On August 31, 2005, San Francisco’s Ten Year Plan Implementation Council held its first public hearing since the plan was completed in 2004. The purpose of the council is to oversee the implementation of the plan. The purpose of the plan is to lay out how San Francisco is going to abolish chronic homelessness over the next ten years. The purpose of the hearing? To weigh in on how San Francisco is faring in this implementation phase.
The hearing went from 1:00 pm to almost 7:00 pm with a lot of homeless people’s participation, as well as service providers. There was talk of shelters, and how some treat homeless people horribly while others, like St. Boniface , have managed to create a sense of welcome respite and community. There were also a lot of personal stories, about tragedies that befell our fellow humans, and how our systems have failed them.
In addition, service providers wanted to ensue that the Continuum of Care plan is not dropped, and some clarity on how the various bodies differ in their respective roles. In addition, it was brought to the Council’s attention that undocumented immigrants are being ignored and further alienated by the Mayor’s Care Not Cash program. Many of Care Not Cash’s shortfalls were pointed out as well – from shelter displacement to how the money was not enough to feed oneself: One gentleman said, “I had a well paying job and have paid hundreds of thousands in taxes. Getting this little $32 check is an insult.” In addition, the terrible plight of homeless seniors was brought up by many speakers.
The 10 Year Plan calls for 3,000 units of housing for homeless people, but as one speaker pointed out, the funding streams have yet to be identified. In addition, half of the units are not permanently affordable – they are master leases, and standards are needed in terms of staff to client ratio etc. to avoid misuse of this housing option.
One homeless man very eloquently pointed out that he has a terminal disease and is being told to die outside. A worker from Tom Waddell told stories about his senior female client who was unable to wash her own hair, was thrown out on the streets from the shelter because she had head lice.
It was also mentioned that homeless people could fix up unused buildings themselves and live in them.
One speaker from your very own, the Coalition on Homelessness, talked about the need to challenge the structural inequalities that homeless people face.
While the testimony of voices was strong indeed, notably absent from the proceedings was anyone from the Mayor’s office, Department of Human Services or any public official beyond the council. This was indeed a travesty, because the Council on its own has no power to act on the requests of the public-but they Mayor could easily have taken action.