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Letter to the Editor (Proposed Recycling Center Closures)

Hi Ken:

I live in the Mission and there is an on-line site dedicated to the neighborhood. It is called Next Door Mission Dolores. Anyway there was a lot of criticism of homeless people, especially those who sell recycled bottle and cans. There was a big push to close Safeway at Market [@Church]. Quite a few residents got on-line on this issue, all negative. I was so upset that I wrote the following on that site: Continue reading

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LGBTQ Connect

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In San Francisco, housing is the #1 unmet need of the HIV population, and the LGBT community is nearly two and a half times as likely to be homeless as the general population. The National AIDS Strategy has identified housing for people with HIV as a national priority, and, according to HUD, San Francisco ranks last in the nation in meeting the housing needs of people with HIV/AIDS.

  • According to the 2013 San Francisco Biennial Homeless Point In Time Count and Survey, which collected data on sexual orientation for the first time, nearly one-third (29%) of the San Francisco’s homeless identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
  • In July 2013, a report issued by the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force formed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Addressing The Needs of LGBT Older Adults in San Francisco, found that 40% of LGBT older adults were living in poverty, compared to 30% of the general population, that 24% needed housing assistance, and two-thirds (66%) are concerned they will not be able to remain in their homes, yet 42% of housing assistance service users feel unsafe obtaining assistance as an LGBT person.
  • The LGBT Aging Policy Task Force and the federally mandated Ryan White CARE Council have both identified an emerging crisis need for rental subsidies to keep disabled seniors in their homes when their employer-sponsored long-term disability policies expire as they reach retirement age.
  • The HUD-mandated Analysis of Impediments to Access to Fair Housing identified a need for increased access to rental assistance to remove barriers to fair housing for senior and disabled individuals.

This data supports a needs-based increased investment in culturally competent homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing services targeting the LGBT community, today.


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Study Shows High Death Disparity Among Homeless

By Healthy Living News


A new study shows that homeless individuals, especially those suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, have a death rate significantly higher and a life expectancy that is significantly shorter than those with homes. The study, recently published in the journal The Lancet, collected data on people in homeless shelters using Denmark’s nationwide homeless registry. The data consisted of 32,711 homeless people, aged 16 years and up, who where homeless between 1999 and 2009.


To determine the rate of death and life expectancy, researchers separated the homeless registry data into several groups. These included those with psychiatric disorders, those with a history of substance abuse, those with a dual diagnosis of both, and those who had no such diagnosis.

Researchers then compared their rate of death, or mortality, to that of the general population. They discovered that for those homeless, the rate of death was 6.7 times higher for women and 5.6 times higher for men. The group with substance abuse disorders had the highest mortality of any of the homeless groups, followed by those with a dual diagnosis. Information on the causes of death, when available, showed that suicide and violence accounted for more than a quarter of them.


”There was a larger disparity in life expectancy between the homeless shelter population and the general population than previous studies have found,” said study author, Dr. Sandra Nielsen.



The study also revealed that homelessness can cut short lives for those who are still young. For those homeless, age 15-24 years, their estimated life expectancy was, respectively, 21 and 17 years lower than men and women in the general population.



Regardless of age, however, Dr. Nielsen said that the death disparity confirms that homeless people living in shelters constitute a high-risk, marginalized population whose physical and mental health needs require more attention.



In an accompanying commentary in The Lancet, Professor John Geddes and Dr. Seena Fazel of Oxford University wrote that more work needs to be done to end death disparities among the homeless. That includes improved integrated psychiatric and substance abuse treatment to better address the problem.

Another concern regarding the study was its country of origin. Denmark provides free health care and a substantial social-service and housing support infrastructure. These should be helping alleviate death disparities among the homeless.



The Lancet commentary also pointed out potential cross-border differences in data. 
”International comparison of studies of homelessness,” it noted…”is made harder by the different social and housing systems between developing and more developed countries, and between small well-organized and highly socially integrated Nordic countries and larger more heterogeneous countries such as the USA.”



The commentary added that the situation is likely to be worse in countries with less well-organized welfare systems.



And fixing the death disparity problem for the homeless is now even a more daunting challenge. The crash in housing markets and the recent recession has increased homelessness in the U.S. and Europe, all while social services are being cut due to severe government financial restrictions.


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Fair Shelter Initiative Myths and Facts

Honest debate is the cornerstone of democracy;
Dishonest debate is a sinkhole

The Fair Shelter Initiative, to appear on the November 2011 ballot, would clarify that shelter beds are not considered housing under the 2002 Proposition N. This change would both maintain housing and services for homeless recipients, yet create equity in the shelter system. As this is a politically charged issue, there is a whole lot of dishonest discourse out there. Read on to find to find out the truth.

Myth:  Fair Shelter would dismantle Care Not Cash because shelter is a stepping-stone to housing.
Fact: Shelter does not have to be a stepping stone to housing – SF has a policy where people are housed right off the streets called “Housing First.” and it is done successfully by city programs like HOT team.  Under Care Not Cash, people are offered housing if it is available at their monthly appointment, not inside the shelter.

