Homeless allege The City trashed their stuff

Coalition on Homelessness, SF (coh@sfo.com)
Fri, 10 Dec 1999 14:23:28 -0800

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George Smith is a real disappointment.  The Mayor's Homeless 
Coordinator, himself formerly homeless, had every opportunity in the 
months since Mission Rock shelter closed to intervene.  He first 
heard of the property destruction (which was actually well-organized 
and documented THEFT by shelter staff) within a week of the shelter's 
closing.  And the biggest disappointment is that although he has been 
homeless himself, he will only do the right thing when we force him 
to, just like every other piece of work who ever held that office 
(he's the third under Brown).

George is a former crackhead, but I guess his new addictions are his 
$80,000.00+/yr position, his SUV, his cell phone, and his periodic 
doomed attempts to get elected to the Democratic Central Committee.

Can you say 'fall guy'?

chance martin


Homeless allege The City trashed their stuff
By Jim Herron Zamora
Friday, December 10, 1999
1999 San Francisco Examiner


15 former residents of Mission Rock sue for lost belongings

Fifteen homeless people, including a man who says he lost his artificial
leg, have filed claims against The City alleging that their few
belongings were thrown away by workers at the now-closed Mission Rock
homeless shelter.

"I lost everything that was important to me -- I was left with nothing,"
said Mike Haaksma, 44, who said that in August workers at Mission Rock
had discarded his artificial leg, his wheelchair and special socks and
pads he used with his prosthetic limb.

"These people didn't have much to begin with, but they lost what little
they had because of the negligence of The City and the shelter's
operators," said Adam Arms, a staff attorney for the Coalition on
Homelessness, which is assisting the homeless claimants. "It was a
horrible situation for these people."

The group of 15 filed claims, which are generally precursors to
lawsuits, Thursday. Arms said 15 more people would file similar claims
early next week. If The City rejects the claims, the homeless people
each plan to file separate suits in small claims court, Arms said.

"We expect up to 50 of these cases," he said. "But there may be many
other people out there we haven't heard from yet."

City homeless officials said they had not seen the claims and were
unfamiliar with the allegations of wrongdoing.

"This is the first I've heard of this," said George Smith, director of
the Mayor's Office on Homelessness. "I would prefer to have a positive
solution for these people. I would prefer to keep this out of the
courts. ... I wish I had known about this sooner. Maybe I could have
helped these people."

The director of the nonprofit organization, Chemical Awareness Treatment
Services , that operated the shelter declined comment.

The average claim is about $2,000 with some as high as $4,000 and others
only a few hundred dollars, Arms said. Many of the homeless people said
their lost items included mementos and keepsakes that did not have much
monetary worth but immense personal value. Others were personal papers
and effects that are a hassle to replace. One homeless man reportedly
lost an urn carrying his mother's ashes that was allegedly discarded by
shelter employees, Arms said.

The goal of the claimants is not just to receive compensation but also
to force The City to adopt "more respectful" policies toward homeless
people, Arms and Haaksma said.

The official policy of the Mission Rock shelter was to keep each
resident's belongings in a secure bin for up to three days in the
person's absence. But several of the homeless claimants said their
property had been discarded much sooner. They said that last summer the
shelter had begun discarding a resident's belongings if that person did
not show at the shelter for one night. "I stayed there for a year; I was
gone for one night, and all my things were gone," Haaksma said. "I never
would have left if I had known that they were going to violate their own
policy and trash my stuff."

The Mission Rock shelter, which was San Francisco's largest homeless
facility, closed its doors in September. At its height, the Mission Rock
shelter, set up in February 1998 in an abandoned warehouse, housed as
many as 600 people. A lease between the Port of San Francisco and the
Giants baseball team called for the shelter to close Aug. 1, but The
City was given an extension until Sept. 15. The Giants plan to build a
parking lot on the site to meet expected parking demands when their new
Pacific Bell Park opens in April.

The homeless coalition successfully assisted 11 homeless people in a
similar case. After a major effort to sweep the homeless out of Golden
Gate Park in November 1997, the 11 filed claims against The City and
then small claims lawsuits claiming their property was taken unfairly.
Arms said that the coalition had been able help the 11 split a $7,000
settlement a year later.

1999 San Francisco Examiner  


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