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An Open Letter to San Franciscans

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Last November, San Franciscans sent a clear message about one of the most serious public health issues affecting our city: homelessness. Despite this public outcry for increased services, San Francisco is on the verge of eliminating an historic community resource that homeless and poor people depend on for survival.

Up to 15,000 homeless people live on the City’s streets due to insufficient housing and services supporting permanent exits from homelessness. Unfortunately, next year’s city budget threatens to decimate the limited resources homeless people do have.

One such resource is Central City Hospitality House’s Tenderloin Self-Help Center — the only multi-service drop-in center for homeless people in the downtown area — which will close this summer as a result of public health cuts currently proposed in our city budget.

Hospitality House, a community organization that has worked to alleviate the causes and effects of homelessness since 1967, provides drop-in emergency survival services, food and clothing, support groups, shelter, employment services, and artistic access for homeless and poor people right off the streets. Through its diverse forums and accessible space, these programs address the basic, tangible needs and the intangible, private effects of poverty by fostering roads to self-sufficiency for more than 10,000 people per year.

The core of these programs is the Tenderloin Self-Help Center, a drop-in center open 12 hours each day. City budget cuts that take effect July 1st reflect the elimination of this program’s $567,000 contract.

Without the Self-Help Center:

  • 10,000 homeless and poor people each year will lose access to restroom facilities, hygiene supplies, respite from the streets, emergency food and clothing, crisis intervention counseling, telephone and mail services.
  • Over 200 people each year will lose individual and group counseling services directly targeting substance use and mental health.
  • Over 500 people each year will lose access to bilingual counseling and support groups, including groups focused on the needs of transgender individuals and Latinos.
  • Over 150 people each year will lose the resources to access housing and benefits for which they qualify.
  • Over 60 poor and mostly immigrant seniors and families each week will lose free groceries.
  • 50 formerly homeless people each year will lose access to non-profit employment opportunities and staff development programs, which are crucial to helping people gain stability and increase their economic security.

Cutting basic, preventative services means a higher price tag for the people of San Francisco. Without access to the Self-Help Center, our most vulnerable residents will be forced into the city’s more expensive service delivery systems, such as San Francisco General Hospital, the police and fire departments, and county jails.

Eliminating cost-effective services in an effort to balance the budget today does not serve the city throughout this year and for years to come.

We understand that the city needs to make painful decisions in order to close the budget deficit. However, we urge you to join with us in sending a clear message to City Hall that eliminating frontline services at Hospitality House is not the answer to the budget crisis!

If you have been connected with Hospitality House in the past 36 years or are concerned about the devastating effects this loss of services will have on our community, take action! Call the Mayor and your District Supervisor. Speak out at the Health Commission and the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee Meetings posted at http://www.sfgov.org. Call Hospitality House at (415) 749-2113 or visit http://www.hospitalityhouse. org.

Hospitality House saves lives!

Don’t cut us out!

Signed,

The Staff, Participants and Board at Central City Hospitality House

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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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