Shelter residents and advocates have been working closely with the Mayor’s office for over a year to comprehensively address the nightmare that is the San Francisco shelter system. The joint group, called the Shelter Access Workgroup (SAW), has engaged in a series of focus groups inside the shelters to collect information, ideas, and solutions to address the run around reservation system and the notoriously decrepit conditions inside the shelters. While the process around the reservation system appears to be moving forward, the process to address the deteriorating conditions is going to face devastating road blocks – most of them in the funding department.
Volunteers from the Coalition On Homelessness compiled the responses from the over 175 residents (13% of the current shelter population) who participated in the round two focus groups. The responses exposed the sanitation and accessibility problems that are rampant while also addressing concrete solutions an ideas for improving these long standing problems. In addition, needs for increased staff training and overall staffing resources were also identified as problems that intersect almost all aspects of shelter life. All of the solutions attached to these problems require sincere commitment from the city as well as hard cash and funding to ensure that problems are comprehensively addressed for the long term.
In addition to this, and contrary to public discourse, 161 participants out of the 175 (92%) identified that their main goal and desire at the end of their shelter stay is permanent housing. Anti-homeless politicians and elected officials would like the general public to believe that homeless people are happily languishing in our city’s shelters with little motivation to find permanent housing. The truth is is that the vast majority of shelter residents would happily move on if they had permanent housing to move onto. Most housed San Franciscans can attest to the lack of affordable housing in our city as well as the high level of competition that exists for the available housing. This is doubly challenging for someone who is experiencing homelessness or attempting to break a long cycle of homelessness.
What will it take for San Francisco to have accessible, affordable housing to support the basic rights we all have to sleeping? What will it take to end the deplorable conditions that face our city’s most vulnerable communities?
We here at the Coalition On Homelessness have been standing with and among homeless people demanding affirming, permanent housing for all! We are encouraged by the resilience and brilliance of the people living in our city’s shelters and are committed to elevating their voices and demands for dignity. As the city prepares to respond to these impending issues, it will be a matter of matching the money with the demands. We need our elected leaders to make the hard and difficult financial decisions to prioritize human rights over corporate rights. We need our elected leaders to take a stand with humanity and the human right for dignified housing. And we need you, citizens of San Francisco, to stand with us and demand permanent housing for all!