Proposition N was passed by voters in November, 2002, cut public assistance payments (CAAP) to homeless adult welfare recipients by up to 85% in exchange for services offered by the City. It was implemented May, 2004. We have been monitoring the implementation through data gathering, surveys of homeless people, and interviews with service providers.
The “At a Glance” Summary Results are as follows:
- 60-80 empty shelter beds every night
- Shelter beds for 895 CAAP recipients
- Housing for 291 (as of 9.24.04)
- 1,350 homeless people losing benefits altogether
Result One: Care Not Cash Recipients Primarily Warehoused in Shelters
Under Care Not Cash (CNC), the County may reduce the individuals check by up to $348 simply by offering them a shelter bed. That bed is reserved for them up to 45 days whether they show up to sleep there or not. Most Care Not Cash recipients are offered shelter, not housing as promised in campaign literature.
Result Two: Empty Shelter Beds
This system results in 60-80 empty shelter beds a night (Shelter Directors Meeting 9-20-04).
Homeless people who are not receiving CAAP, such as those receiving veterans or disability benefits, those with earning and undocumented immigrants, can not access CNC beds on a regular basis. If CAAP clients do not show up, their beds can only be released for one night to others. (San Francisco Department of Human Services).
There are now vacancies almost every night at every shelter. Many of these vacancies are the result of Care Not Cash bed reservations. Some shelters such as Hospitality House never had vacancy issues prior to Care Not Cash implementation. (Conversations with shelter directors)
At Episcopal Sanctuary shelter, from 10-1-04 to 10-3-04, 65 out of 83 vacancies were Care Not Cash recipients. (correspondence with manager of Episcopal Sanctuary)
Many service enriched shelters have seen the majority of their beds go to CNC. For example, at Episcopal Sanctuary 144 out of a total of 198 beds are reserved for CNC clients. At MSC South 231 of 340 beds are for CNC; At Hospitality House 15 of 30 beds are CNC; Next Door 100 of 280; Dolores Street 20 of 100; Ella Hill Hutch 20 of 70 (Ella Hill being the only non-service enriched CNC shelter). (obtained from conversations with Shelter directors, Case Managers and from DHS document: “Single Adult Shelter Overview”)
The Daily Grind:
One-night beds mean a daily trip to crowded resource center for an assignment. This presents considerable hardship for disabled people, as well as those many who carry their belongings with them. This causes instability, anxiety and there is no guarantee anyone will get a bed in a shelter they can get to. (discussions with resource center and shelter directors and homeless persons who utilize shelters).
Late Night bed assignments:
These one night beds are assigned at 8:30pm 10:30pm 11:30pm and 12:30am (DHS letter to Coalition on Homelessness 4-19-2004).
These times are too late for many homeless people to access them, especially working people, undocumented immigrants, seniors, women and persons with disabilities. It is also too late to access belongings stored at 150 Otis and too late to secure a decent outdoor sleeping spot if no shelter bed is accessible. Our outreach survey results indicate that this has led to an increase in the number people sleeping on the streets. According to a Coalition study, 64% of 200 homeless individuals surveyed reported that their shelter stay had been reduced an average of 7 days (Coalition on Homelessness Care Not Cash Survey, November 2004).
Missed Dinner, Services and Medical Care:
People assigned one-night beds often miss dinner and (if provided by the shelter) medical care. (discussions with resource center and shelter directors and homeless persons who utilize shelters). Non-CAAP homeless clients who are receiving outpatient treatment for substance use disorders or on waiting lists for residential treatment are required to attend meetings daily. This obligation makes it difficult to go to resource centers in order to be assigned one-night beds. (Conversations with Case Managers at MSC-S).
Many one night beds are located across town from resource centers and two way transportation is rarely provided, which makes it difficult and dangerous for people to get to and from the shelter.
Decrease in Case Management:
Shelters such as MSC South that were designed as emergency shelters able serve fragile populations with case management services are increasingly unable to do so because CAAP controls the majority of their beds. As empty CAAP beds are released for one-night only, case management services are no longer possible. For example MSC-S has seen a 30% decrease in case management beds. This leaves disabled people, severely mentally ill and Spanish-speaking immigrants without services they otherwise would be able to receive (discussions with Case Managers at Shelters and Resource Center Staff).
Shelters who receive private and public funding for case management services are seeing their funding jeopardized as they are no longer able to meet their funding requirements.
Empty Beds Not Being Filled On Site To Shelter Seekers:
There is no clearly recognized policy allowing shelters with empty beds to fill them on the spot. Shelters may have vacancies and homeless people may be outside requesting to stay there but the shelters often believe they are not allowed to fill the vacant beds without sending people to the Resource Centers first. Shelter directors have expressed frustration over this. Prior to Care Not Cash and CHANGES these beds could be easily filled on the spot (Conversations with Shelter staff and Shelter directors).
Result Three: Undocumented Immigrants Displaced From Shelter System
Since CNC was implemented there has been displacement of undocumented Latinos from shelters because they are ineligible for GA or other CAAP programs and are excluded from long-term shelter placements. (“El Tecolote” 7/20-8/10, 2004; Laura Guzman, Director of Mission Resource Center).
Day Laborers can not access shelters due to their work schedule, as the one-night beds are made available late at night and require successive trips during the day to resource centers to seek shelter. There is insufficient bilingual staff. Many English language learners do not feel comfortable or safe at these facilities (conversations with workers at the San Francisco Day Labor Program).
Except for Dolores Street, only 2-3 culturally and linguistically appropriate beds, if at all, are available for Spanish speakers at the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, and they are usually gone by 7:30am. (Laura Guzman, Director, MRC)
According to a study conducted by the Coalition on Homelessness 44% of Latino immigrants interviewed decided not to use shelters because of the biometrics system. This results in more people on the streets (SF Report on Biometric Imaging Requirements to Access Homeless Shelters, January 2004).
Shelters serving mainly undocumented Latinos have also lost beds to the CNC CHANGES system. Dolores Street’s has to reserve 20 out of its 100 beds (All those located at Santa Ana Shelter). These 20 beds are now reserved for CAAP recipients. Shelters that do have available one-night beds for non-CAAP clients do not have bilingual staff. (Conversations with shelter workers).
Result Four: Homeless Mentally Ill People Lose Critical Service
With CHANGES (including Resource Center shelter bed access model, and bio-metric imaging for purpose of detecting welfare fraud under Care Not Cash), has come major loss of services for people with mental illnesses. First, attempts were made to change Conard House contract to fit into Care Not Cash, and then the Tenderloin Self-Help Center model was changed without any assessment of how the community would be affected. As a result, an important self help center that serves over 200 homeless people a day is being closed, their clients are de-compensating and will be left without their support system.
Result Five: Violation of McGoldrick Anti-Displacement Legislation
This legislation, which had broad support at the Board of Supervisors, states that no shelter beds shall be set side, reserved or prioritized based on income source. The current practices clearly violate this legislation, as many beds are set aside for 45 days for CAAP recipients. The release of beds for one night does not cure this illegality. It also creates unequal access in terms of length of stay.