Framing Up the Homelessness Response System in San Francisco

While HSH is fully deployed to the City’s COVID response and operating new Alternative Care programs, we remain committed to our core Homelessness Response System (HRS) and thank our nonprofit provider partners and our essential and frontline workers, heroes all, during these unprecedented times. We receive numerous questions about our work and wanted to explain how our system of care works.

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is a young department. Launched in 2016, our mission is to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time. In 2017, we issued a 5-year Strategic Framework, outlining our goals. Implementing this work would require ongoing collaboration, learning and adaptation. We needed to lead by remembering that when we discuss homelessness we are talking about people, not problems.

The Homelessness Response System (HRS) became the framework of our system of care. Made up of six core components, HRS reflects the department’s values of compassion, courage, common sense, and equity.

The Homelessness Response System

HRS Core Component #1

Street Outreach connects people living outside with the Homelessness Response System. The San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team (SFHOT) engages and stabilizes the most vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness outside by connecting them with shelter and housing. The SFHOT team has training and expertise in the complex issues that are barriers to stability for this population. SFHOT averages 8,000 engagements per month. Additionally, Homeless Youth Alliance and Larkin Street Youth Services are funded by HSH to work with young people living on the streets.

HRS Core Component #2

Problem Solving provides opportunities to prevent people from needing to enter the Homelessness Response System by redirecting people who can resolve homelessness without the need for ongoing support, with:

· One-time Flex Grants

· Eviction Prevention

· And, Family Unification through the Homeward Bound program that to date has helped more than 11,000 people get home to family.

HRS Core Component #3

Coordinated Entry is the foundation of HRS and is designed to assess, prioritize and match people experiencing homelessness to housing opportunities. Coordinated Entry organizes the Homelessness Response System with a common population specific assessment, a centralized data system, a “by name” database of clients and a prioritization method. Coordinated Entry Access Points are the community gateways into San Francisco’s Homelessness Response System and serve: Adults, Families and Transitional Age Youth.

HRS Core Component #4

Shelter provides temporary places for people to stay while accessing other services and seeking housing solutions. Temporary Shelter includes: Adult, Family and Youth Shelters, Navigation Centers, with two new Navigation Centers in the Bayview and Lower Polk coming online. Additionally Shelter includes short term shelter with Interfaith Winter Shelter and Inclement Weather Shelterhelter pop-ups. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shelter-in-Place hotels have augmented this system of care.

HRS Core Component #5

Housing provides permanent solutions to homelessness through subsidies and supportive services. Housing program types include: Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), Rapid Rehousing and Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool. We know that housing is both critical to healthcare and the solution to homelessness.

HRS Core Component #6

Housing Ladder offers opportunities for residents of Permanent Supportive Housing or Rapid Rehousing to move out-side the Homelessness Response System through the Moving On Initiative. An important part of the City’s strategy to address Homelessness, the Moving-On Initiative creates opportunities for stable permanent housing for tenants who no longer want or need onsite services, providing the opportunity to move into housing with a rental subsidy. This frees up PSH units for families and individuals who need housing combined with services.

Although there are complexities to HRS, this effective system of care is designed as a nimble and dynamic safety net adaptive to individuals, families and youth experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. Now more than ever, we need to maintain equitable solutions that address the needs of the most vulnerable in our community. To learn more about our work visit or follow us on Twitter @SF_HSH.

Abigail Stewart-Kahn, Interim Director of San Francisco’s Dept. of Homelessness & Supportive Housing



Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing strives to make homelessness in San Francisco rare, brief, and one time.