Mayor London Breed Proposes Safer Families Plan to Reduce Family Homelessness

Safer Families is an urgent response to the increase in family homelessness driven by post-COVID economic hardships and a recent increase in new families arriving in San Francisco
May 14, 2024

San Francisco, CA – Today, Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Myrna Melgar announced Safer Families, a plan to provide emergency shelter and rehousing support for the growing number of homeless families in San Francisco, driven both by post-COVID economic hardships and by new families arriving in San Francisco.   

Safer Families will provide new emergency shelter and rapid rehousing slots for families, cutting the shelter and rapid rehousing waitlists. Specifically, it will add 115 new emergency hotel shelter slots and 215 new rapid rehousing slots for homeless families. This funding will be part of the Mayor’s new two-year Budget, which she will submit by the beginning of June to the Board of Supervisors for review and approval. It will be supported by dedicated homelessness funding from Our City, Our Home, also known as Prop C funding.  

While San Francisco is seeing a reduction in tents and overall street homelessness, City data and reports from community organizations show that there are more homeless families in San Francisco. These families are less likely to live in tents and more likely to live in vehicles throughout the City.  

  • The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) has seen a doubling on the family homelessness waiting list beginning this fall compared to last year.  
  • In March, 380 families were on the waitlist for emergency shelter and 140 families were on the waitlist for rapid rehousing subsidies.   
  • While the City’s tent count has reached its lowest level in five years based on the April tent count, the vehicular count remains elevated in that same count.  

The main drivers of this recent growth in family homelessness include job loss for families living in San Francisco and families in the City who arrive without access to housing.   

“San Francisco has added support to end family homelessness, including hundreds of shelter and housing slots, but we are now seeing a sudden increase in families struggling with homelessness,” said Mayor Breed. “We have unsheltered families, most of them living in vehicles across our city, and we need to move them into more stable shelter and housing so they can get on a path to safer, healthier situations. This is about creating the opportunities to stabilize families, support our young people, and create stronger communities.”  
“I am thrilled that we have an ambitious plan to address the emergency of family homelessness that has been impacting children who have had to sleep on our streets because they had nowhere else to go,” said Supervisor Ronen. “This plan takes bold measures to rapidly expand shelter options and create supportive housing as an exit out of homelessness. This will help us confront the spectrum of needs for those who have been chronically homeless, for newcomers, and for families of Transitional Aged Youth.” 

Safer Families Proposal 

The Mayor’s budget will use dedicated Prop C funding to expand the City’s family homelessness response with emergency shelter and rapid rehousing in three ways: 

  • Adding 115 emergency shelter hotel rooms for families. These vouchers will serve over 600 families with emergency shelter over the next 1.5 years. The first 35 of these vouchers will be funded in the current year and are already in process. These first 35 will continue to be fully funded in the Mayor’s new budget, along with 80 additional vouchers. Cost: $11.6 million  
  • Adding 165 slots of rapid rehousing (RRH) and shallow rent subsidies for families. These new slots plus turnover in RRH slots would support over 400 families over 2 years. Rapid rehousing provides rental subsidies for up to 5 years that taper. Cost: $28.9 million 
  • Adding 50 slots of rapid rehousing for Transition Age Youth (TAY) headed families. These are families where the head of household is someone defined as TAY, meaning between the ages of 18 and 24. These new slots will serve 50 families over a five-year window. Cost: $9.9 million. 

This funding will not impact the general fund, which is where the City’s deficit lies that the Mayor will close when she introduces her balanced budget at the beginning of June.  

"The challenge of families experiencing homelessness is a moral, economic, and social reality facing our community and I’m thrilled to that Mayor Breed is making such a bold investment in her budget to address the housing and shelter needs of vulnerable children and their parents,” said Shireen McSpadden, Executive Director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “With this investment and leadership, we can change the lives for families experiencing homelessness and better support our whole community.”  

“The family - serving agencies of the Homeless Emergency Service Providers Association (HESPA) are grateful to the Mayor for this proposed investment in the safety net for homeless families," says Hope Kamer, Director of Public Policy and External Affairs at Compass Family Services. "It’s a positive step toward realizing the San Francisco where children and families never need to sleep in Muni stations, and their experiences of homelessness are brief and non-recurring. Every child deserves to grow up in a stable, safe home.”  

“50% of chronically homeless people first experience homelessness as a youth or young adult; this targeted investment will ensure that young parents receive the housing support they need to resolve their homelessness and the supportive services to help empower their families to thrive," said Larkin Street Youth Services' Chief Executive Officer Sherilyn Adams. "Larkin Street is proud to support the Safer Families Plan, which is both a testament to our values as San Franciscans, and an exemplary upstream policy proposal which will support our community's efforts to end youth and family homelessness."   

What San Francisco is Already Doing for Family Homelessness 

Safer Families will build on the work that the City has done to address family homelessness. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing currently funds 316 units of shelter and transitional housing for families with minor children. This includes emergency hotel vouchers for when shelters are full.  HSH also funds nearly 1,000 family supportive housing units, 540 long term rental vouchers, and over 800 time-limited rental subsidies for families leaving homelessness.   

Over the past three years, San Francisco's Emergency Rental Assistance Program (SF ERAP) prevented nearly 4,000 families with children from becoming homeless in our community.  Since 2018, 2,100 families (6,161 people) have moved out of homelessness and into long-term housing with support of City-funded housing programs.