30 Years of Resistance, Resilience and Re-Building

For decades, the Coalition on Homelessness has developed the leadership skills of homeless San Franciscans to forge true solutions to the housing crisis and beat back mean-spirited attacks against them. This represents highlights of our collective accomplishments.


  • A ragtag group of community activists and homeless folks, fed up with the lack of a response to homelessness that addressed the root causes, formed the Coalition on Homelessness.
  • The Coalition established the most progressive welfare income disregard programs in the country, whereby cash aid recipients could retain funds to move into permanent housing.
  • Founded the Street Sheet, now holding the double distiction of being both the oldest continuously published street newspaper in North America, and the paper with the largest circulation.


  • The Coalition created the first supportive housing for homeless people in San Francisco in the form of Community Housing Partnership, which now provides over 1,000 units of permanent affordable supportive housing, and employs homeless people in the construction, maintenance, and support services at those housing locations.
  • The Coalition designed and advocated for the McMillan Center, an innovative 24-hour drop-in facility for substance users, as an innovative strategy to reduce the number of street deaths.
  • We developed the Uniform Grievance Procedure with other organizations to ensure shelter residents have due process rights and are not unfairly evicted from shelters.
  • The Coalition advocated for and designed A Woman’s Place, a drop-in center, shelter, and transitional housing program now assisting mentally disabled women, through the convening of the Homeless Women’s Task Force.
  • Fought back another electoral attempt to deduct rent from welfare recipients checks.
  • Succeeded in passing a resolution at the Board of Supervisors to demand an end to the Matrix program, which broadly persecuted homeless people who were forced to live on the streets through ticketing, property confiscation and police sweeps.


  • Thanks to Coalition pressure, the District Attorney dismissed 39,000 tickets issued by the anti-homeless Matrix program.
  • The Coalition’s General Assistance Rights Union became an independent organization: People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER). This eventually led to single adult welfare recipients earning a living wage and winning free Muni for youth in SF.
  • We spearheaded the campaign for substance abuse treatment on demand, which resulted in over $12 million dollars in new treatment funds.
  • Low-income mothers organized by the Coalition designed the concept and garnered funding for a community-based 24- hour drop-in treatment center for families with children living in the Tenderloin, called Oshun, after the Yoruba Orisha of healing.
  • The Coalition wrote and successfully campaigned for adoption of a “No Turn Away” policy for families seeking emergency shelter in San Francisco.
  • We organized for and wrote legislation to create a single standard of care, whereby uninsured mentally ill people are afforded equal access to mental health treatment as those who are insured, saving 1,700 from losing treatment.


  • Together with community partner organizations, we formed, and later staffed, the People’s Budget Collaborative, which identified alternative City budget savings and revenues and over the years has staved off tens of millions in cuts to poverty abatement programs.
  • The Coalition led the work that created the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center (MNRC)—the first resource center in the Mission District. Everyday, the MNRC provides critical services to over 100 clients, most of them Latino. the Mission District. Everyday, the MNRC provides critical services to over 100 clients, most of them Latino.
  • The Coalition identified hundreds of San Francisco Housing Authority vacant units and successfully pushed the Housing Authority to place 300 homeless families in those units.


  • Our work led to the creation of the Shelter Monitoring Committee, which tracks conditions in shelters and resulted in exposure and correction of countless problems in the shelter system.
  • The Coalition passed legislation that ensures vacant publicly owned surplus City property be turned over for the use of housing for homeless people. This has led to two large affordable housing projects targeting homeless veterans and families.
  • Together with organizations in the East Bay, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, we collectively founded the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).
  • Homeless families organized by the Coalition on Homelessness campaigned for a local rental housing subsidy and increased eviction prevention funding, protecting hundreds of families from homelessness and enabling hundreds more to exit homelessness.
  • We released Shelter Shock—a report on human rights violations in the shelter system, revealing that 55% of all shelter clients reported experiencing some form of abuse, and bringing media light and legislative action to these problems.
  • The Coalition pushed through legislation to mandate minimum standards in the shelters. For the first time, our shelters have enforceable minimum standards around health, hygiene, and the human rights of shelter residents.
  • Halted the practice by the City of spraying homeless people with high powered hoses in the middle of the night.
  • The Coalition handled more than 3,000 civil rights cases per year, connecting homeless folks who have received “quality of life” citations to pro bono legal representation through the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.


  • We passed legislation to still the runaround associated with accessing shelter, by lengthening shelter stays and reducing wait times.
  • Settled a lawsuit that led to greatly improved access and conditions for people with disabilities.
  • We initiated a working group to move away from a system that requires individuals to stand in line for up to 17 hours. This led to a new very successful call-in system.
  • We beat back the implementation of Tasers three times, which are known to increase fatalities at the hands of the police, and instead worked to get the police to implement a crisis intervention model to address people in psychiatric crisis.
  • We won a local stimulus package of $3,000,000 for new jobs in shelters and resource centers.
  • Ensured all homeless people in San Francisco would receive preferences for HUD housing.
  • Led a powerful coalition to garner over $6,000,000 in city funding for a right to counsel for tenants facing displacement, which will result in over 2,500 additional low-income households having a fighting chance of staying in their homes.
  • The Coalition won 1,306 housing subsidies for homeless families with children, elderly, youth, single adults and disabled adults over five years.
  • Secured $2.7 million to fix up vacant public housing and turn them over to nearly 200 homeless households, and got both public housing and section 8 wait lists opened back up
  • We released The Roadmap: A Five Year Plan to End the Crisis of Family Homelessness in San Francisco: a practical plan that the Mayor publicly endorsed and garnered $1.5 million match of private funding for new housing subsidies.
  • We collaborated with UC Berkeley Center for Human Rights to release Punishing the Poorest: How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty in San Francisco.
  • Released in collaboration with SRO Families United ally organization an SRO Families report entitled Living in the Margins: An analysis and Census of San Francisco Families Living in SROs.
  • Worked with ally organizations to bring “Right to Rest” legislation to the California legislature.
  • Brought international attention to the city’s inhumane homeless sweeps and launched a campaign to organize and cultivate leaders in our homeless encampments.
  • Secured funding for a new emergency family shelter
  • Transformed the SFPD Use of Force Department General Order, which greatly limits justified use of force.
  • Succeeded in getting the city to fund an emergency hotel voucher program for those families that are turned away from emergency shelter.
  • Worked with community allies to halt the building of a new jail
  • Garnered 450 additional federal housing subsidies for homeless households.
  • Helped get the courts to provide amnesty for homeless tickets, and drop issuing warrants on unpaid homeless tickets, which led to cutting down the number of tickets homeless people get by half.