Myth: Individuals could turn down housing and choose to languish in the shelters just to collects their full welfare check.
Fact: Those who turn down offer of actual housing would continue to get their grants reduced under this proposal- just not if it is shelter.

Myth: People will come in from out of town to take advantage of the cash benefits.
Fact: The argument that people will come in from out of town has never been proven.   None of the city’s official reports support that argument.  In fact, a city study found that less then 1.3% came for services.

Myth: Money for housing will go to welfare checks instead, housing funding will siphoned off and people who are housed now will be evicted.
Fact: Funding for housing is protected in the measure. According to the Controller’s Office, the fund is set between $12 million and has reached the cap of $14 million. It can go no higher or lower. Currently it is maxed out, so very little of the money charged to homeless people for shelter goes into the fund.

Myth: Shelters will lose funding because they will no longer get funding from peoples welfare check.
Fact: No money from the welfare checks has ever gone to shelter providers.


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The Lash-back response to the Fair Shelter Initiative

On June 21st, Supervisor Jane Kim introduced the “Fair Shelter Initiative” which makes a simple change to Newsom’s Care not Cash program by removing shelter beds from the definition of housing. With the response from the city’s most powerful, you would have thought she was drowning a kitten, or lighting the Musuem of Modern Art on fire, or, I don’t know, refusing to say the pledge of allegiance. They completely freaked out, pulled out their peeners (whoops, I mean guns) and declared war.
The allegations went flying and included, among many:

  • Progressive Supervisors secretly plotted to put this on the ballot (funny, they introduced legislation at a public meeting–isn’t that always the way it goes?)
  • Progressive Supervisors put this on the ballot as a wedge issue (hmm, to draw more progressives to the polls? Is there a progressive in town that doesn’t vote in every election?)
  • The initiative will dismantle Care not Cash (I thought Care not Cash was about housing. So now they are saying the entirety of the program is shelter?)

The allegations are so long, in fact, that we have included a list of myths and facts here in the Street Sheet just to clear the air. However, I think it is worth talking about why the Coalition on Homelessness decided to pitch the initiative to Supervisors and bring it forward to voters. Why?

You see, the Coalition on Homelessness is just so misunderstood. We are not ideologues–our structure prevents that. We do outreach to homeless people, find out what they want us to fight for, and then we fight for them. This may come as a surprise to some, but our job is to actually represent poor and homeless people: the most hated, disenfranchised, patronized, and demonized group of folks in the city. You see, homelessness is where all forms of oppression intersect–racism, homophobia, fear of disability, all of that. But since it is a diverse group of people who only have in common being too poor to afford a place to live, it is somehow OK to hate them.

We have no political aspirations, we are not political appointees, and we are not seeking to increase any Poverty Pimp contracts held with the City. We simply sacrifice and work hard because we truly believe that every human being has the right to housing, the right to food and economic security, and will thrive if given the opportunity.

Now that the hidden agenda and mischevious motives have been dispensed with, you are probably wondering what this “disturbing the peace in city hall” initiative is all about.

We have been doing extensive outreach to shelter residents and shelter seekers for years and the same issue comes up over and over. There is mass inequity in the shelter system where 7% of the homeless population (adults on county assistance) get 41% of the beds. The rest of the folks–people with disabilities, seniors, working people, undocumented folks, individuals collecting unemployment–must compete for the remaining beds. They start at 3:00 am and go on until 10:00 at night, perhaps (if they’re “lucky”) getting a bed for one night and having to start the process all over again the next day.

Let me break it down for you. Let’s take Sue ZeeQue. She became homeless after losing work. Like most of us, she was “just a paycheck away” from being homeless. She didn’t have any family or a trust fund to fall back on and when her unemployment ran out she went to the city for some help and signed up for public assistance. As she was homeless, the welfare office offered her a shelter bed. It would not have mattered if she took it or not–once it was offered, her cash assistance was reduced by 85%. She may languish in the shelter for months or years before they offer her any real housing, trying humbly to feed herself on two dollars a day without cooking facilities or a fridge.

Meanwhile, Laura Jean has been seeking shelter, starting early each day–pushing her walker across town, trying not to stop and cry. After 8 grueling days, she finally gets a shelter bed, and to her dismay she notices a bunch of empty beds. She asks some questions and discovers Care not Cash is to blame–the inequity locks elders like her out–the empty beds are due to the fact that when county welfare recipients don’t use the bed it is not released but for one night, and late at night. The drill is go to Glide in the Tenderloin at 3:00 am, go to MSC-South at 5th and Bryant at 9:00. Get a wristband at 11:00 am. Come back at 5:00. Wait some more until beds are released at 7:00 pm. Wait some more until 10:00 when the last of the beds are released. Laura Jean was tired.

