Home   Google ARCHIVE SEARCH: Date:

City officials pledge homeless shelter reform

"This is a moral issue, not a political issue"

Supervisor Tom Ammiano led a rally on the steps of City Hall yesterday
calling for minimum health and safety standards at San Francisco homeless shelters.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Ari Burack

February 21, 2008

Homeless advocates rallied with members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors yesterday at City Hall in a call for minimum health and safety standards in the city's shelters.

An ordinance proposed by Supervisor Tom Ammiano would amend the city code to require city-funded shelters to supply basic needs such as clean towels, soap, toilet paper, blankets and sheets; to offer fresh drinking water and nutritional meals; to provide transportation to medical and drug treatment and housing appointments; to maintain compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and to train staff to de-escalate violent situations.

The city would monitor shelter compliance and, if necessary, collect damages from those who do not comply.

San Francisco's homeless population has been estimated at more than 6,000, many of whom eschew shelters because of the conditions and reports of abuse.

"This is a moral issue, not a political issue," said Ammiano before a crowd of several dozen, many of them homeless, on the steps of City Hall. "It's a matter of social justice," he added.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano

Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Aaron Peskin also expressed support for the legislation.

The proposed legislation is the result of a collaboration between city departments, the Coalition on Homelessness, the city's Shelter Monitoring Committee and shelter residents.

A Coalition on Homelessness study reported 55 percent of San Francisco shelter residents experienced some kind of abuse in shelters.

"This is a long day coming," said Coalition on Homelessness Executive Director Jennifer Friedenbach. "We're here to demand some human rights and some dignity in San Francisco's shelter system."

Coalition on Homelessness Executive Director Jennifer Friedenbach

According to Friedenbach, San Francisco contributes most of the funding to the nonprofits that run the city's 19 shelters, and owns the buildings that house three of its largest facilities.

Following the rally the ordinance was held up in the Board's Budget and Finance Committe, of which Ammiano is a member, after Mayor Gavin Newsom's office expressed concern about the cost of the program.

"No one can argue with making the shelters a better place to live," said the mayor's Homelessness Policy Director Dariush Kayhan, adding that "fiscal concerns" are now forcing many city departments to make "difficult decisions."

Homelessness Policy Director Dariush Kayhan

Ammiano estimated the cost of the program to be "relatively minimal," not more than $700,000, he said. An analyst with the city's budget office earlier estimated the cost at closer to $2 million.

"Everyone is entitled to this," said Ammiano. "It does not have to break the bank."

The committee agreed to delay their vote two weeks while the various sides meet to determine the actual cost of the program and arrive at an agreement - "To make a veto of this (by the mayor) unnecessary," Ammiano said.

Quintin Mecke, chair of the Shelter Monitoring Committee, said he hopes the delay will not last long.

"Right now, there are glaring needs that need to be met," he said. An estimated 1,500 homeless persons fill the city's shelters each night, according to Mecke.

"This is an investment in a population that has not been invested in, in a long time," he added.

Shelter Monitoring Committee chair, Quintin Mecke

According to Ammiano, the legislation has the support of the majority of the Board of Supervisors. If approved by the Board and the Mayor, the ordinance could go into effect as early as April, he said.







The Hunger Site

Cooking Classes
in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires B&B

Calitri in southern Italy

L' Aquila in Abruzzo

Health Insurance Quotes


Bruce Brugmann's


Civic Center

Dan Noyes

Greg Dewar

Griper Blade


Malik Looper






MetroWize Urban Guide

Michael Moore

N Judah Chronicles


Robert Solis

SF Bay Guardian





SFWillie's Blog



Sweet Melissa