What is the SF IHSS Public Authority?

                Former Board President Alice Wong with the Beacon Award.

                Former Board President Alice Wong with the Beacon Award.

The San Francisco In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Public Authority connects low income seniors and people with disabilities to qualified IHSS providers, so they may live healthier, happier and safer lives at home and engaged in the community.

The San Francisco IHSS Public Authority provides seven major services:

  • Registry
  • On-Call Program
  • Employer-of-record for the IP workforce
  • Health and dental insurance for IP workforce
  • Education, outreach and advocacy
  • Mentorship Program
  • Criminal background checks for the IP workforce

A Brief History

Of the beginnings of the San Francisco In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Public Authority, former Executive Director Donna Calame recalls, "In the early 1990's, I worked with other people in San Francisco who knew how important IHSS was in thousands of people's lives and wanted to help improve IHSS: users of IHSS and personal assistance, aging and disability advocates, service providers, supportive county employees, home care workers and union staff."

To bring major change to IHSS, "You had to reach state legislators and people in the agencies that set policy and fund the program. Back then, IHSS consumers and independent home care workers (IP's) who wanted to tell their stories didn't have an organized way to connect with each other and join for more impact."

That's when the idea of creating IHSS "public authorities" (PA's) was born, as "a way for consumers to have a voice through consumer-majority PA boards or IHSS advisory committees in each county. The IP's had a voice, because they could finally join a union that could bargain with an 'employer': the PA. In 1995 in San Francisco, that was SEIU Local 250, now SEIU-UHW. PA's were an untried idea, but we led the way in San Francisco with these firsts: a union contract, significant IP wage increases, an emergency On-Call service, and health and dental coverage for IP's."

The PA opened the doors of its Central Registry of screened IP's in September 1996. "For the first time since IHSS began in 1973, IHSS consumers could get referral lists of matched IP's from which to hire when they did not have a family member or friend who could provide IHSS assistance. And the PA structure allowed for the development of our emergency On-Call system [November 1997]."

The PA has always wanted to show that "a program which allows consumers to hire who they want and supports them with services to stabilize them in their community is both what most people want (to live at home as long as possible) and a cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars. This is a consumer-directed program, a core principle of IHSS."

Without IHSS…it would be the last of freedom and a host of other things I enjoy by living in my own environment. The freedom to take a bath whenever it’s convenient for me to take it. The freedom to live out my last few days in my own personal area. To be around friends most of whom I’ve known a very long time.
— Willie H.