[Hpn] inyaface pt 4
Sun, 05 Nov 2000 13:42:50 -0700
Layers of Delusion
The Definition of Insanity Is...
To say that San Francisco has a homeless program would be wrong. What we
have got is an 18-year conglomeration of different mayoral administrationıs
attempts to give the appearance of having an answer to homelessness.
Going back to the Feinstein era of the early 80ıs, with her Hotline
Hotel Program, through Agnos and his MSCıs, on to Jordan and his Matrix
fiasco, to Brownıs Mission Rock; people living and/or working in SFıs
Homeless program are saddled with layer upon layer of short sighted,
egotistically motivated attempts by political hacks to make their bosses
look like they and they alone have the answers weıve all been searching for.
Unfortunately, as we saw yet again this past week, these political hacks
come and go at a rate of three or four each administration, yet leave behind
remnants of their bosses ³legacies² entrenched in the homeless services
system for the rest of us to clean up. These legacies have really only two
things in common: (1) They were devised with absolutely no input from
homeless people or frontline staff and (2) as soon as the media moved on to
the next story they would prove themselves to be incredibly expensive
failures disconnected from addressing the State and Federal program changes
that are primarily responsible for creating the level of homelessness we see
in our community.
The first point regarding input may seem trivial to most people, but in
fact it is something in the public planning process that is vital to the
success of good program development. Homeless people and many of the staff
of our homeless programs have a track record of commitment unequaled in the
political realm. Their experiences are not tainted by trying to make a
particular person look good and when they speak of a certain modality that
they find effective, it is based on the experiences of their own or of
others with whom they work. While the Executive Directors may be all too
willing to implement the politicoıs harebrained schemes (for reasons
connected to continued funding) the frontline staff, if given
confidentiality will always tell you what is working and what ainıt.
Sound public planning would then have us match that input with the type
of outreach efforts documented earlier in this issue and some solid program
development could take place. We could create one program with several
different components to it instead of the current morass of several
different program components with virtually no inter-connectedness.
Perhaps the most ironic part of all of this is that none of what is
being said here is anything new to our cityıs program planners, coordinators
or contract monitors. In fact, Willie Brownıs first homeless coordinator
(weıre now on our third) working with the COH even created an outreach
position that was supposed to reverse this trend by focusing on gathering
the input of homeless people and frontline staff and bringing that input
into the planning meetings that bureaucrats love so much.
Alas, Brown, who seems to take credit for everything short of creating
the internet never valued this. Instead, he pushed his staff to give him
a program HE could hang his fedora on and this model of public planning was
quickly abandoned. So much so that the person who was hired, thanks to
strong community support, to fill this role has now become the Homeless
Coordinator and he not only disses the outreach efforts conducted by others,
heıs eliminated that position from his office altogether. After all, the
Mayorıs just gonna do what the Mayor wants anyway.
Instead of trying to discredit current community-based outreach efforts
and paying out $8,000.00 to a retiring city bureaucrat for ³consulting
services² his last few days before moving down south, the Mayorıs office
should be listening to what people have to say, involving itself in the
planning and training process among homeless people and frontline staff, and
concern itself more with San Franciscoıs long term needs and goals.
After all, in three years Willie Brown is going to move on to his next
gig and unless we demand a change the only thing that will be left
behind for homeless people and their services staff will be yet another
layer of political bullshit for us to have to clean up.
Save the Redstone Building!
Fellow readers, from the start, let me tell you how much I appreciate this
publication. In the 70s, I found myself in Houston, Texas, selling a street
newspaper, because I couldnıt find suitable employment elsewhere. It helped
I am here on these pages to tell you about the Redstone Building, and
the Redstone Tenants Association (RTA).
I work for a non-profit, Mission Agenda, which is located in the
Redstone. Mission Agenda is an extremely busy organization that has its arms
in advocacy with SRO tenants, homeless people, and the poor and working
classes. One of my many assignments with Mission Agenda is to be their
representative in the RTA.
