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Brutal Budget Slashes Services

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Hundreds of San Franciscans gathered on the steps of City Hall, June 21, under the AIDS Quilt, to protest devastating cuts to numerous core social and health services proposed in the Mayor’s 2007-2008 Budget.

The Mayor’s 2007/2008 budget was devastating for homeless people and service programs in San Francisco. Despite being the largest budget in city history, surpassing $6 billion, it contained massive cuts, and failed to address the most imminent needs facing poor San Franciscans. The housing crisis is one glaring example: The Board of Supervisors passed an emergency housing supplemental for $27 million to address this crisis with a veto-proof majority. The Mayor chose to cut this supplemental and reallocate resources to his own pet projects, doing little more than pumping up his public relations machine. This law-and-order budget—with massive 25% increases to the San Francisco Police salaries—pumps up overtime pay for City bureaucrats, and places a lot of attention on potholes. He asked the Department of Public Health to cut its budget by 3%. They resisted, sending their own budget back to the Mayor without the cuts. The Mayor in turn gutted homeless services by responding with a 4% cut. The budget failed to address critical homeless needs that have been brought to the Mayor’s attention—including housing for homeless families—and it cannibalizes homeless programs by pumping up the Mayor’s PR-based homeless agenda, that simply attempts to use law enforcement and outreach workers to decrease the presence of homeless people on the streets without truly addressing the root causes of homelessness. Here are some of the dark spots in the budget:

Closure of Buster’s Place

The budget includes a $1,082,756 cut that will close Buster’s Place: the only 24-hour drop-in center available to homeless people in San Francisco. This closure means that there will be no safe place to go in nighttime emergencies, no late-night access to shelter beds even as beds sit empty, no respite from bad weather or police harassment. It will be a major loss of access to basic amenities such as showers and bathrooms. There will be no central location to which people can be discharged from institutions. This will impact about 110 homeless people every day.

Loss of Access to Substance Abuse Treatment and Harm Reduction Services

The budget cuts $1.8 million from substance abuse treatment, including 140 treatment slots (60 residential treatment beds and 80 outpatient treatment slots). This represents a 15% loss of capacity in the system. In addition, many important harm reduction programs that benefit homeless people will be lost, including $75,000 from Positive Resource Center (serving 110 clients), a substantial cut to Quan Yin Healing Arts Center (serving 260 clients), $200,00 from Women’s Community Clinic (serving 2,004 clients), Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Project (serving 550 clients), and Stimulant Treatment Outpatient Program (serving 60 clients annually).

SRO Collaborative

Families with children living in single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels are considered homeless in San Francisco. The Mayor’s Budget includes a 25% cut to SRO Families United. This will dramatically reduce peer-based services for the 527 families residing in SRO hotels in San Francisco. In addition, SRO Families United is in need of $100,000 in funding from DPH to make up for budget cuts from the Human Service Agency.

Caduceus Outreach Services

Federal and private budget cuts will lead to the closure of Caduceus, which provides psychiatric care, criminal justice, benefits and healthcare advocacy, and wrap-around services for homeless people. This critical program will close its doors without City funding.

Operating Subsidy for Homeless Families

Homeless families are severely neglected by the Mayor’s Budget. While there are over 2,000 homeless families in San Francisco, there is nothing in the budget to address this crisis. $5 million in operating subsidies is needed to ensure that the poorest families can move into City- and Redevelopment-funded affordable housing units going on-line next year.

St. Boniface Shelter

St. Boniface Shelter was funded last year by the Board of Supervisors. While the Mayor’s administration is mandating that it open 24 hours, it is not providing any additional funding to make this possible. This will mean that the shelter would have to hire people at below minimum living wage in order to meet its contractual obligations. The Board needs to allocate an additional $356,000 to make this truly viable.

State of San Francisco Homeless Shelters

The Coalition on Homelessness and the Shelter Monitoring Committee have uncovered a dire need for a minimum standard of care in the shelter system. Additional funding is needed to ensure that shelter residents have access to toilet paper inside stalls, soap dispensers to wash their hands, and other basic necessities.

Cannibalizes Homeless Services to Waste Funds on New Court

The budget calls for $700,000 to fund a new poverty court in the Tenderloin that would further criminalize poor people for being homeless and force them to clean the streets for the crime of sleeping in public.

Many of the above cuts will be repealed by the Board of Supervisors. Keep up to date here!

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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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