On Monday April 25, 2005 the first official meeting of the new Shelter Monitoring Committee was held in City Hall Room 34. Twelve of the thirteen members were present as were four non-members, including two members of the public and two employees of the Department of Human Services. The only member not present was one of the Mayoral appointees that no one has been able to contact for several weeks. (Kendra, this is you. If you are reading this please call Mayor Gavin Newsom at 415/554.6141 or go by his office at City Hall Room 200 to let him know where you are!)
Everyone present reviewed the legislation (read it for yourself here) and tried to reach consensus as to what issues need to be addressed first. The SMC is able to respond to complaints, hold surprise inspections of shelters and issue emergency reports about the conditions. This includes reporting directly to the Mayor, Board of Supervisors and the Public. As the Legislation authorizes, the Committee will be making unannounced visits to shelters in the very near future and addressing the issues and concerns of people staying in them. It is imperative that people with who are shelter residents contact the committee and get involved in its meetings.
The Shelter Monitoring Committee is required to make unannounced visits to every shelter at least (but not limited to) once every three months. This presents considerable opportunity to make sure the shelters here in San Francisco are doing what they are being paid by the City to do.
The meeting was a time where members got to know each other and feel comfortable that we are all on the same page. It is in everyone’s best interest to make the shelters free from gross violations of peoples’ civil rights and make these emergency facilities as safe as possible. Officers were elected as follows: Diana Valentine (Chairperson), Maria Wilson (Vice-Chairperson), and James Chionsini (Secretary). Overall it was a productive meeting, but there is a lot of work ahead.
During public testimony people used the time to voice concerns about some recent problems including an increase in reports of theft of personal property in an unnamed shelter. One man who is staying in the shelters reported having his complaint forms thrown away as he turned them in.
It was decided to meet on the first Wednesday of every month. The next meeting will be on May 2 at 10:00 am at a place to be determined. These meetings are open to the public and shelter residents are encouraged and allowed to attend. Some people have come into the Coalition on Homelessness and expressed fear of retaliation if they speak out against the problems they experience. The Shelter Monitoring Committee will serve as a means by which their voices can be heard and their interests represented. Retaliation is explicitly prohibited.
If anyone would like more information they can call James Chionsini or Jesus Medellin at the Coalition on Homelessness (415) 346-3740.