If the Fair Shelter Initiative passes, Sue ZeeQue would get her full grant until she was offered real housing. Sue ZeeQue could still get shelter, but she would be on equal footing with Laura Jean. With the full grant, her hunger will be alleviated, and the city would be pressured to offer her some housing more quickly. Laura Jean will more likely get a long term bed until housing is available, given that she is elderly and at risk.

The beauty of all of this is that the housing funding under Care Not Cash would be protected. The fund is set at the 2002 expenditure level (what they were spending on cash assistance to homeless people at the time.) It is paying for the housing and will continue to pay for the housing if Fair Shelter passes.

In the end, fair shelter will protect the housing funds, while creating equity in the shelter system.

As for the opposition…why are they freaking out so much? Well, beyond it being viewed as an absolute sin for poor homeless folks to have a little income, it is shaking the tree of absolute truth that has been created in the media: that everything is being done for homeless people, and that those who are still homeless have simply chosen to be homeless, and that Care not Cash is an amazing cure all for anyone who ever wants to get elected.

Back here at the Coalition, well, we are just trying to improve the lives of destitute San Franciscans, and nobody seems to like that. Oh yeah, except the formerly homeless who now have a shot at not dying in the street.


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Idriss Stelley Foundation, No More Stolen Lives!

The Idriss Stelley Foundation (ISF) is a nonprofit organization created through the wrongful death settlement of the Irizarry vs. SF City & County and SFPD case, and its allocation to his mother Mesha Monge-Irizarry. Her only child, a 23 year old African American honor student, was killed by SFPD at the SF Sony Metreon Complex on June 12, 2001. Forty-eight shots were fired by nine officers, as “Brother E” stood alone, in an emptied movie theater, while experiencing a mental health crisis. Idriss Stelley’s case is at the root of the 40-hour mandatory SFPD Mental Health Training, ratified in SF in March 2002, and of the SF Police reform (Prop H, restructuring of the SF Police Commission), that won by a substantial margin on the November SF ballot of 2004, in spite of the SF Police Officer’s Association opposition and their exhorbitant financial backing to defeat the proposition.

Mesha opened the Idriss Stelley Action Resource Center in May of 2008. It is located in the heart of the SF Mission district, in Suite #209 of the Redstone Building at 2940 16th Street (corner of Capp Street, half a block east from 16th Street BART Station). ISF provides free, confidential services to biological and extended families whose loved ones have been disabled or killed by law enforcement, to survivors of police misconduct, and to social/racial justice activists, both locally and nationwide. For an appointment, please call (415) 595-8251.

ISF has published regular social and racial justice articles in the SF Bay View National Black Newspaper–at no cost to the editor–since 2001. ISF hosted its own radio station in Bayview, “SF Village Voice,” until February 2008, as well as hosting weekly shows on BVHP Community Radio and Enemy Combatant Radio at Indybay. Among other social justice events, ISF has hosted “Shape Up or Ship Out SFPD” in the SF Bayview District and “Bang4Change Civil Rights Revival 2006 Fest” in front of SF City Hall that drew over 1000 attendees.

ISF gave a presentation at the Oakland Peoples’ Tribunal earlier this year (for the second year in a row) and presented two seminars at the last Critical Resistance National Conference in Oakland, as well as at the first National Copwatch Conference in 2009, also in Oakland. For 3 years while still based in the SF Bayview District, ISF hosted the African American Community Policing Relations Executive Board, and the Bayview Campaign to End the Death Penalty.Since ISF opened its doors in August 2002, the agency has provided services to over 6,000 individuals and families in the Greater Bay Area, and across the nation. ISF is a work ally of the Copwatch national movement, of the Bay Area Police Accountability Coalition, and of Black Cops Against Police Brutality. Recently, ISF helped organize the “End Police Terror against the Disabled” in San Francisco on MLK Day 2011. ISF is also actively involved in the movements to repeal San Francisco’s Sit/Lie Ordinance, and is on the task force opposing a Taser contract for SFPD.

ISF moderates over 160 yahoogroups for individuals and families impacted by police violence to grow their support and help organize and host their grassroots justice rallies and protests.

Low cost professional Spanish-French-English translation services are offered on a sliding scale, which is often ISF’s only source of income to cover office rent and client services. Sliding scale interpersonal relations mediation is also available, as well as peer couples’ counseling, one on one and family counseling, harm reduction counseling, a Victory Over Violence support group, Targeted Individuals Empowering Collective for victims and survivors of electronic torture and gang stalking, Know Your Rights interactive workshops, and seminars on cultural awareness, grassroots organizational behaviors, and strategical planning, Private mediations between police captains and city residents (when they do not wish for a lengthy legal process) can be facilitated until apologies or a satifactory compromise is reached and staff are available to accompany family members to court proceedings for emotional support. These services are free or low cost, depending on the agencies or individuals respective budgets (ISF conducted such 2-day seminars for Code Pink, Global Exchange, Labor Against The War, and Third Baptist Church.) ISF also set up the organizational structure of FORWARD (and serves on its advisory board) direct services for Fanilies of Parolees, which has met monthly since October 2008 at ISF office.