The Redstone Building was previously called the Labor Temple. It has a
rich history, and some of that history is depicted in the murals in the main
lobby that flood the senses of first time visitors.
The Redstone is a brick building, three stories high, with a basement.
It sits on the corner of Sixteenth and Capp Streets in the north Mission. It
is diagonally across the street from the Victoria Theatre. Iıve come to love
the building physically, and itıs soul, which really has to do with the
tenants I call neighbors. And a diverse group it is. The building register
reads as follows:
Proyecto Contra Sida por Vida
Bay Area Girls Center
Culture Healing Assoc. Heartpath spiritual net
Comprehensive Community Dreambody Cinema Project
Site Design Online, SDO.NET
Dr. Yeh Acupunture Clinic
Chris Daly for Supervisor District 6 Campaign HQ
Mission Agenda SRO Organizing Proj.
Eviction Defense Net
Jon S. Shepherd, Attorney
Industrial Workers of the World
Whispered Media Video Activist Network
El Teatro de la Esperanza
Homeless Childrenıs Network
Youth Credit Union Program
Mission Area Federal Credit Union
California Prison Focus
April Berger Works of Art
Academic Research Info Sys ARIS
B. Whalen, L. Splan
Fil-Am Employ & Train Ctr.
Coalition on Homelessness / Housing Not Borders
Not shown on the register, because they are accessed separately are:
Chile Lindo (a restaurant)
The Lab (non -profit arts organization and performance space)
There is a fear, not only in this building, but throughout the Mission,
that one day that register will read:
³Corporate offices of the really, really big company.²
And so, the RTA was created to find a way to procure the building, and
keep the evil Really, Really Big Co.ı from displacing us. The present owner
indicated to us that the building would not be on the market for at least a
year. Before you condemn our capitalist owner, who stands to make a 1000%
profit from his investment, take another look at the register, and consider
the tenants that he has put up with, the relatively low rents that we pay,
and his resistance (so far) to evictions.
The city, and only God and Willie Brown know what their motives are
has given some seed money to the Mission Economic Development Association
(MEDA), to do a feasibility study of the building. Actually, a
pre-feasibility study, because technically, the building isnıt up for sale
yet. So, that is where the RTA is at this moment in time. There is much work
yet to do. But, hey, youıll just get bored with the details. Let me,
instead, give you some real life feelings always better reading.
From Tim Winters, a freelance artist who does silkscreen printing, lamp
painting, freelance magazine illustrating.
³The thing I like best about the Redstone Building it that itıs
affordable. I live around the corner, and itıs the best art studio/home
situation Iıve ever had. I like the character of the building; itıs got that
old school house feel to it. I feel at home here, with the other artists and
Basically, Iıve never been a part of a political organization like the RTA
before. I got involved because I want to preserve my studio. I like the
cohesiveness of the RTA, and I hope their goal to buy the building will be
From Colleen Nagle of Site Design on Line, SDO.NET, an owner and worker
operated organization looking to serve the Mission with itıs web-based
needs, especially for non-profits.
³Iım an artist living in the Mission for the last four or five years,
and during that time Iıve been building art in the building. Itıs an
opportunity that I donıt think I would have had if it wasnıt for this
building. This building is unique, and not just from an artistic standpoint.
As soon as you walk into the building, you get this feeling, and when you
meet people in the hallway, you get this amazing feeling of community and
support. Itıs just invaluable.
The RTA is an amazing attempt to organize individuals and organizations
of varying beliefs, needs, and wants to collectively band together and
purchase and own this building, so that history and this community can be
From Chris Daly, whose campaign for District 6 Supervisor is
³Iıve been working in this building on a day to day basis for the past
five years. When I first co-founded Mission Agenda with Richard Marquez, we
moved into a tiny office in the suites held by the IWW. We often said that
the space was so small, that we had to go outside just to change our minds.
