Will San Francisco Embrace ‘Sanctioned’ Camps for the Homeless?

By Zachary Clark : SFPublicPress – excerpt

Despite acceptance in the Northwest, tent villages on vacant land have been a hard sell to Mayor Lee’s office

San Francisco voters expressed their frustration with tent encampments by banning them from sidewalks in the November election. One controversial solution to getting street dwellers into housing involves temporary, “sanctioned” camps like those being tried out around the Bay Area, elsewhere on the West Coast and across the country.

As a concept, sanctioned encampments are city-approved communities of self-managed homeless people living in tents or tiny structures, generally on underused city-owned or leased property. Amenities typically include portable toilets, showers, trash pickups, food deliveries and kitchen space. The idea is to minimize the proliferation of tents along sidewalks while honoring the autonomy of residents and streamlining efforts to support them. They are meant to be a stepping stone to permanent housing.

San Francisco officials, however, have not been keen on the idea. During a recent interview on KALW-FM radio, Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said the city favors its “navigation centers,” which provide emergency short-term shelter, over sanctioned encampments. He also told the Public Press that approved, self-managed encampments such as those in Seattle and Portland “have all failed miserably” by essentially reinforcing, instead of resolving, homelessness.

One local activist hopes to win him over.

Amy Farah Weiss, founder of the nonprofit Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge and a 2015 mayoral candidate, has led the effort to gather support for city-approved camp spaces, which she calls “sanctioned transitional villages.” These villages would operate within the system for people unable to find permanent housing after a 30-day stay in a navigation centers.

Weiss said she has private funding to test the idea here. Two local philanthropists have pledged $20,000 for a three-month pilot program to house 10 to 15 people, including couples, in 10 structures, Weiss said. The donors wish to remain anonymous but say the pledge is guaranteed… (more)

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