ISF’s founder, Mesha Monge-Irizarry, has been a City Commissioner since September 2008 on  the Marijuana Offenses Overview Committee (monitoring and enforcing the Lowest Priority Ordinance on cannabis offenses), and the Co-Chair of Black & Brown Just Drug Policies Coalition with Greg Ledbetter of Axis of Love. Mesha is also the Co-Director of SF Education Not Incarceration with Jeremy Miller, sister agency of ISF, which shares their office space. Mesha serves as a member of the Speaker Bureau of the SF Mental Health Association, which offers keynote speakers to educate professionals and community groups on the day to day realities of mental illness, and the road to recovery within competent cultural norms.

In time of a crunch, on short notice, ISF can accommodate other task forces for their meetings in the afternom ot evening, at no cost, for a maximum capacity 20 people, with refreshments and snacks provided. Pro bono civil rights attorney referrals and high school internships are available. Mesha is even willing to give basic internet training and resume writing assistance.

In Mama Mesha’s own words: “This is what my son Idriss would like me to do…He has not died in vain. Although it is not about him any longer per se, it is about the struggle to End the War against the Poor, Black & Brown! I am not anti-cop, but pro law enforcement transparency and accountability, and community safekeeping, through Serving and Protecting EACH OTHER…NO MORE STOLEN LIVES! Ain’t No Power like DA Power of the People cuz the Power of the People won’t stop!”


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The Headlines That Weren’t

Gentle Reader, allow me to entertain you with a story:

Once upon a time, a child was hired to tend to a flock of sheep in the dell outside a bucolic village. As the cock crowed each morning, she drove the sheep out of their pen, down the hamlet’s main street, across the bridge, through the grove, over the hill, and into the dell. But as she passed through the village gate every morning, she counted the townsfolk’s flock: One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, four sheep, five sheep, six sheep, seven sheep… sleep.

And so she would slumber until the dairymaids stirred to tend to their herds, and the beerwenches rose to open the tavern for the security guards coming off graveyard shift, the code monkeys who kept odd Mountain Dew-fueled hours, and the chronic inebriates who were rumored to be many and costly to the village’s Europinko healthcare system. Then, the little child would run across the bridge, through the grove, over the hill, and into the dell to catch up with her flock.
And the same would happen on her return every evening as the sky blushed and the green grove greyed: One sheep, two sheep, three sheep… sleep. Until she was awakened by the cling-clang of the milchherd’s approaching bells, and she scurried up the hill, through the grove, and across the bridge to catch up with her flock.

Until one morning, upon reaching the dell, she surveyed her flock and found one sheep to be missing. “Alas! O, woe! What ever shall I do?” And so she thought for five seconds before deciding. “A wolf!” she cried. “A wolf has come and seized one of our flock!” Her little exclamation echoed through the chamber of the dell, over the hill, through the grove, across the bridge, down the main street, and into the ear of the snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier. “A wolf!” he cried! “A wolf!” he hued. “Our wee hamlet’s flock is being devoured by a wolf!”

And so the townspeople gathered pitchfork and torch and hurried off to put down the beast: Across the bridge they ran, through the grove (slowly, keeping an eye to the ground for the dirty needles that were rumored to litter the forest floor), over the hill, and into the dell, where the lachrymose lass jumped to her feet (not wishing to be caught violating the townsfolk’s strict prohibition on sitting) and waved her crook in the air. “Alas! O, woe! A wolf has come and devoured one of the flock! This is pretty obviously not my fault!”

“Was it red or grey?” asked the townsfolk. “Yes!” cried the little girl. “Did it run east or west?” they asked. “Probably!” she cried. “Did it eat the sheep here or run off with it, still bleating and alive?” they asked her. “Don’t you think that Ed Lee should run for burghermeister?” she replied. “Oh, yes!” concurred an anonymous townsperson.

At this point, a little boy stepped forward. “Pardon me, little girl, but are you certain it was a wolf?” “A wolf!” cried the little girl, looking intently at the snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier. “Wolf wolf wolf! Wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf!” “I only ask,” continued the little boy, “because we live on the coast, and no wolves have been seen in this state since approximately 1900, and that was in the Sierras.” “Wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf!” cried the shepherdess to the snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier, and the townsfolk nodded in agreement.

The snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier turned to the lad with a contemptuous scowl. “If it wasn’t a wolf, little boy, how do you explain the disappearance of the sheep?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” the little boy replied. “But the current explanation seems statistically and ecosystemically improbable, and the story doesn’t quite add up. Perhaps a little more thorough consideration would behoove us.” “Wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf!” cried the little shepherdess. The snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier sneered at the little lad and turned to Bo Peep. “This is a far more interesting story,” he concluded, and all the townsfolk agreed.

