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PROP N: It Just Keeps Getting Worse!

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If you thought Prop N was bad, wait until you get abreast of the implementation plan.

Prop N passed in November, and is scheduled for implementation July 1st. Prop N cuts welfare checks to San Francisco’s homeless adults by 85%.

Since Prop N’s passage, the floodgates are now open, and bad ideas are flowing fast and furiously out of Department of Human Services.

There is a ton of pressure on them to make Prop N look successful, so media darling Gavin (the man behind Prop N) can be elected Mayor and Trent Rhorer, Director of Department Human Services can keep his job!

Contrary to what was reported in the Chronicle on 2.30.03, they are requiring everyone to get finger printed in order to get a shelter bed as part of the implementation plan. They were calling it “finger-imaging,” now they are calling it “Finger-scanning” — as if that is somehow more palatable. Actually, the correct term is bio-metrics —- but why daddle over semantics?

The plan is this: Francis, who is homeless, needs a shelter bed. She must go to a resource center, where they take a picture of her face. She then goes to the shelter, and has to run her finger through the machine. It checks her fingerprint in the welfare database.

If she is on County Adult Assistance (CAAP), which Prop N affects, the computer will be able to tell. If she is not, she gives her name, along with other information, and her picture pops up on the computer screen. She can then enter the shelter. If she refuses, tough luck.

No shelter bed for Francis — even if the shelter‘s beds will sit empty that night as a result.

You might be wondering why spend all this money for this system that seemingly has no point. Especially given that mental health, substance abuse, medical care, and outreach are all being cut for homeless people. Well, the answer is that they want to be able to bust people for giving fake rent receipts. See, under Prop N, if you have a rent receipt, you get a full grant. If you show up at the shelter, presumably you lied to DHS about your housing, so you get charged with fraud. Never mind those who just lost their housing, or escaping domestic violence.

Now if Francis was lucky enough to be a CAAP recipient she now officially gets priority for a shelter bed. You may be asking why? If we are going to prioritize it seems that people with disabilites, seniors, families with children, working people, the sick and fragile would get priority, right? Well no, because the only way Department of Human Services can take money out of people’s checks is if they are in the shelter.

Because if they are in housing, they are paying rent — even the City-provided master lease housing charges $300 a month. If you are in treatment, you usually pay $300 program fees.

So, DHS needs to put CAAP recipients in shelters to cut their checks and take the money to pay for stuff like fingerprinting. Also, if they displace illegal immigrants, disabled people and working people from the shelter, they can claim Prop N was successful, because homeless CAAP recipients are in shelter.

This plan hurts illegal immigrants, who under the time of the “Patriot Act” will most likely be fearful of accessing shelter if it means being photographed and fingerprinted. (Yes we still call it fingerprinted — we are not fooled). It hurts people with mental illnesses, whose very symptoms in certain psychiatric disabilities makes them unwilling and frankly, unable to submit to bio-metric imaging. They will be displaced from the shelter system, even though they tend to be the most vulnerable people out on the streets.

They have about 1,000 shelter beds, and about 3,000 homeless CAAP recipients. Contrary to campaign pledges of 1,000 new units of master lease housing, they are only adding about 200 in the foreseeable future. Those units will go to SSI recipients in the shelter to free up shelter space for CAAP recipients. They are even doing prioritization for services within CAAP, so those in job training or waiting to get on SSI get priority over GA recipients who are just cleaning streets for their checks.

This arbitrary discrimination based on income source should be unthinkable. But the Department of InHumane Services feels perfectly comfortable with this shameless political ploy.

Our emergency shelter system is quickly disappearing in front of our eyes and turning rapidly into a force to institutionalize homeless people in the shelter system, much as the failed New York system has already done. (New York City has 38,000 shelter beds, fingerprinting, and people are not leaving the shelter system.

The NYC homeless coordinator recently declared their system officially a failure) There will be no next move for DHS except to massively expand the shelter system at a cost higher then simply providing housing for people.

CAAP recipients who are homeless, will in fact be forcibly sheltered or they will lose their benefits. They have to go through the shelter system before they can access welfare-provided hotel rooms, If they refuse, they lose their benefits. Never mind if they have a mental health issue that makes congregate living a nightmare. Never mind if they are scared of shelters. Never mind if they live in a camper, and this means losing the last of their belongings and every bit of their financial security because the camper will get towed.

Get ready to fight this horrible implementation plan. There is a lawsuit pending over Prop N, and the Judge has not yet issued a ruling. But if that fails or wins, we have to fight for homeless people — permanent housing, treatment and living wage jobs!

There is a hearing on Prop N implementation on April 2 at 9:30 am at City Hall before the Rules Committee. Come join us, or call Jennifer at 346-3740 x 311 (e-mail sam@sf-homeless- coalition.org) for more information.

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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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