On a typical day, San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers respond to 179 homelessness-related incidents, or 1,253 weekly, most often resulting in move-along orders, citations, and destruction of property; systematically limiting homeless people’s access to services, housing, and jobs, while damaging their health, safety, and well-being. Policing exacerbated racial disparities and disproportionately leaves those who are unhoused, disabled, and experiencing poverty feeling as if they are unwanted and disposable. Unhoused individuals have also repeatedly fallen victim to police violence. All in all, policing is a costly, ineffective and punitive response to homelessness.
San Francisco needs an alternative; a compassionate street response to homelessness. The Compassionate Alternative Response Team, or CART program seeks to end San Francisco's current police response to homelessness. CART will create a future of care not criminalization for the unhoused residents of San Francisco. CART is a community-led, government-funded response that holds those who are on the margins of our community at the center of proper systems of care that result in dignity — instead of neglect. CART will address the social and behavioral health needs and conflicts occurring in public spaces involving unhoused people while uplifting them.
THE PROGRAM DESIGN
The CART program would operate as a community-based street response working in teams of two and responding to situations involving unhoused individuals throughout the city of San Francisco.
The teams would be made up of well-trained community-based staff, primarily with lived experience of homelessness, poverty and/or the justice system
CART would be publicly-funded and community-ran and implemented by a non-government organization (NGO)
CART’s estimated annual budget of $6.825 million would be paid for by funds currently allocated to the police budget, and not from existing community or homeless-related sources
CART would respond to re-routed calls going into 911 that involve an unhoused individual*
CART would also respond to calls received through a new and direct CART hotline
CART would provide a homeless-centered response, focusing on the well-being of the unhoused person rather than the complaint of the caller
CART would also function as a community-strengthening hub to empower housed neighbors to more “compassionately respond” directly to their unhoused neighbors.
THE GOALS & OUTCOMES
Taking on the 65,000+ calls directly related to homelessness
Eliminating the police as first and primary responders to unhoused people
Increasing safety for unhoused people and reducing the harm and trauma inflicted
Providing a non-police resource for crisis intervention for unhoused residents
Changing the narrative about homelessness through increased education: personal faults & shortcomings → systemic causes
Building community resilience by empowering housed San Franciscans to more compassionately respond to their unhoused neighbors