George Smith lies for Willie Brown AGAIN!

Coalition on Homelessness, SF (
Thu, 23 Dec 1999 20:49:32 -0800

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Any of you HPN'ers who may be astute enough to question George 
Smith's bullshit analysis might do well to question him that if there 
are over two hundred excess shelter beds why do so many people are 
forced to participate in an inhumane lottery for floor space in our 
shelters every night.  The "new" shelter beds George refers to are 
the Interfaith Emergency Winter Shelter program beds that become 
available this time each year.

George is talking shit.  Call him on it.

His email is:


Record deaths among homeless
Thursday, December 23, 1999
1999 San Francisco Examiner


As a tragic backdrop to the economic boom in San Francisco, the number
of homeless deaths in The City climbed to 169 this year -- the highest
on record.

The San Francisco Health Department on Wednesday released its annual
report on the deaths of homeless people, and pointed to the lack of
affordable housing as a key contributor to the problem. In fact,
officials call the housing crisis "a health emergency."

"Vacancy rates of less than 1 percent have driven average rents far
beyond the means of low-income San Franciscans," the report states.
"This, coupled with San Francisco's dwindling numbers of public housing
units and the loss of over 600 low-income (single-room occupancy) rooms
due to fires in nine hotels during the past two years, has greatly
exacerbated the problem of homelessness."

The result: "Without permanent affordable housing, homeless people
cannot fully manage life-threatening health conditions," the report

Mayor Willie Brown, who won re-election last week, said that making The
City a more affordable place to live is at the top of his agenda heading
into his second term.

The City has averaged 132 homeless deaths annually since they were first
tracked 13 years ago, but the 1999 death toll topped all previous years,
including 1998's then-record high of 157 deaths. In 1997, there was a
big dip to 104. In 1996 there were 154.

Grim statistics unfold from this year's homeless death count:

-- Drug and alcohol poisoning is the leading cause of death among
homeless people, taking 65 lives. Heroin killed 28; 16 involved alcohol.
Other drugs accounted for the rest.

-- The other top killers: liver, pancreatic and heart disease, accidents
and severe infections.

-- The average age of those who died was 43.6 years. The average life
expectancy in the United States is 76.1 years.

-- Two of the dead were children -- a 39-day-old boy and a 4-month-old
girl. The cause of death in both cases was sudden infant death syndrome.

-- The deaths occurred in 30 neighborhoods in San Francisco, but were
concentrated in the most impoverished areas: the Tenderloin, South of
Market and the Inner Mission.

One of the dead was identified by health authorities as "J.R," a Latino
male in his mid-30s, who made his home in a stairway landing at Horace
Mann Middle School in the Mission District. It's also where he died, his
body discovered by a custodian one morning in mid-March.

A week before his death, J.R. was discharged from one of The City's
emergency rooms, where he was taken after being found in the street
suffering from hypothermia. He had been in the emergency room more than
100 times during the last year of his life.

J.R. was one of the 68 deaths, or 41 percent of the total, that occurred
outdoors. Sixty people died in temporary housing, such as residential
hotels, 39 died in hospitals, one died in a shelter. The location of one
death could not be determined.

Isadore Davis saw three of his friends die of accidental drug overdoses
during the past year and fears that soon he, too, will become a

Homeless for 10 years, Davis, 49, said he suffered a stroke last year
that left him partially paralyzed on one side of his body and later had
his stroke medicine stolen by someone on the streets. He hasn't bothered
to get more medicine because it makes him "not right" and he is too
depressed to care.

"I'm gonna die. I feel it," said Davis, who sat on the sidewalk near
Mission and Fourth streets Wednesday night. "I already know this. I'm
accepting it because that's the way it is."

Down the street from Davis sat another homeless man, who coincidentally
shares the same last name. Edward Davis also shares many of the same
problems. But unlike Isadore Davis, Edward Davis, 51, doesn't believe
that he will die on the streets -- at least not anytime soon.

"I already know God ain't ready for me yet," said Edward Davis, who has
been homeless since the age of 16. "When he gets ready for me, he'll do
it himself."

He added that he wasn't surprised at the increased number of homeless
deaths in 1999, because there are more homeless than ever and many just
lose the will to live.

"I kind of want to know what (city officials) can do," Davis said.
"They'd have to have some pretty skilled outreach people out here."

Barbara Garcia, a deputy health director who oversees many of The City's
homeless programs, said the fact that this year's death toll hit an
all-time high should be kept in perspective.

In the late 1980s, she said, there were an estimated 6,000 to 8,000
homeless people living in San Francisco. Today, Garcia said, there are
an estimated 13,000 to 14,000.

Still, she said, "169 deaths are far too many. It's not something we
want to see from the outcome of the work we do."

She said The City has been stepping up its response to preventing
homeless deaths, including the launch more than two years ago of a
special team of health and social workers to work one-on-one with the
homeless people most at risk.

Over the past year, the team contacted roughly 400 people on the streets
and in shelters and residential hotels, helping them find housing,
substance abuse treatment programs and mental health and medical care.
Waiting list for help

In addition, she noted, The City has pumped millions of more dollars
into an ambitious treatment-on-demand program for drug addicts and
alcoholics. However, there is still a long waiting list for help.

The City also is starting a program to give drug users CPR training, so
they can help others on the streets in emergencies, and is looking at
expanding its needle exchange program to slow the transmission of deadly
communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C.

Despite the effort, the number of deaths went up.

"What the numbers tell me is that we haven't completed our job," Garcia
said. Paul Boden, who heads the Coalition on Homelessness, an advocacy
group that helped compile the study, agreed that there's still a lot
more to do.

"The death rate is up, and it's frustrating. We continue to see an
inadequate federal, state and city response," Boden said.

"The bottom line," he added, "is that if people have access to housing
and access to treatment, they won't die in the streets."

George Smith, the mayor's homeless director, said The City is trying to
make sure no one has to sleep outdoors during the cold winter months.

With the help of participating churches that open their doors at night
to the homeless, an extra 257 spaces have been added to The City's
emergency shelter program, which normally handles about 1,800 people a
night, Smith said.

He said another 250 beds are on reserve if the weather worsens and more
people want to move inside.

"Right now, we have space available," Smith said.

Ray Delgado of The Examiner staff contributed to this report.


1999 San Francisco Examiner  


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