And that, gentle reader, is why we’re not going to tell you that the 2011 Biennial Homeless Count is statistically fatally flawed and demographically meaningless, and that we are doomed *never* to have a decent count until being homeless ceases to be a crime and the City government actively and humanly engages homeless people as equal and worthy neighbors in our city. We’ve been telling that story for almost two decades, and it seems that San Francisco media just doesn’t want to hear it. (Not *you*, Gentle Reader: You have always inspected our graphs and appreciated our statistical analyses with the utmost attentiveness and grace.)

So, instead, we’re telling you the stories that the snarky gossip-columnists who pretend to be journalists *could* have told you instead, using the exact same data.
[END SIDEBAR]

Every two years, the Federal governments Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires each geographical region that receives Federal funding for homeless services to conduct a point-in-time count of its outdoor and institutional homeless populations. Every two years, the mainstream press reports roughly the same story: (Now former) Mayor Gavin Newsom’s approach to solving homelessness would be working, if it weren’t for all those pesky outsiders coming into San Francisco! This narrative, in fact, could never be substantiated by the Count itself, and has actually been contradicted by the last three Counts. While we have always had extreme doubts about the validity of the Count (see side bar), this year we’re going to highlight seven important stories that the mainstream press is ignoring from the exact same data:

FAMILY STREET HOMELESSNESS QUADRUPLES IN TWO YEARS
According to the 2011 Homeless Count, street homelessness among families has increased by 280%, nearly quadrupling since 2009. Family homeless shelters confirm that waitlists for shelter access have increased severalfold since the beginning of the Great Recession and its concomitant increase in joblessness.

While homeless families comprised about 8.4% of the overall homeless population in 2009, they are 9.8% of the homeless population in 2011 (including both people living on the street and people living in homeless shelters and other institutions). While the overall homeless population has declined by 0.9%, the population of homeless families has increased by 15.7%. “This puts to lie the canard that homeless people are by and large bushy-bearded single men with shopping carts,” said homeless advocate Miguel Carrera. “We are in fact many communities, and we represent all the diversity of the population at large, from bushy-bearded seniors to toddlers in diapers.”

BLACK PEOPLE SIX TIMES AS LIKELY TO BE HOMELESS
According to recent enumerations, Black people now comprise 38.5% of the total homeless population of San Francisco, while they only comprise 5.8% of the city’s population as a whole. While homelessness has decreased by a little under 1% according to the 2011 Homeless Count, and the Black population of San Francisco has decreased by 22.6% according to the 2010 Census, the Black homeless population has grown by 10% in absolute terms, and by over 11% as a portion of the homeless population.
“This puts to lie the canard that we live in a post-racial society,” said activist Mesha Monge Irizarry. “Homelessness is very much a racial justice issue.”

80% OF SAN FRANCISCANS CAN’T GET SHELTER WHEN THEY NEED IT
The latest Homeless Count has found that the great majority of homeless San Franciscans seeking shelter are unable to actually obtain a shelter bed. Advocates say that difficulty in obtaining a shelter bed increased under the Newsom mayoral administration, when San Francisco lost nearly a third of its City-funded shelter beds to budget cuts. “This puts to lie the canard that the 85 to 100 shelter beds left empty every night were an indication of lack of demand,” said Shelter Advocate LJ Cirilo. “The demand was there, but the beds were apparently unavailable.”

THREE QUARTERS OF HOMELESS SAN FRANCISCANS WERE HOUSED SAN FRANCISCANS, FIRST
Most Had Lived Here for More than Five Years
According to the latest official count of homeless people in San Francisco, the great majority of homeless people in San Francisco were not homeless when they arrived here. In fact, 40.3% had been San Francisco residents for a decade or more before becoming homeless, while an additional 15.8% had lived here for five years or more before losing their housing. In comparison, 61.1% of all San Franciscans immigrated here from outside of California. “This puts to lie the canard that homeless people are outsiders who come here for our amazing array of social services,” said homeless advocate Jenise Standfield. “Most people in our community were San Franciscans long before they became homeless. Those who do come here come here for the same reasons that everyone else does: For employment, for tolerance, for relationships, and for all the aspects of our city that make San Francisco the amazing, beautiful, diverse city that it is. We’re San Franciscans: Not parasites.”

ONLY 2% OF HOMELESS PEOPLE COME TO SAN FRANCISCO FOR SERVICES
Most Don’t Access Emergency Room Services
According to the latest count of homeless people in San Francisco, only 2.3% of homeless people in San Francisco came here for homeless services. 76.9% of homeless people do not engage in County-administered government assistance, 53.4% do not access City-funded shelters, and 52.4% have never been to the emergency room in the past year; 61% usually do not use the emergency room for healthcare. “This puts to lie the canard that all homeless people are a great drain on the public coffers,” said homeless advocate Jesus Perez. “The great majority of homeless people don’t even access City-funded services.”