But from those humble beginnings, we moved across the hall to 204 next to
James Tracy and the Eviction Defense Network. Since that time, this has been
one of the main organizing centers for low-income folks in the Mission
district. In many ways, 204 is the only respite for folks who are out living
tough lives on Sixteenth street. Historically, of course, the Redstone
building has major significance. It played a critical, pivotal role in
housing labor organizations, and, of course, those notorious meetings in
1934 that called for the general strike happened in this building. This
building has played a significant role in this neighborhood historically,
and it plays a vital role in this neighborhood today.
Thereıs a saying I like. It says, ³You only get what youıre organized to
take.² Iıd like to change that to say, ³You only get what youıre organized
to save.² Although slow going, and tough going, when tenants who work
together every day to get together and find common ground, and then,
hopefully, mount a serious campaign that has political aspects to it, then
we can save this building.²
From Betty Traynor, owner of a small business of twenty years called
Advanced Research Information Systemsı, a company which researches grants,
fellowships, and scholarships for academic institutions. Her office is also
home to the Sixteenth Street North Mission Neighborhood Associationı. Sheıs
been a Redstone resident for more than fifteen years.
³I have very strong, good feelings about this building. I am in awe of
its history; especially itıs labor history. I first came to this building
about twenty-five years ago. I volunteered for an adult tutoring program in
the basement. Later, when I formed my company, we moved into the building.
When I first moved in, there werenıt as many arts groups as there are today.
There was Theatre Rhino, which has been here almost forever, but there were
more social service organizations, such as immigration services, Catholic
Charities, and other groups like that. Itıs only in the last four or five
years that weıve had such a proliferation of arts groups. In fact, where the
Lab is now, there used to be a Filipino senior center. They had a lunch
program, and after lunch they had dancing and a live band. So, Monday
through Friday youıd be doing your work while band music reverberated
through the halls. Thatıs briefly my history of the building, and I have
affection for it.
I think the RTA is a valuable organization, even outside of the goal to
buy the building. I think itıs important of the tenants to get together and
meet. Actually, it started several years ago. We had a particularly cold
winter, and one day we came in and there was no heat. The tenants got
together, and the problem with the furnace got fixed, but after a couple of
months, we stopped meeting. So, I think itıs good thing that we get together
every week, especially with the important goal in mind of purchasing the
building. We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I look forward
to getting the information to purchase the building. Right now, weıre kind
of at a standstill until we get this information. None of the organizations
in the building have enough money individually, so we have to work together
in some way. Weıre working on what our options are, and we expect to have
answer in the next month or so. So, Iım looking forward to that, and I enjoy
meeting with all the other tenants.²
From Wendy Dobras of the Bay Area Girls Center, a non-profit
organization that takes adolescent girls on wilderness expeditions called
project courageı where they are physically and creatively challenged to
express their strengths.
³The Redstone building is a wonderful, positive, incredible place on
Sixteenth street. Itıs a place that needs good positive energy. Itıs very
representative of San Franciscoı itıs multi-cultural, artistic, political,
and liberal. Itıs just great! Itıs an incredible cultural spot in the
Mission district that I am proud to be a part of. Itıs a thrill to be in
this building. Just the diversity of people and organizations that are doing
incredible things is very inspiring. Iım glad that itıs here.
The RTA is a natural consequence of whatıs happening because of the
dot-commers and gentrification of the Mission district. This is an
incredible place; thereıs a lot of important non-profits, and artistic work
thatıs being done here, and political work thatıs being done here. We have
rents that are affordable. I think the RTA is trying to do something good in
trying to stop some one from buying this building and raising rents so that
all these artists and non-profits would lose their space. If you lose your
space now, where do you go? All the rents are astronomically high. The RTA
is addressing this and trying to organize and stay, STOP! Someone has to
stop this from happening.²
Well readers, there you have it a nice little cross-section of the
people who work in the Redstone. The next time you see your friendly
neighborhood MAC protestor at City Hall talking about destroying the soul of
San Francisco, youıll know what heıs talking about because you just
witnessed a slice of it.
