The San Francisco Shelter Monitoring Committee is up and running. Despite a few difficulties, such as no staff person, the absence of a couple of committee members and lack of contact information or a web site, committee members have been performing unannounced, surprise inspections at several shelters and resource centers (MSC-South, Sanctuary, Next Door, McMillan Resource Center, Hamilton House Family Shelter and Bayview Hunters Point Resource Center) and have identified several issues that require attention. Many of these issues are being addressed and some of these problems have been rectified. The surprise visits will continue to occur at undisclosed shelters and may happen at any time. Shelter staff is required to allow committee members full access to the facility and permit them to speak privately with clients. The SMC can and will request information from shelters such as verification of staff training, copies of complaint forms clients have turned in to the shelter staff, and documentation of approval or denial for requests of special accommodation due to disability. The committee can request access to client charts and records and will likewise do this as well.
Many shelter residents have concerns but are unwilling to go on the record with them for expressed fear of retaliation by staff. Page 4, section (d), line 11 of the Shelter Monitoring Committee (Ordinance #041449) legislation states, “Shelter staff and shelter clients shall not be retaliated against for participating in any activity involving the committee.” There are currently a number of confidential shelter residents who are working closely with members of the committee to document problems inside the shelters. If shelter staff and management become aware of their activities there is not to be any retaliation or retribution inflicted upon these persons whatsoever. If this happens, it is a violation of the law. Shelter staff, please treat all clients accordingly and adhere to all regulations, procedures and laws that programs who receive funding from the City and County of San Francisco are required to follow.
Quite a few shelter residents have been contacting SMC members and reporting problems that they are having inside the shelters and resource centers. The committee is taking action on these reports. Many concerns that have been expressed by residents are fear of retaliation by staff, ADA compliance, hostile staff attitudes, air circulation, faulty plumbing, food quality and general cleanliness.
SMC members have prioritized a number of areas to focus on with regards to the service delivery system in the shelters. Staff training, safety, ADA compliance, cultural competency, staff attitudes and level of professionalism are among a few of these. The overall perspective is that the primary purpose of the SMC is to improve the situation in the shelters and ensure quality of service delivery. There were some heated discussions that related to technical adherence to the San Francisco 2001-2006 Continuum of Care Five Year Plan for Homeless Services (COC), specifically pages 48-65 (single adult shelters) and pages 66-72 (Family Shelters). It is obvious that many of the mandates of the COC are not being met such as cultural competency and cleanliness. Furthermore, there have been major changes in the way people access the shelter system (elimination of lottery system and implementation of Prop. N) that have rendered aspects of the COC obsolete.
The legislation that created the committee states that a staff person will be provided but to date no staff has been hired. This has created some problems in terms of the logistics of the committee. The secretary and chairperson are attempting to perform the job that needs to be completed by the staff. The committee is having trouble finding someone in the city government that can provide a telephone number, website, voice mail, address, identification badges or cards for members. Despite being an official body of the city and county of San Francisco there is limited support being provided by the city. Clearly the concerns and experiences of homeless shelter residents are low on the priority list of the mayor, supervisors, and city departments. If they realy cared they would already be involved. This is what the shelter committee The committee did receive training for the Sunshine Ordinance and training on ADA compliance.
Committee members are in the process of taking legal declarations from persons who report problems in the shelters and documenting the concerns that clients are expressing. These issues will be followed up on and legal action will be taken. Inspection reports are available for Next Door, Episcopal Sanctuary, McMillan Resource Center (39 Fell) and Hamilton Family Center. These are available to the public and can be obtained by contacting the Shelter Monitoring Committee secretary James Chionsini at the Coalition on Homelessness by phone (415) 346-3740 ext 315. It is important that the committee hear from people who are in the shelters and that they document their issues with the committee. They can also contact James for information on the SMC and its activities.
The Shelter Monitoring Committee meets regularly on the first Wednesday of every month at 10:00 am at 25 Van Ness room 800. The public is allowed and encouraged to attend.
Shelter Monitoring Committee Members: Bruce Allison, James Chionsini, Joyce Crum, Bianca Henry, Judi Iranyi, Cristoff Jones, Blanche Korfmacher, Jesus Medellin, John Melone, Delbert Scott, Kendra Stewardson, Diana Valentine, Maria Wilson.