HALF OF ALL PANHANDLERS MAKE LESS THAN $50 PER MONTH
According to the 2011 Homeless Count, 50.6% of all panhandlers in San Francisco make $50 per month or less. Only 7.7% make $10 per day or more.
“This puts to lie the canard that panhandling is a stupendously lucrative scam,” said homeless advocate Bob Offer-Westort. “The urban legend that panhandlers make hundreds of dollars per day through alms-begging is just that: a legend. It’s got as much truth as the notion that Alka-Seltzer makes seagulls explode or that witches can’t sink.” We contacted Bayer AG for confirmation of Alka-Seltzer’s gull non-incendiary properties, but have received no comment at press time. Members of the San Francisco Wiccan Meetup confirm that witches are similarly buoyant to everyone else.

MAJORITY OF HOMELESS PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE ADDICTIVE DISORDERS OR MENTAL ILLNESSES
The 2011 Homeless Count reports that 69% of homeless people do not abuse addictive substances, while 72.4% of homeless people have no mental illness. According to National Institute of Mental Health statistics, 26.2% of US adults have a mental illness in any given year: a number comparable to the 27.6% of homeless people who have a mental illness.
“This puts to lie the canard that mental illness and homelessness are somehow one and the same,” said homeless advocate Jennifer Friedenbach. “Mental illness is especially difficult for homeless people, who do not have the stability that housed people can depend on, and who are disproportionately criminalized for mental illness. However, the real cause of homelessness is poverty.”


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The Headlines That Weren't

Gentle Reader, allow me to entertain you with a story:

Once upon a time, a child was hired to tend to a flock of sheep in the dell outside a bucolic village. As the cock crowed each morning, she drove the sheep out of their pen, down the hamlet’s main street, across the bridge, through the grove, over the hill, and into the dell. But as she passed through the village gate every morning, she counted the townsfolk’s flock: One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, four sheep, five sheep, six sheep, seven sheep… sleep.

And so she would slumber until the dairymaids stirred to tend to their herds, and the beerwenches rose to open the tavern for the security guards coming off graveyard shift, the code monkeys who kept odd Mountain Dew-fueled hours, and the chronic inebriates who were rumored to be many and costly to the village’s Europinko healthcare system. Then, the little child would run across the bridge, through the grove, over the hill, and into the dell to catch up with her flock.
And the same would happen on her return every evening as the sky blushed and the green grove greyed: One sheep, two sheep, three sheep… sleep. Until she was awakened by the cling-clang of the milchherd’s approaching bells, and she scurried up the hill, through the grove, and across the bridge to catch up with her flock.

Until one morning, upon reaching the dell, she surveyed her flock and found one sheep to be missing. “Alas! O, woe! What ever shall I do?” And so she thought for five seconds before deciding. “A wolf!” she cried. “A wolf has come and seized one of our flock!” Her little exclamation echoed through the chamber of the dell, over the hill, through the grove, across the bridge, down the main street, and into the ear of the snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier. “A wolf!” he cried! “A wolf!” he hued. “Our wee hamlet’s flock is being devoured by a wolf!”

And so the townspeople gathered pitchfork and torch and hurried off to put down the beast: Across the bridge they ran, through the grove (slowly, keeping an eye to the ground for the dirty needles that were rumored to litter the forest floor), over the hill, and into the dell, where the lachrymose lass jumped to her feet (not wishing to be caught violating the townsfolk’s strict prohibition on sitting) and waved her crook in the air. “Alas! O, woe! A wolf has come and devoured one of the flock! This is pretty obviously not my fault!”

“Was it red or grey?” asked the townsfolk. “Yes!” cried the little girl. “Did it run east or west?” they asked. “Probably!” she cried. “Did it eat the sheep here or run off with it, still bleating and alive?” they asked her. “Don’t you think that Ed Lee should run for burghermeister?” she replied. “Oh, yes!” concurred an anonymous townsperson.

At this point, a little boy stepped forward. “Pardon me, little girl, but are you certain it was a wolf?” “A wolf!” cried the little girl, looking intently at the snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier. “Wolf wolf wolf! Wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf!” “I only ask,” continued the little boy, “because we live on the coast, and no wolves have been seen in this state since approximately 1900, and that was in the Sierras.” “Wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf!” cried the shepherdess to the snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier, and the townsfolk nodded in agreement.

The snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier turned to the lad with a contemptuous scowl. “If it wasn’t a wolf, little boy, how do you explain the disappearance of the sheep?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” the little boy replied. “But the current explanation seems statistically and ecosystemically improbable, and the story doesn’t quite add up. Perhaps a little more thorough consideration would behoove us.” “Wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf wolf!” cried the little shepherdess. The snarky gossip columnist who called himself the town crier sneered at the little lad and turned to Bo Peep. “This is a far more interesting story,” he concluded, and all the townsfolk agreed.

And that, gentle reader, is why we’re not going to tell you that the 2011 Biennial Homeless Count is statistically fatally flawed and demographically meaningless, and that we are doomed *never* to have a decent count until being homeless ceases to be a crime and the City government actively and humanly engages homeless people as equal and worthy neighbors in our city. We’ve been telling that story for almost two decades, and it seems that San Francisco media just doesn’t want to hear it. (Not *you*, Gentle Reader: You have always inspected our graphs and appreciated our statistical analyses with the utmost attentiveness and grace.)

