San Francisco to expand access to Homeward Bound program to better meet clients’ needs

SAN FRANCISCO – Recently, Mayor London N. Breed announced that the city will be expanding access to its programs to offer travel home for those experiencing homelessness. Through the Homeward Bound Program, the city provides paid travel home for people experiencing homelessness who are seeking to return to their family, friends or other support networks in their hometown. By expanding access to this offer across two Departments, the program will be able to reach even more people seeking to travel home.

Currently, support for return travel for people experiencing homelessness is managed by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), which offers it as part of its range of services. This service will continue as part of a range of solutions offered through the “Problem Solving Program” resources by the Department.

Beginning April 10, the Human Services Agency (HSA) will also offer travel home through the Homeward Bound Program. This will allow HSA to engage directly with its clients that may be eligible for the offer, instead of directing them to a different agency.

“Providing services to people struggling with homelessness requires us to meet them where they are, and this partnership between HSA and HSH will ensure we reach more people quickly with travel support when they ask for it,” said Mayor Breed. “This is part of the larger work we are doing to provide a range of solutions to help those in need in our city.”

Right now, people can access family reunification and relocation support at Coordinated Entry Access Points, which are community gateways into San Francisco’s Homelessness Response System. These access points provide problem solving, assessment, prioritization, and referral to housing and other community services for San Franciscan’s experiencing homelessness. By co-locating relocation assistance in with other problem-solving resources, HSH has improved access and efficiency, ensuring that people who experiencing homelessness can have access to resources they need to travel home.

Under Care Not Cash, people experiencing homelessness who apply for or receive support through HSA’s County Adult Assistance Program (CAAP) are provided with a guaranteed shelter bed and a cash grant up to $105. In September 2022 HSA restarted the Care Not Cash Program, which was suspended under COVID due to the reduction of congregate shelter beds that was necessary in order to help prevent the transmission of COVID among the sheltered homeless population. Since Care Not Cash resumed in September, many people have asked HSA for assistance to travel home instead of accepting a shelter bed and a cash grant through Care Not Cash.

Prior to this new expansion, when a request for travel assistance was made to HSA, people would have to go from the HSA offices to different location to get help through an Access Point. To eliminate the need to go to a second location and save time for clients already working with HSA, the department coordinated with HSH to develop a proposal to expand access to Homeward Bound, which will launch the second week of April.

To simplify the process to travel home, HSA will offer Homeward Bound travel assistance in ‘real time’ directly to clients at their Agency’s Benefits Office located at 1235 Mission Street.  For many clients, HSA will be able to provide their travel in the same day depending on the bus or train schedule.  For clients who cannot travel the same day, a shelter bed will be provided for overnight sleep and transportation to the Salesforce Terminal will be provided the next morning.

“The Human Services Agency is constantly looking for ways to improve our service delivery system for clients,” said Trent Rhorer, Executive Director, Human Services Agency. “Offering same-day or next-day Homeward Bound travel directly from our benefits office will enable more people to end their homelessness by returning home to their family or to other support networks.”

“By offering people in crises an opportunity to reconnect with family, we can help them stabilize their lives and housing situations with the ongoing support of their primary social network, said Shireen McSpadden, Executive Director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “This approach has helped end homelessness for nearly 11,000 people since it started in 2005.”

Homeward Bound relocation services will continue to be offered through the Problem-Solving Program under the city’s Coordinated Entry system. By adding an option for HSA clients to access relocation services at the HSA Benefits office, there will be more opportunities for people experiencing homelessness to quickly access help to return home. Participants hail from throughout the United States. There is a report of very low return rate to San Francisco. The average cost of the program is $180 per person.(SF Mayor’s Office Release)

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