes, and a dedicated funding source should be considered.