About half of people in a city’s program are homeless again within a few years

Oakland officials on Tuesday urged Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration to better track homeless services that help people, after a recent audit raised questions about the effectiveness of the city’s programs for homeless people. homeless.

The comments come nearly two months after City Auditor Courtney Ruby
published a 140-page audit
which revealed that Oakland spent $69 million on homeless service providers over three years, which had mixed results in placing homeless residents into permanent housing. The audit also found the city needs to do a better job of knowing if people are staying housed after receiving services.

The audit released in September is the second on the city’s response to homelessness. Ruby posted one in April 2021 that showed
Oakland lacked an effective strategy
faced with growing numbers of homeless residents living on city streets, and failed to provide adequate policy guidance and funding to address the crisis.

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, who commissioned the two audits, said the information provides “baseline information” so the city can create “stronger programs and services and the management systems that will help us.” to deliver the accountability and results” needed.

Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said the city needs to improve tracking of its homelessness services to better understand which programs are working and which are not.

In response, Daniel Cooper, the city’s homelessness administrator, said the city is on board with the audit and “we have a lot of work to do.”

Estelle Clemons, the city’s acting director with the Department of Human Services, said the city is currently working on a strategic plan with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to address homelessness. Clemons said she expects the plan to be ready for city council’s review by December.

Oakland’s homeless population increased by 24%
in the last three years
– of
4,071 in 2019 to 5,055 in 2022. Sixty-six percent of Oakland’s homeless population, or 3,337 people, are unsheltered and 34 percent, or 1,718 people, live in some type of shelter.

The city’s latest homeless count showed around 1,000 people living in tents, with around the same number living in cars or vans and just over 900 living in camper vans. EveryOne Home, a nonprofit that did the count, found that 27% of Oakland’s homeless population said eviction or foreclosures were the cause of their homelessness and 26% said that it was because their family and friends could not afford to provide them with accommodation.

Forty-nine percent of survey respondents said rent assistance would have helped prevent homelessness.

Oakland named Cooper, the new homelessness administrator, in March, tasked with responding to health and safety issues on the streets and connecting residents to housing options. Cooper is working with different city departments to deal with the crisis, including public works and the social services department. The city has spent nearly $70 million from 2018 to 2021 on contracts with nonprofits to provide services to homeless people — operating community cabins, secure parking sites for RVs, and other types of shelters.

The audit looked at community cabins, emergency shelters, transitional housing, secure RV parking sites and the city’s longer-term housing programs from 2018 to 2021. It also looked at the impact of the pandemic on homeless services, noting that Oakland has placed 300 people in COVID emergency housing programs. . However, the pandemic has also caused disruption as shelters have had to reduce capacity, people have lost their jobs and some providers have struggled to connect people to resources due to office closures.

Overall, the city’s responses helped about 8,600 people from 2018 to 2021. Of this group, nearly 6,700 were in crisis response programs, which include booths and parking sites secured for RVing, and nearly 1,990 were in longer-term housing programs.

The audit found that, for example, the community shacks served around 1,100 people from 2018 to 2021. Over those three years, just under 30% of people – on average – left the shacks to move to a permanent accommodation. During these three years, the proportion of people who became homeless again varied from 42% to 58%.

The city’s emergency family shelters have been the most successful in getting people into permanent housing. In 2018, 77% of the 46 people who used family shelters exited to permanent housing, compared to 52% of the 35 people in 2019. In 2020, as the pandemic hit, the number of people in family shelters soared to 162 and only 34% of this group have found permanent housing.

During the audit, Ruby said the city needs to assess the performance of programs and providers to determine if they are operating “effectively and efficiently.”

Ruby noted that the city’s secure RV parking programs lack housing navigation measures and services.

Its recommendations included improving data collection, increasing public reporting, and establishing greater oversight of contractors.

Sarah Ravani (her) is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]:

Ryan H. Bowman