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City’s Proposed Budget Slashes Homeless Services

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Against all odds, we have been making progress in building permanent solutions to homelessness, stone by stone. Yet this year, we could have our recent successes dumped in the garbage if we don’t stop the City’s impending budget cuts.

State budget cuts and dismal general fund revenues has led the City to outline $17.5 million cuts to public health alone, and a contingency plan to cut another $54 million.

The FY 2003-04 budget contains drastic cuts and outright elimination of large components in mental health, substance abuse, and other health services for homeless people. These cuts were passed by the Health Commission and are now in the Mayor’s office, which will release Mayor Brown’s budget in another month.

Here are the scary highlights:


Substance Abuse Treatment will axe more then 3,359 clients. This includes outpatient treatment for 290 clients, 40 residential treatment clients (5 beds), 2,650 prevention and early intervention, 336 clients from aftercare and 243 clients will lose the medical support for detox. The contingency plan includes outright elimination of all outpatient treatment.

Families with children in particular are getting hit hard, and the perinatal treatment system may soon be devastated. There are only six small residential treatment programs for mothers who have addictive disorders. These programs allow families to stay with their children while getting treatment for their addictive disorders.

Without this treatment, women lose their children to the foster care system. Three of these programs were previously run by the Womens Alcoholism Center, which is going out of business.

One of those programs is changing to serve single adults in the sex worker industry. Two others currently have no clients, but will be taken over by other service providers after they are renovated.

A fourth perinatal treatment program, Epiphany, lost their federal grant and is set to close any day, unless they get additional funding to hold them open until July 1st. The program serves 15 families. In the city budget, two outpatient treatment programs for mothers, women and their children will be closed; Oshun and MAMA (Mama closed earlier this year).

Oshun is a 24 hour drop-in treatment program for women and their families, located in the Tenderloin. It was a program originally developed by the Coalition on Homelessness in response to the large number of homeless families who were being housed in the Tenderloin, and needed a safe space and substance abuse treatment.

The loss of this program would be devastating to families in the Tenderloin.


Mental Health Treatment will be lost for 464 clients. Day treatment will be eliminated — with 259 clients losing this modality.

Eight treasured Residential beds will be cut. 197 clients will lose their outpatient treatment. Mental Health treatment in the shelters, that the Coalition on Homelessness successfully advocated for, is also being eliminated.

City plans also include closing the Mental Health Rehab Facility (MHRF) — a locked facility for 120 individuals determined by the court system to be unable to care for themselves. The City will supposedly save $8 million to change it to a residential care facility (very large board and care). This means some of the most vulnerable people in San Francisco with severe psychiatric disabilities will be sent out of county to facilities that are much worse. Others will be discharged, most likely with no place to go.

Already the MHRF is refusing new clients and telling its staff to find new jobs — and the budget has not even been passed yet. Generally we do not support locked facilities, and there needs to be some reforms at the facility. However, the Coalition is opposing the closure of this facility because the City is not planning adequately for the effect this closure will have on its clients, and the loss would be devastating for those who depend on it.


The City is planning on closing the Tenderloin Drop-in center — the prized center that helps homeless people in the Tenderloin with mental health, substance abuse, and employment issues. The program serves 8,000 homeless people a year, providing a safe place to get basic help, use the phones, find a job, get some counseling.

The program is about building a community, welcoming those who are disenfranchised, and tends to serve those clients who don’t get help anywhere else. Closing the program would mean more homeless people outside during the day, often experiencing a lot more crisis. Outreach to homeless people is slated for elimination or severe cuts on every level.

$244,884 from MOST and Hope teams is being cut, which will mean no more outreach to the shelters, illegal immigrants. The Hope team, used to be called the Death Prevention Team, and was started by the Coalition on Homelessness.

We got the city to use Matrix funding and some other funds to create the multi-disciplinary team to provide services to the most at-risk and hardest to serve homeless people. Other outreach cuts include Progress Foundation outreach to 300 clients, Instituto Familiar outreach to 180 clients.

The SRO Collaboratives for Tenderloin, Chinatown, and families are being eliminated.

Referral centers such as Pretrial referral and SFGH substance abuse referral are being removed.

They are also reducing 24,000 calls from the AIDS hotline.


The contingency plan for Department of Public Health is to close all the clinics down to half-time.

This frightening prospect will mean half as mean preventative health care, and will doubtless lead to more emergency room visits. Already, it takes a long time to get an appointment at city clinics.

Just think if capacity is cut in half.


These cuts are not a done deal – and they do not have to happen in this rich city, in this rich state, in this rich country. You can help fight the cuts by joining the People’s Budget! We are creating an alternative budget, which finds revenues and government waste, and insists that those too poor to shoulder the cuts should not be targeted for cuts. We meet every other Wednesday at 474 Valencia, 2nd floor conference room. The dates for this month are April 2, 16 and 30. For more information, call Jennifer at (415) 346-3740×311.


Author: Street Sheet Editor

The STREET SHEET is the oldest continuously published street news paper in the United States. Organizationally, it is the public education and outreach tool of the Coalition on Homelessness. Every month, the STREET SHEET reaches 32,000 readers through over 200 homeless or low-income vendors. Our vendors are charged nothing for the papers they receive, and keep all money they earn through STREET SHEET distribution.

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