San Francisco Creates New Department to Address Homelessness

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 (Photo: Amy Mustasfa/KQED)

This Friday, the city of San Francisco will launch a new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing with Jeff Kositsky at the helm. Kositsky, who has advocated for homeless rights for more than twenty years, most recently headed the Hamilton Family Center, an emergency shelter for homeless families. We'll talk with Kositsky about his priorities as the department's inaugural director, including the city's goal of establishing six navigation centers to serve homeless around the city in the next two years.

Interview Highlights

On a Unified Strategy to Address Homelessness

"We need to have a unified city strategy on how we want to address  homelessness, not, you know, 60 different non-profit organizations all working to achieve their very honorable and important missions. But the city needs to decide: this is what we wanna do, these are the number of shelter beds we need, this is the number of housing units we need, this is our expectation around outcomes and success for people exiting shelters or people staying in housing, and then we need to drive our resources towards programs that meet the city’s strategy and the city’s priorities."

On Encampments

"The mayor and I, and I think most people in San Francisco agree that encampments are not a healthy, safe or appropriate place for homeless people to stay. They are dangerous, there’s a high rate of sexual assault and crime. I also think that it’s important to recognize that people who live around the encampments and the businesses around the encampments also suffer from fear, from uncertainty, from disruptions of their lives. ...We are actually going to be announcing today the creation of a special encampment response team that’s going to be led by Jason Albertson, who was a longtime member of the [Homeless Outreach Response Team] and has worked closely with law enforcement in other counties.

On the Upcoming Election and Ballot Measures


Jeff Kositsky, director, Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing for the City & County of San Francisco;
former executive director of Hamilton Family Center


"I’m not particularly worried or thinking about ballot measures or what the board of supervisors may or may not do in November. The mayor and I are just staying focused on good policy, trying to address the issue. I think ultimately, I hope, that good policy is what will be the best politics around the issue of homelessness."

 On Street Crime

"People conflate street crime with homelessness and it’s often not the case. ... I don’t believe Supervisors [Scott] Wiener or [Mark] Farrell are looking for a crackdown on homeless people or expect the police to crack down on homeless folks. What they’re trying to do is find ways to enforce existing laws that are more effective, to make sure our neighborhoods are safer. ... I don’t believe there is very much benefit to giving somebody a ticket because they’re sleeping on the street because they have nowhere else to go. However, I do believe if people are out on the streets breaking laws – that that needs to be, needs to be addressed.

On Permanent Housing

"I think we should really drive our investments towards permanent solutions to homelessness, like the Rapid Rehousing Program or permanent housing. Shelter and transitional housing only solves the problem of sleep; housing is what is going to solve homelessness."


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