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Housing First for Families Campaign Update: Homeless Families Services Redesign

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In response to our “Housing First! For Homeless Families” the Newsom administration, through the Human Services Agency (HAS), organized a Homeless Families Services Redesign task force, with the participation of City agencies, service providers, advocates and, hopefully, the ones most invested in this process, i.e. the homeless families themselves. Within that group three sub-committees were created to focus on the following issues: eviction prevention, emergency shelters and permanent housing. So far, meetings have been held twice a month and are open to the public. We encourage anyone who is able, concerned, impacted or simply interested in supporting these issues to attend. These meetings are geared towards finding solutions to policies already in place and the possible redesign of the eligibility criteria. We are pushing for the adoption of our Housing First report recommendations, a document produced with the participation of homeless families in shelters, SRO hotels and substandard housing. The final draft will be presented to the Mayor by June 2006. Although the task force has already accepted the inclusion of two of three of our primary recommendations (increasing funding for eviction prevention programs and creating a local rent subsidy for homeless families), our most challenging struggle has been around the demand that 25% of the 3000 units in the Mayor’s 10-year plan be made available to house homeless families. We are also deeply disturbed by the continued refusal of the City’s agencies to include all homeless families in this plan. According to HSA, only families currently in the shelters or in transitional housing would be included among the potential beneficiaries of the redesigned programs. That is a self-serving position, since HSA has consistently refused to acknowledge the existence of homeless families that are not in the shelter or transitional housing system, despite the fact that other City agencies have reported them. While there are more than 600 homeless people who are members of families with children in the shelter system, there are hundreds more living in SRO hotels, languishing in the shelter waiting list, doubled and tripled-up, or otherwise living in some sort of substandard housing. HSA’s refusal to include those families in their plans is a slap in the face of hundreds of homeless families, and a direct challenge to San Francisco’s official definition of homelessness, which does include all the subgroups mentioned above.

Homeless Families Community Assembly

On February 25, 2006 we had a community assembly in honor of Black History Month. The purpose of this assembly was to bring together the immigrant and African American communities. The focus of this assembly was to cultivate relationships and unity between the African American and immigrant community because we understand the importance of working in solidarity, in order to counter the divide and conquer strategies of the political, institutional and cultural realm.

This community assembly was very successful because we had the opportunity to listen to the concerns of families living in shelters and single room occupancy hotels. The families were able to voice their concerns and needs in regards to their unjust living situations. Our goals are:

  1. To have six community assemblies in 2006;
  2. Create endorsements and collaborations with other organizations that are seeking social justice and housing rights for families;
  3. Unify families and immigrants to work collaboratively towards a common goal of housing and human rights.

Historically, both African American and Latino immigrant communities share similar marginalization in the social, institutional, political and economic realm. The civil rights struggle of the 1960’s and today, the immigrant rights struggle (Proposition 187, 209, HR4437 etc.) are one in the same, the desire for equity and to be treated as full citizens and human beings. The only institution where the African American and Latino communities are disproportionately represented is the Prison Industrial Complex.

In other words, both these communities are criminalized and this perpetuates the subsequent inequities that they continue to face. For example, the so called “Revitalization Plans” (gentrification) of the Mission and 3rd Street/Hunters Point districts has and will have a negative impact on available housing for families and low-income peoples while creating housing for those who can afford to their buy homes. Violence in African American and Latino immigrant communities continue to be met with police repression and incarceration instead of addressing the root causes of violence such as poverty, marginalization and lack of political will by our elected officials to advocate for these communities. These are just a few examples of the similar struggles that these communities face and in light of the lack of political will of our elected officials to address these issues it is important that these communities unite to create a collective voice in their struggle for equity.

Please feel free to support us. Drop by our meetings on Thursday, 12:30pm at 468 Turk Street (COH) or call us at 415-861-7419.

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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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