Thursday, December 1, 2016

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Trump election raises housing, homelessness concerns
Published 12/01/2016 

Federal funds for homelessness and housing programs could dry up under a Trump administration, leaving city officials scrambling to determine how the services can be maintained if President-elect Donald Trump follows through on promises he's made to deport undocumented immigrants and penalize sanctuary cities like San Francisco.

The city could lose as much as $1 billion per year in federal funding, leaving advocates concerned about where that shortfall would be made up and about how housing services would be provided to the homeless, seniors, immigrants, and others.

Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors have reaffirmed San Francisco's sanctuary city status, and Lee said at a unity rally after the election that San Francisco would remain a welcoming place for all, including LGBT people, people of color, and all religious faiths.

Earlier this month, Brian Cheu, director of community development for the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development, held a forum to assess the housing needs of the homeless, senior, and LGBTQ communities. Also mentioned was how programs could continue being funded should the city lose its federal funding during a Trump administration.

"Currently our department was asked to provide a summary of our current federal dollars and what it supports so that the mayor could better understand how a cut to our federal funding would affect our department," Cheu said at the November 17 meeting. "The mayor will look at available funding sources to see how the general fund and other sources would be used to maximize the availability of existing services and avoid losing valuable community resources."

Cheu also said that it was too early in the budgeting process for the city to finalize strategies should certain significant funding streams be eliminated.

Around 100 people attended the forum at the Castro Senior Center inside Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church at 110 Diamond Street. The meeting was divided into three groups. Elena Chavez Quezada, senior program officer for the Walter and Elise Hass Fund, led the homeless discussion. Clinton Loftman, who also works with the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development, facilitated the senior housing discussion. The HIV and housing discussion was led by Pastor Megan Rohrer of Grace Lutheran Church.

Andrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District and Tommi Avicolli Mecca of the Housing Rights Committee both participated in the homeless discussion. Aiello addressed the Castro Cares programs, which puts community monitors out onto the streets of the neighborhood to help lead them to the services they need.

"Homeless outreach is about getting to know people," she said. "How can that happen when monitors are out there for two hours every six months? While we've touched a lot of people there's a gap. Something is missing. We're not quite providing what the people need."

Avicolli Mecca said people need to fight evictions and see that more housing is built.

"We need to decriminalize homelessness – we need to involve homeless folks in the discussion. Why is there no shelter in the Castro? Our community has a homelessness crisis," he said.

One homeless man who declined to give his name spoke up during the discussion. "We need to lean on the tech companies," he said. "Make them come through with funding. It's disgusting that we have so much wealth – there should be no one on the streets."

He also mentioned mental health concerns, noting that in his experience psychiatrists were shying away from homeless services because they could charge higher fees to tech workers.

At the HIV table, people were expressing concern about the possibility of funding cuts. Several people mentioned that the housing policies that have been developed in Salt Lake City were a good model for San Francisco to follow. Salt Lake City – and the state of Utah – has decreased homelessness by 91 percent by increasing the services it offers and by sending more outreach workers into homeless communities.

Rohrer spoke to the Bay Area Reporter after the meeting.

"Before the meeting, I thought the most emergent issue would be a response to the projected loss of $2 million dollars in HIV/AIDS housing funds due to federal recalculations," Rohrer said. "After listening to the needs of advocates, service providers, and legal advisers supporting individuals with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco, I now understand that the potential loss of federal funding is across a wide range of important intersectional issues affecting vulnerable San Franciscans."

Rohrer, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said that they were pleased to learn about a new computer portal that will soon streamline the application process for low-income housing. The portal will also email individuals when housing that matches their criteria becomes available.

At all three discussions, the scarcity of available housing was an ongoing issue. Some noted that the cost of building affordable housing has limited the city's ability to match the needs of its low-income residents, while others argued that the city could build the housing regardless. A number of people expressed support for the city's new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which aims to streamline all services under one roof.

"While it's always good to have discussions on this topic, the simple fact is that the city has to provide housing to the homeless," Avicolli Mecca said. "Why is the city continuing to build luxury housing for the rich? We especially need housing for the homeless in the Castro. The LGBT community has high rates of homelessness and poverty – yet in the past six years no housing for the homeless has been built in the Castro area."

Aiello pointed out that a lot of the suggestions made at the meeting had been heard before.
"The city knows what needs to be done," she said. "It just needs the political will to do it. Optimism was expressed about the city's move to bring all services under the new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. I share that optimism, but strong leadership and the political will will be needed."
Cheu said that he was pleased with the meeting. He called the evening "an honest, civic dialogue about important issues such as civic housing, housing for HIV-positive folks, and the homeless."

"As we were holding the meeting in the Castro, these three issues are of key importance both to the city at large and specifically to the Castro community," Cheu added. "There was a good mix of stakeholders represented, and that being said, there is always the need to have even more constituents present who are affected daily by these issues."

No comments:

Post a Comment