Tom Ammiano's Position Paper on Homelessness (finally!)

Coalition on Homelessness, SF (
Fri, 10 Dec 1999 10:31:43 -0800

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Hey Folks-

With all the behind the scenes drama (I'll let Tom Boland recount the 
many off-list anxiety attacks I shared with him) I was so happy I 
could have burst when I found San Francisco Mayoral candidate Tom 
Ammiano's position paper on homelessness when I checked his url a few 
minutes ago.

I will say this, it got to the point where I had written an op-ed 
telling homeless voters to sit this one out.  Tom has kept his word 
with the homeless people of San Francisco.  Could be a habit we could 
grow to appreciate.


chance martin
Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco

P.S. I do notice it's back-dated to three days ago, wonder why we 
didn't get a fax or an email before now?  It sure would have kept the 
stress level in this office more manageable. - cm


Position Paper: Homelessness

December 7, 1999

San Franciscans want compassionate and effective responses to
homelessness that will create long-term solutions both for the general
public and for people who are now living on the street.

As Mayor, I pledge to:  

1) Improve Coordination and Accountability of Homeless Services

A major problem with San Francisco's homeless program is lack of
direction, coordination, and leadership. The Local Homeless Coordinating
Board ("Local Board") was created in compliance with federal
requirements to be an open, public advisory body for the direction of
homeless services. However, it is currently ignored, resulting in a lack
of program coherence and accountability.

As Mayor, I will:

Demand Accountable Participation in the Local Board from State and
Federal Officials Homelessness is not a purely local problem and cannot
be solved by local efforts alone. Federal funding for local homelessness
programs has declined from $24 million in 1996 to $12.9 million in 1999.
I will work with state and federal officials to help address
homelessness in San Francisco and insist that San Francisco's state and
federal elected representatives participate meaningfully in the Local
Homeless Coordinating Board.   Implement the Recommendation of the
'97-'98 Civil Grand Jury to Strengthen the Local Board The Ammiano
administration will make the Local Board a truly independent body with
real representation of constituent groups. The Mayor's policy on
homelessness will be directed by the recommendations of the Local Board.
  Reform the City Bureaucracy Overseeing Homeless Programs I will make
San Francisco's homelessness services rules uniform, including policies
regarding admissions to, and exclusions from shelters and other support
facilities. Within the Mayor's Office of Homelessness, there are four
full-time bureaucrats, none of whom has a formal job description or
clearly defined responsibilities. There are nearly 40 positions for
homeless services contracts within the Department of Public Health and
elsewhere, many of which are mayoral appointments. I will review all
positions responsible for reducing homelessness, ensure that these are
filled by competent, knowledgeable staff, and hold program managers
accountable for measurable results.

2) Create a Homeless Program for Families That Enables Them to Stay in
San Francisco   We must make our children a priority. The current
homeless program for families just doesn't work. I will redesign the
system from the ground up, with input from families.   Housing prices in
San Francisco, coupled with the destruction of Public Housing units are
forcing hundreds of poor families out of the City. Because this
disproportionately impacts families of color this represents not only a
disaster for the affected families but a real loss in the cultural
richness of our City.   As Mayor, I will:

Implement the no-turnaways policy recently passed by the Board of
Supervisors A "no-turnaways" policy for family shelters was passed by
the Board of Supervisors in November 1998, yet there continue to be
almost 100 families waiting to enter the shelter system. Access and
length of stay in the current shelter system is arbitrarily restricted,
resulting in constant cycling between the streets, shelters, and unsafe
hotels. The current system must be redesigned from the ground up, this
time with the input based on the needs of the families.   Ensure one for
one replacement of lost housing units for the lowest-income public
housing units and replace the subsidies lost by undocumented immigrant
families   Allow families displaced from San Francisco to maintain their
community support systems Our ultimate goal should be to create enough
housing to keep homeless families here in San Francisco. Until that
time, families that are being forced to move out of the city should be
able to continue their education, childcare and/or substance abuse
treatment in San Francisco so that temporarily displaced families can
maintain their ties to the city and eventually return.    

What's Wrong The Connecting Point waiting list for shelter included 95
families as of 11/17/99.

The Homeless Prenatal Program Housing Program reported that 60% of
families who found housing from January to September 1999 found it out
of county (note: DHS erroneously reports that there is an influx of
homeless individuals to San Francisco, when many homeless families and
individuals are leaving due to a lack of available housing and

143 families applied to Catholic Charities for Eviction Prevention funds
in the first 10 weeks of the program.

3) Preserve and Increase Affordable Housing Stock

Homeless policy in San Francisco today allows for a continued reduction
in the availability of low-income housing.

