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Trent Rhorer Lies to Rules Committee

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The Fair Shelter Initiative was set to go on the ballot in November, 2011, but after intense bullying from the Mayor’s Office, it was pulled off the ballot by members of the Board of Supervisors.
Trent Rhorer, Executive Director of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency was the main architect of Care Not Cash, the measure that “Fair Shelter” attempted to change by removing “shelter” from the definition of housing. Mr. Rhorer may be renowned inside city hall for his false statements and truth stretching, but for many long time veterans of the anti-poverty struggle, he reached all time highs with his lies around the fair shelter initiative. You will note that he uses a combination of half-truths, missing information, and outright misstatements to save his reputation.
 
BIG LIE # 1:  “Alameda County’s General Assistance is $25, and San Mateo County is $59. If Fair Shelter passes, homeless people from surrounding counties would flock to SF because their benefits are less generous than ours.”  He stated this both at a Rules Committee at City Hall (July 13, 2011), and when called out on it during a radio debate on NPR, Trent insisted it was true.  This was used to justify the continuance of paltry public assistance payments in SF to homeless people. 
 
Hmmmm.  According to the said counties’ ordinances, officials inside the counties and attorneys working on cases there?  Way off.  For example, San Mateo County is $338, and while they get $58 in cash, unlike SF, you do get the rest of the grant for rent, food, etc. You can also save the grant in an escrow for first/last, and security deposit up to an unlimited amount. SF has by far the most restrictive grant in the area. For example, Marin County gives $387 in cash, but folks are not flocking there.
 
BIG LIE #2:  “Care Not Cash recipients are the same as Disability recipients.”
 
Slight problem with this statement.  You cannot qualify for Care Not Cash if you receive disability payments.  In other words, once you qualify for disability, you leave county welfare. 
 
BIG LIE #3:  For years, Trent’s Department has insisted that they “cannot track which vacant shelter beds are attributed to Care not Cash set-asides.” This has been in writing, in response to FOIA requests.
 
Surprise!  Suddenly during the hearing Trent reported just that.  Interestingly enough, he quoted stats from a shelter that has no Care Not Cash beds on the two nights that the T train going out there wasn’t running all the way.  Of course on these nights there was only 5–7 vacant Care not Cash beds. 
 
What he never bothers mentioning is how many of the one night beds given out are unused Care not Cash beds, which is the real problem. The vacant beds are a slight problem when folks are getting turned away daily, but the one-night beds are what create the problems for people with disabilities having to return each day for the long shelter shuffle.
 
BIG LIE #4:  Mr. Rhorer quoted the Controller as stating that the cost of the program is $1.4 million.  What he didn’t say is that this is not a new expenditure.  Sure it is taken from checks, but it is used elsewhere and counts as an expenditure on the books.
 
BIG LIE #5: Mr. Rhorer claims “shelter beds are an entitlement under Care Not Cash.”
 
If you read the ordinance, it does not guarantee beds for everyone.  In fact, there have been times when no shelter beds were available that they continued to pay out cash to homeless people.  In surrounding counties that have adopted similar measures, they do not guarantee shelter beds. 
 
BIG LIE #6:  At the same hearing, Mr. Rhorer claimed that under the proposed Fair Shelter Initiative, an individual’s GA grant could not be reduced if someone declined an offer of housing.
 
Slight problem with this theory.  IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.  Currently, grants are reduced when services or housing are offered.  Under the definition of housing, shelter is included.  The Fair Shelter Initiative would have simply removed the word “shelter” from the definition of housing.

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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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