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San Francisco Spends Millions To House — And Then Evict — Its Homeless

The San Francisco Chronicle/Stephen Lam

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included an erroneous reference to the San Francisco Housing Authority. That organization has no relevance to this story. The article has since been updated.

San Francisco, California, has spent millions of dollars housing the homeless before spending more to evict them, again, according to recent documents obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Since 2019, the city has spent over $160 million every fiscal year on “permanent supportive housing” – i.e. single-room-occupancy hotels (SROs) across the city – as part of Mayor London Breed’s administration’s response to the city’s homelessness crisis, according to the documents obtained by the Chronicle.

Breed’s administration has also evicted more than 400 tenants from these SROs for violations of conditions of stay, making up a quarter of all evictions in the city despite housing 1.3% of all tenants. Reasons for eviction range from breaking the policy on guests to verbal abuse and violence against SRO workers and other tenants, with instances including assault with deadly weapons, destruction of rooms, and arson.

Tenants may only be evicted after a judicial process, the entire cost of which is funded by taxpayers, with the homeless receiving public defenders. City officials interviewed by the Chronicle estimated that the cost of litigation can range up to $25,000 per tenant.

In response to these costs, according to the Chronicle, Breed’s administration further appropriated $62.4 million to clear the backlog of eviction caseloads in San Francisco and hire more workers to manage evictees, as well as increase their salaries.

The mounting costs to taxpayers of Breed’s housing initiatives and removal of evictees, who often return to city streets, come as San Francisco experiences an unprecedented homelessness crisis. More than 7,700 people in the city are homeless, with nearly 3,300 living in SROs operated by non-profits and the city, according to city statistics.

The effects of homelessness on citizens are profound, with assault, smash-and-grab thefts, harassment, public defecation, and vandalism by the homeless occurring on a regular basis. Open-air drug use is seen by residents as the cause of the problem. “We are experiencing a heavy meth and fentanyl problem and the lifestyle that goes with it,” said Kathy Amendola, a small business owner, to ABC News.

Homelessness is but one chronic problem that the Breed administration is currently facing. Currently, San Francisco’s housing costs are among the highest in the nation, with the median monthly rent exceeding $3,500 for a one-bedroom apartment. Meanwhile, truancy and absence rates in the city’s public schools have reached historic levels, with 28.4% of students being chronically absent over the 2021-22 academic year.

Voters have responded to these problems by using ‘recall initiatives’ – allowing citizens to remove elected officials from office under California law – to replace the city leaders mid-term. In 2022 alone, San Francisco voters ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who adopted lenient measures against criminal defendants, as well as three members of the seven-member Unified School District Board.

No significant recall petitions have been filed against Breed, however, who has taken a tough-on-crime approach to violence by the homeless and, in December, declared a state of emergency in response.

Breed’s office has not responded to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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