So, instead, we’re telling you the stories that the snarky gossip-columnists who pretend to be journalists *could* have told you instead, using the exact same data.
[END SIDEBAR]

Every two years, the Federal governments Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires each geographical region that receives Federal funding for homeless services to conduct a point-in-time count of its outdoor and institutional homeless populations. Every two years, the mainstream press reports roughly the same story: (Now former) Mayor Gavin Newsom’s approach to solving homelessness would be working, if it weren’t for all those pesky outsiders coming into San Francisco! This narrative, in fact, could never be substantiated by the Count itself, and has actually been contradicted by the last three Counts. While we have always had extreme doubts about the validity of the Count (see side bar), this year we’re going to highlight seven important stories that the mainstream press is ignoring from the exact same data:

FAMILY STREET HOMELESSNESS QUADRUPLES IN TWO YEARS
According to the 2011 Homeless Count, street homelessness among families has increased by 280%, nearly quadrupling since 2009. Family homeless shelters confirm that waitlists for shelter access have increased severalfold since the beginning of the Great Recession and its concomitant increase in joblessness.

While homeless families comprised about 8.4% of the overall homeless population in 2009, they are 9.8% of the homeless population in 2011 (including both people living on the street and people living in homeless shelters and other institutions). While the overall homeless population has declined by 0.9%, the population of homeless families has increased by 15.7%. “This puts to lie the canard that homeless people are by and large bushy-bearded single men with shopping carts,” said homeless advocate Miguel Carrera. “We are in fact many communities, and we represent all the diversity of the population at large, from bushy-bearded seniors to toddlers in diapers.”

BLACK PEOPLE SIX TIMES AS LIKELY TO BE HOMELESS
According to recent enumerations, Black people now comprise 38.5% of the total homeless population of San Francisco, while they only comprise 5.8% of the city’s population as a whole. While homelessness has decreased by a little under 1% according to the 2011 Homeless Count, and the Black population of San Francisco has decreased by 22.6% according to the 2010 Census, the Black homeless population has grown by 10% in absolute terms, and by over 11% as a portion of the homeless population.
“This puts to lie the canard that we live in a post-racial society,” said activist Mesha Monge Irizarry. “Homelessness is very much a racial justice issue.”

80% OF SAN FRANCISCANS CAN’T GET SHELTER WHEN THEY NEED IT
The latest Homeless Count has found that the great majority of homeless San Franciscans seeking shelter are unable to actually obtain a shelter bed. Advocates say that difficulty in obtaining a shelter bed increased under the Newsom mayoral administration, when San Francisco lost nearly a third of its City-funded shelter beds to budget cuts. “This puts to lie the canard that the 85 to 100 shelter beds left empty every night were an indication of lack of demand,” said Shelter Advocate LJ Cirilo. “The demand was there, but the beds were apparently unavailable.”

THREE QUARTERS OF HOMELESS SAN FRANCISCANS WERE HOUSED SAN FRANCISCANS, FIRST
Most Had Lived Here for More than Five Years
According to the latest official count of homeless people in San Francisco, the great majority of homeless people in San Francisco were not homeless when they arrived here. In fact, 40.3% had been San Francisco residents for a decade or more before becoming homeless, while an additional 15.8% had lived here for five years or more before losing their housing. In comparison, 61.1% of all San Franciscans immigrated here from outside of California. “This puts to lie the canard that homeless people are outsiders who come here for our amazing array of social services,” said homeless advocate Jenise Standfield. “Most people in our community were San Franciscans long before they became homeless. Those who do come here come here for the same reasons that everyone else does: For employment, for tolerance, for relationships, and for all the aspects of our city that make San Francisco the amazing, beautiful, diverse city that it is. We’re San Franciscans: Not parasites.”

ONLY 2% OF HOMELESS PEOPLE COME TO SAN FRANCISCO FOR SERVICES
Most Don’t Access Emergency Room Services
According to the latest count of homeless people in San Francisco, only 2.3% of homeless people in San Francisco came here for homeless services. 76.9% of homeless people do not engage in County-administered government assistance, 53.4% do not access City-funded shelters, and 52.4% have never been to the emergency room in the past year; 61% usually do not use the emergency room for healthcare. “This puts to lie the canard that all homeless people are a great drain on the public coffers,” said homeless advocate Jesus Perez. “The great majority of homeless people don’t even access City-funded services.”

HALF OF ALL PANHANDLERS MAKE LESS THAN $50 PER MONTH
According to the 2011 Homeless Count, 50.6% of all panhandlers in San Francisco make $50 per month or less. Only 7.7% make $10 per day or more.
“This puts to lie the canard that panhandling is a stupendously lucrative scam,” said homeless advocate Bob Offer-Westort. “The urban legend that panhandlers make hundreds of dollars per day through alms-begging is just that: a legend. It’s got as much truth as the notion that Alka-Seltzer makes seagulls explode or that witches can’t sink.” We contacted Bayer AG for confirmation of Alka-Seltzer’s gull non-incendiary properties, but have received no comment at press time. Members of the San Francisco Wiccan Meetup confirm that witches are similarly buoyant to everyone else.