San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness
Platform on Homelessness in San Francisco November, 2000
Increase Safe and Affordable Housing Stock.
Prioritize the creation of new permanent housing that is affordable to
homeless families and individuals, including those receiving public benefits
and without discriminating on the basis of immigration status or number of
children in a household.
Bring vacant units back onto the housing market.
Create local housing subsidies for undocumented families and
individuals that lose their federal housing subsidies.
Increase availability of housing stock that accepts federal housing
Preserve Affordable Housing Stock and Prevent Unjust Evictions.
Increase grants and/or loans to housed individuals and families in
Support growth control measures that defend our lower income
Ensure the preservation of all currently subsidized housing units.
Enforce the prohibition against SRO operators forcing people to move
every 28 days.
Support eviction prevention legislation and policies.
Ensure that all affordable housing is safe, meeting all Building and
Health and Safety codes.
Create a Comprehensive and Accessible Treatment and Service Network.
Ensure that discharge planning from mental health treatment facilities
includes housing placements.
Eliminate the unmet need for all substance abuse and mental health
treatment programs by expanding capacity and increasing alternative and harm
Create a uniform independent grievance procedure for all substance
abuse and mental health treatment programs.
Provide services equally to all, regardless of immigration status.
Lobby the state and federal governments to recommit funding and revise
policies to provide adequate mental health treatment.
Treatment plans and availability of appropriate medications should be
directed by patientsı needs and not by funding guidelines.
Develop a Strong Citywide System that Links Poor People to Real Jobs.
Actively support broadening the living wage laws so that all working
families and individuals in San Francisco can be self-sufficient.
Ensure full implementation of the First Source Legislation, which
requires businesses that contract with the city to train and hire homeless
people and public assistance recipients.
Establish a citywide jobs program, creating full- and part-time city
job opportunities targeted, available, and accessible to homeless and very
poor people, including people on welfare.
Create job opportunities where immigration status is not a barrier to
Ensure that homeless service providers employ homeless people.
Create a Homeless Program for Families that Enables them to Stay in San
So that no homeless family is forced to sleep on the streets of San
Francisco, the no-turnaway policy adopted by the Board of Supervisors in
December 1998 should be implemented that guarantees access to emergency
housing even on nights when the shelters are full.
Ensure one for one replacement of lost public housing units that house
very low income and poor families.
Allow families displaced from San Francisco to maintain community
support systems they were receiving through the San Francisco County TANF
Make quality, affordable childcare available to working parents and
those in search of work.
Develop a Homeless Policy that Protects the Civil Rights of Homeless People.
Oppose police brutality and the criminalization of homelessness.
Implement the ³INS Raid Free Zone² resolution adopted by the Board of
Supervisors in 1999.
Support the implementation of a 24-hour notice requirement before
confiscating property belonging to homeless people.
Redirect the $250,000 that is being spent on the Mayorıs ³Quality of
Life² Prosecution Team towards assisting those people currently targeted for
Oppose any efforts to share confidential client information between
City departments and/or programs.
Work with neighborhoods to address the impact of homelessness in a way
that protects the civil rights of homeless people and focuses police
resources on responding to complaints of physical harm or threatening
behavior and not on the mere presence of homeless people and their
Improve Coordination and Accountability of Homeless Services.
Strengthen the Local Homeless Coordinating Board (³Local Board²),
making it into a truly independent body with real representation of homeless
people that directs the Cityıs policy on homelessness.
Demand accountable participation in the Local Board from State and
Reform the City bureaucracy overseeing homeless programs.
Ain't the worlds best writer, ain't the world's best speller, but when
I believe in something, I'm the world's loudest yeller. Woody Guthrie
A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 / 346.3740 - voice
415 / 775.5639 - fax