Open Letter to Mayor: Stop Fighting Solutions to San Francisco Homelessness

Dozens of Local Organizations Call on San Francisco to Embrace Common Sense Solutions to Homelessness

After nearly a year of San Francisco fighting these common sense solutions in court, the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and dozens of other community organizations are ready to see our leaders focus on real solutions that honor the dignity of San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents.


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November 6, 2023

The Honorable London Breed

Mayor, City of San Francisco


The Honorable David Chiu

San Francisco City Attorney


CC: San Francisco Board of Supervisors


RE: Stop the Sweeps, Tackle San Francisco’s Homelessness and Affordable Housing Crisis


Dear Mayor Breed and City Attorney Chiu:


We urge you to abandon San Francisco’s failed “sweeps” policy and immediately redirect resources to proven approaches to address the root causes of our homelessness crisis.


Homelessness at the scale seen in San Francisco is really an affordable housing crisis. The City’s failure to make enough housing available means thousands of low-income residents have nowhere to go. Having failed to meet every state target for affordable housing production for decades, San Francisco is more than 60,000 affordable units short of what is needed for its population.


We urge City leaders to pursue the following strategies to dramatically improve San Francisco’s street conditions for everyone, including the thousands of individuals who lack appropriate housing.


Refurbish and Fill Vacant Supportive Housing Units and Prioritize Public Housing

The City has more than 800 vacant Permanent Supportive Housing units and many more empty public housing units that must be cleaned and repaired to be habitable. San Francisco must fix up these vacant units and continue to clear red tape to accelerate getting people housed.  


Use Prop C Funding to Expand Capacity

A growing number of San Franciscans are becoming homeless simply because they can’t make rent. Prop C, passed in 2018, was intended to create more capacity in our system. The city should fully deploy Prop C funding to do what it was intended to do: expand housing units and subsidies, shelter beds, prevention efforts, and treatment.  


Deploy Outreach Workers Instead of SFPD

Many elements of San Francisco’s street response is a failure. Policing poverty and displacing individuals from block to block with occasional offers of random services will never work. An effective street response requires outreach workers, not police, to follow a caseworker model. Outreach workers should build relationships with specific unhoused people and match them with appropriate shelter and services, up until and after they are housed. A “by name response” of this type is required to effectively address chronic homelessness.


Make It Easier for Unhoused People to Access Services

The City’s Coordinated Entry system, the main entryway to housing for unhoused people, has broad support for a full transformation. The system regularly leaves individuals languishing for months after being approved for placement. Recommendations to improve this system approved in March have not been implemented. The City should implement these changes immediately. In addition, the shelter system has only a small number of congregate beds connected to the newly created reservation system. All forms of shelter should be accessible to those seeking shelter. 


Leverage Public Dollars to Expand Housing, Shelter, Treatment, and Prevention

The City must aggressively pursue state and federal funds earmarked for affordable housing and services and increase General Fund dollars to invest in proven solutions including housing, shelter, treatment and prevention.  


Follow the Law: Bag and Tag When Sweeps are Unavoidable

In violation of San Francisco’s policy (and federal case law), City workers regularly confiscate and discard unhoused individuals’ survival gear – including medications, phones, computers and other work equipment – making it harder for these vulnerable people to find a pathway to housing and thereby perpetuating the homelessness crisis. The city must properly bag, tag, and store these items, to ensure that people can easily retrieve their property.


Embrace Universal Human Rights 

San Francisco should embrace the human rights of unhoused people. Ensuring every resident has access to basics like bathrooms, showers, food, and water is the right thing to do. Doing so would also eliminate the side effects of homelessness that lead to deteriorating street conditions and reduce the need to use City resources to clean bodily waste.  


In closing, San Francisco’s sweeps-focused approach to managing the homelessness and affordable housing crisis is inefficient and expensive. For the good of every San Franciscan – both housed and unhoused – the City must change course and do whatever it takes to stabilize individuals and families at risk of homelessness while offering effective systems to provide essential housing and services for those currently living on our streets.



Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club



League of Women Voters of San Francisco

OPEIU Local 29 

San Francisco Rising

Housing Rights Committee San Francisco

Episcopal Community Services

National Harm Reduction Coalition

Western Regional Advocacy Project 

Larkin Youth Street Services

Hospitality House

San Francisco SafeHouse

Compass Family Services

The Gubbio Project


Hamilton Families

San Francisco AIDS Foundation 

San Francisco Human Services Network

Lutheran Social Services of Northern California

Western Regional Advocacy Project

Calvary Presbyterian Church

Faithful Fools

California Interfaith Power and Light

Democratic Socialists of America San Francisco


The People's Mission Coalition

3rd Street Youth Center & Clinic

Filipino Community Development Corporation

Homeless Prenatal Program

Community Resource Initiative

San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club

West Side Tenants Association

North Beach Citizens

YWAM San Francisco

Tenderloin People's Congress

Immigrant Legal Resource Center


Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus

San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project

Homeless Legal Services, UC Hastings College of Law

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

Citizens Church San Francisco

Community Forward San Francisco

End Hep C San Francisco

San Francisco Gray Panthers

San Francisco Drug Users Union