As Mayor, I will:

Make Permanent Housing for Homeless Families a Priority Most of the
recent low-income housing increase has been converted rooms in
single-room occupancy and residence hotels ("SROs"). This does nothing
to increase our actual housing stock, because these rooms were formerly
on the market as private units. It does nothing to increase housing
stock for families. Yet San Francisco failed to include family housing
in its 1999 homeless housing application to the federal government.   I
will work with the state and federal governments to secure more support
for permanent low-cost family housing. My administration will study
innovative policies used in other cities to increase affordable housing
stock and use the planning and permitting processes to insure that new
residential development includes housing affordable to families with
minimum wage or public assistance income.   Increase Grants and/or Loans
to Housed Individuals and Families in Emergency Situations
Rent-controlled units remain one of the City's largest stocks of
affordable housing for low-income people. A one-time financial crisis
can bring eviction for non-payment of rent, creating a major crisis for
the affected family and a large potential public assistance expense. I
will provide assistance to those in danger of losing their homes and
close loopholes that encourage illegal evictions.   Bring Vacant Units
Back onto the Housing Market The 1990 census reported 6,500 vacant
residential units in the City. Using the 2000 census, I will create a
citywide inventory of vacant buildings and establish incentives and
disincentives that encourage landlords to make habitable units
available. My administration will create job opportunities for homeless
people in rehabilitating vacant buildings. In consultation with the City
Attorney's Code Enforcement Task Force, I will consider using the power
of eminent domain, where necessary and appropriate, to bring back into
occupancy SRO properties which have been kept vacant for real estate

4) Create a Comprehensive and Accessible Treatment Network   We all know
intuitively and from we read in the press that many homeless individuals
experience multiple barriers to getting off the streets and into
permanent housing. San Francisco has waiting lists for both mental
health treatment and drug treatment programs that are vital to helping
people reconstruct their lives.

As Mayor, I will:

Ensure That Mental-Health Institution Discharges Consider Housing Mental
health treatment often abandons participants, upon discharge, to life on
the streets. Surveys of the mentally ill homeless people show that 63%
consider housing a paramount concern, affecting their overall mental
health and ability to lead productive lives. My administration will
strive to make sure that no one is discharged without a real plan to
secure and maintain housing.

Eliminate Wait Lists for Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs I will
implement the recommendations of the Treatment on Demand Planning
Council to create accountable and culturally competent treatment
programs that meet the needs of diverse populations.

Lobby the State and Federal Governments for Funding for Adequate Mental
Health Treatment Programs

Implement Treatment Plans and Provide Medications Based on Patient's
Needs, Not by Insurance Guidelines

Tom's Track Record In the 1999-00 budget, Tom won $400,000 in funding
for eviction prevention loans and/or grants to families and individuals
on the brink of homeless due to short term financial crises.

In the 1999-00 budget, Supervisor Sue Bierman and Tom won $240,000
funding -- over the objections of the Mayor's Office -- to establish
winter shelter overflow capacity for homeless families in local churches
and synagogues, in order to decrease the Connecting Point waiting list
for shelter for homeless families.

Tom has been working with CalWORKS and GA reform advocates for six
months to develop meaningful, paid training opportunities to prepare
public assistance recipients for jobs in the public and private sector
that will pay enough to encourage participants to permanently leave
welfare. As part of this effort, Tom required the San Francisco
International Airport to set aside at least 50 of the new jobs at the
International Terminal as training positions for recent City public
assistance recipients.

5) Stop Treating Homelessness as a Crime, but Enforce Criminal Laws

The current administration's policy on homelessness has focused on
arresting homeless people and moving them from neighborhood to
neighborhood - with approximately 21,000 "quality of life" citations
issued so far this year. Homeless people are warehoused in overflowing
jails- causing a crisis in space to house violent criminals-only to be
released onto our streets again. They are pushed from one neighborhood
to another, making the problem that much more visible to us all, but
effecting little real change. Clearly, this approach is not working.

As Mayor, I will:

Work with Neighborhoods to Address the Impact of Homelessness I will not
promise to rid the streets of homeless people by using the police to
push them out of sight. I will instruct the Local Board to actively
include neighborhoods in creating permanent solutions to homelessness,
while at the same time trying to relieve neighborhoods of the impact of
homelessness in a way that protects individual's civil rights.

Focus Police Resources on Responding to Complaints of Physical Harm or
Threatening Behavior Valuable police resources should be used to respond
to complaints when community members are being threatened or property is
being damaged by a homeless person (or anyone else), but not merely when
homeless people are present.

Tom Ammiano

3583 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 503-1529 Fax (415) 503-1642
paid for by Tom Ammiano for Mayor FPPC ID# 990827


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