San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is working with technology-industry leaders to raise $30 million for a program aimed at getting homeless families off the streets, seeking to alleviate a problem made worse by soaring housing costs as the city’s economy booms.
Marc Benioff, chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc. and a prominent philanthropist in the city, plans to match $10 million in donations for the campaign. The venture already has secured about $10 million from donors including Salesforce and Google’s philanthropic arms; Facebook Inc. co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna; Zendesk Inc. CEO Mikkel Svane; angel investor Ron Conway; and the Hellman Foundation, a charity founded by the family of the late financier Warren Hellman.
The mayor is working with private philanthropy to try to eradicate family homelessness, which grew in the last recession and has been slow to recover as real estate prices jumped and widened an income equality gap. The program, called the Heading Home Campaign, seeks to assist as many as 800 families in the city’s school district with immediate housing and subsidies.
“This is the private-sector community engaging in a problem they see every day — homelessness — and they want to try and solve it,” Lee said in a statement. “They want to be leaders in a city that stands by its values.”
Lee is credited with creating a tax break that led a young Twitter Inc. to remain in San Francisco and drew in other companies, revitalizing an impoverished city corridor yet also fueling backlash against the tech community. The ensuing boom has drawn protests over evictions, housing costs and tech-company commuter buses that ferry their workers between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
Benioff said he hopes his offer of matching cash will continue to draw donations from the community, including his peers in the tech industry. He and his wife have made phone calls to fund raise for the venture as well, he said.
“This is one of the most prosperous and successful cities in the world. Having thousands of homeless children is unacceptable,” the billionaire entrepreneur said in an interview. “We have to make a decision that we’re going to do something about it.”
The plan is a collaboration among Lee, the city school district, San Francisco nonprofit Hamilton Families and the private donors.
The money will be used for a “surge” of housing placements that could reduce the amount of time families are homeless to 90 days from the current average of 14 months, said Jeff Kositsky, director of the city’s recently created Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing.
“We should be able to respond very quickly when a family becomes homeless and get them right back on their feet,” said Kositsky.
Homelessness, long a scourge in San Francisco, is rising amid the area’s rapid growth in recent years. The city, the 13th-biggest in the U.S. by population, ranks No. 6 nationwide in the number of homeless, with 62 percent living outside shelters, according to a reportfrom the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The number of homeless has risen 7 percent since 2005 to about 6,690, according to a 2015 city survey. That figure is based on a point-in-time count of people who were in a shelter or on the streets, so the total may be even higher.
Western U.S. mayors including Honolulu’s Kirk Caldwell, Seattle’s Ed Murray, Oakland’s Libby Schaaf and Portland’s Charlie Hales are scheduled to meet with Lee in San Francisco next week to discuss homelessness and other regional issues.
So far, funding for the Heading Home campaign includes $4.5 million from the city, $500,000 from Google.org, $2 million from Salesforce.org, $1 million apiece from Conway and the Hellman Foundation, $500,000 from Zendesk’s Svane and $250,000 from Moskovitz and Tuna.