MAJORITY OF HOMELESS PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE ADDICTIVE DISORDERS OR MENTAL ILLNESSES
The 2011 Homeless Count reports that 69% of homeless people do not abuse addictive substances, while 72.4% of homeless people have no mental illness. According to National Institute of Mental Health statistics, 26.2% of US adults have a mental illness in any given year: a number comparable to the 27.6% of homeless people who have a mental illness.
“This puts to lie the canard that mental illness and homelessness are somehow one and the same,” said homeless advocate Jennifer Friedenbach. “Mental illness is especially difficult for homeless people, who do not have the stability that housed people can depend on, and who are disproportionately criminalized for mental illness. However, the real cause of homelessness is poverty.”


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Right 2a Roof Open Call to Community

RIGHTS 2A ROOF OPEN CALL

By L.J. Cirilo

Are you homeless, formerly homeless, ever resided in a shelter in San Francisco, or just plain disgusted by our city’s lack of affordable housing? Have you ever been mistreated or discriminated against while residing in a shelter, or been denied services from a shelter, know someone who has, or have a disability and been denied an accommodation? Then WE WANT YOU! Come to the Rights 2a Roof workgroup and join us in our struggle to demand better treatment, improve the shelter system, and force our law makers to make the creation of more affordable housing for all homeless a priority! We, the members of Right 2a Roof, have fought long and hard and have won many battles with the City of San Francisco and will continue to do so until every single man, woman and child living outside, in a car or doubled up in someone else’s garage or SRO, are provided permanent affordable housing! This is a human right and we demand our government to recognize the plight of the poor and say, “This is unacceptable!” No one should ever have to sleep outside, on a cold and wet concrete slab, under a bridge, or in a tent city just because they are poor and cannot afford the exorbitant rent in San Francisco. We as a community cannot and should not accept this. We at the Coalition on Homeless do not accept this. Currently, several homeless services are on the chopping block in an effort to balance this year’s budget. We at Right 2a Roof say “No more cuts! We have no bone marrow for you!”

Over the past several years Rights 2a Roof has successfully created 32 standards of care for all city funded shelters, passed legislation to halt the runaround by lengthening shelter stays, and we also recently won a lawsuit that led to greatly improved access and conditions for people with disabilities. We worked hard to pass the Shelter Monitoring Committee legislation which now ensures that each city funded shelter is inspected and that the conditions of the shelters are tracked, which has succeeded in exposing and correcting countless problems within the shelter system.

However, our work is not done. Currently we are working on ending the biometric imaging that makes it mandatory for all shelter seekers to have their picture taken, along with thumbprint imaging just to get a bed to sleep in. We are also going to the ballot this November to seek the removal of shelter from the definition of housing for Care Not Cash recipients, and to have a more equitable bed ratio for people who are not on the Care Not Cash program, thus decreasing the amount of time someone must stand in line to get a shelter bed. We are also conducting a housing survey to gain valuable information from those that are currently homeless, in order to shed light on the many obstacles which prevent people from accessing real affordable low-income and permanent housing. We at Rights 2a Roof are a dedicated group of homeless and formerly homeless folks who are working hard to ensure a safe and welcoming shelter system for homeless individuals and families where human, disability and civil rights are up held, where respectful staffing reflects the diversity of the community served and where there is accountability to the standards of care. We need your help – Come join the struggle!

We meet every Wednesday from noon to 2:00pm at the Coalition on Homelessness, 468 Turk St. For more information go to our website: http://www.cohsf.org or contact Right 2a Roof at (415)346-3740


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A Message from the Chair of the Shelter Monitoring Committee

A Message from the Chair…
By L.J. Cirilo

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and personally invite my fellow d6 neighbors, anyone currently or formerly residing in a city funded shelter, all shelter service providers and stakeholders, along with any other concerned community members who may be interested in learning more about the conditions homeless people are facing in the current shelter system and the overall work of the Committee, to attend the next public meeting of the Shelter Monitoring Committee.

We will be discussing some very important topics such as the 2011-2012 Budget as it relates to homeless services, I will be presenting a draft budget letter for the full Committee’s approval, as well as the presentation of the Jan-Feb-March 2011 Quarterly Report. To find a full agenda for May’s meeting and more about the SMC please go to: http://www.sfgov3.org/index.aspx?page=2779

Mission Statement
The Shelter Monitoring Committee is an independent vehicle charged with documenting the conditions of shelters and resource centers to improve the health, safety, and treatment of residents, clients, staff, and the homeless community. The Committee’s mission is to undertake this work recognizing individual human rights and promoting a universal standard of care for shelters and resource centers in the City and County of San Francisco.