San Francisco mayor, police chief ask public to report homeless in need via mobile app

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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee gestures while delivering his State of the City address at a new facility of the Wholesale Produce Market Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in San Francisco. With San Francisco’s home prices soaring, the mayor unveiled plans to try to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing and help more people buy […]

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Thursday morning urged the public to report homeless people in need of assistance by using the SF311 app on their mobile devices.

“We will follow up,” Lee said.A new feature on the app is making it easier for the public to help a homeless person in need of assistance by reporting their whereabouts and condition, according to city officials.

Police Chief Greg Suhr said that as the cold, wet winter months approach, the app could save lives.While the free SF311 app launched in 2013, the public had previously only been encouraged to report non-emergencies such as potholes, graffiti, sewer issues and tree maintenance.

While emergencies are still handled by 911, the mayor said anyone who sees a non-emergency that they feel should be checked on should get on the SF311 app and report it immediately.

When a member of the public makes a request for services from the city via the app, they can include a photo, add details about the situation and then track the progress of their request in the app.

Once the request for a service to a location is made, city departments such as San Francisco police, members of the city’s Homeless Outreach Team or its Department of Public Health will be dispatched to the

location.

Based on the city’s response, departments or employees will update the status of the request and can even provide notes about how the situation was resolved.

The mayor said the enhanced SF311 app will help the public report aggressive behavior, as well as encampments, used syringes or abandoned shopping carts.

“Today, we take a step forward as a compassionate city, providing this new way for constituents to let us know about a person who needs a well-being check,” Lee said. “Walking past someone suffering on the streets does not reflect our San Francisco values. Our residents want to help, and we are providing easy ways for them to do that.”

Lee said that once contact is made with a homeless individual, city employees will work to evaluate their condition and connect those individuals with vital services, shelters and, if available, long-term housing.

SF311 has received 181,300 service requests from the mobile platform since it launched, according to city officials.

Suhr encouraged everyone to download the SF311 app and said he doesn’t believe that encouraging the public to report homelessness and well-being checks will lead to an uptick in ticketing and citations.

Roughly $28.9 million is being invested by the city over the next two years to support the homeless, according to the mayor’s office, including the addition of more than 500 single-room occupancy units for supportive housing and the construction of supportive housing units for chronically homeless seniors.

Suhr said the app’s new feature embodies the morals of the city.

“It’s just not San Francisco to walk past people and just think that you can’t do anything,” Suhr said.

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