Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Community Education Manager Alex Parada works with a client at the North Peninsula Health Services Center.
South San Francisco is moving forward with plans to improve its downtown environment by centralizing services to homeless and transients and hiring on an outreach coordinator.
Last summer, the city formed an 11-member Downtown Homeless Task Force to investigate the impact of homeless and transient issues on downtown merchants, residents and visitors. The task force brought its findings and recommendations to the City Council on Wednesday night.
Recommendations included creating a “HOT team” — or Homeless Outreach Team, modeled off of programs in Redwood City and San Mateo, that would work with the police department to find long-term solutions for homeless by creating a list of the top 20 chronic offenders to help rehabilitate. Getting rid of the St. Vincent de Paul’s Safe Harbor Shelter waiting list and working on switching over to referrals to the county’s core agencies is another goal.
“The Field Crisis Outreach Team is an exciting and proven model,” said Supervisor Dave Pine. “There was one woman who slept under a bush in front of the Draeger’s [market] in San Mateo, she is a changed person because of this program. We can get this thing going, then in time knock off other goals.”
Pine said the funding would come from Measure A, the county’s half-cent sales tax increase passed in November, pending approval by the county Board of Supervisors in September. He also said he sees funding as being very likely for the funds to carry through the budget of $300,000 from the 2013-14 county budget for a two-year Field Crisis Outreach Team for North County. It would help fund one full-time case manager to work with chronic offenders in South San Francisco.
The report notes that day-to-day case management is the key to linking homeless to housing, financial assistance, job training and placement programs.
Lorraine Moriarty, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo County, said the plan is a good attempt to move the community along, but it’s not a solution.
“I think we’re all hobos, so as we walk hand in hand with the hobos in our community, the changes affect all of us,” Moriarty said at the meeting. “There have been some changes in the community since the task force met six months ago, such as the requirement for homeless people entering shelters to get TB tests. We’ve still got a lot to do to address the homelessness problem.”
Lisa Collins, also of St. Vincent de Paul, said she is also concerned there are still not enough beds in the community for the homeless. Collins and Moriarty were both members of the task force.
Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto said at the meeting that she had concerns about the services could attract more homeless people into South San Francisco.
Brian Greenberg, Ph.D., vice president of programs and services at InnVision Shelter Network, participated in the task force and said his program is good at getting homeless people rehabilitated. He said they’d be careful to do an evaluation and keeping a list of people who actually have roots in the community to be eligible for housing.
Others see positive growth in their programming through the task force recommendations. This includes Jeff Bayer, executive director of North Peninsula Neighborhood Services Center in South San Francisco. The center provides social services such as their food bank, discounted minor home repair services and community education. Bayer sees the task force as a positive step toward combating homeless and directing people to use his service.
“I’m hoping that collectively we’re all moving in the right direction,” Bayer said. “We can’t close our eyes, it’s not an issue that’s going away. The first tool is being able to deal with it, rather than sending people off.”
The City Council will bring an update on how recommendations have been implemented at a future date.
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