SF seeks accounting on homeless programs, approves BID (Business

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 2 Feb 1999 13:08:24 -0800 (PST)


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"Last week, the [San Francisco] board approved a "Business Improvement
District" plan for Union Square in which property owners and shop keepers
will pay a special tax to make the area cleaner and safer. Part of the
money, about $750,000 a year, will be used to go after [homeless] people
engaged in some of the same antisocial behavior that Brown is targeting in
the two plazas." -- from article below

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/examiner/hotnews/stories/02/homeles
s.dtl&type=printable
FWD  San Francisco Examiner  Tuesday, February 2, 1999

       SUPERVISORS SEEK ACCOUNTING ON SPENDING FOR HOMELESS

       Examination would provide assessment of current programs

       By Rachel Gordon of the Examiner Staff

       Now that the Board of Supervisors has passed a series of tough
measures to crack down on public drunkenness and illegal camping in two
public plazas, two elected officials want to know exactly how San Francisco
is spending taxpayer money on the homeless.

       "We need to make sure that our money is being used most
efficiently," Supervisor Amos Brown said Monday.

       He called on board budget analyst Harvey Rose to complete a detailed
accounting on homeless aid for everything from emergency shelters to
substance abuse treatment. Brown said The City spent more than $60 million
a year on direct homeless services.

       Separately, Supervisor Leland Yee requested that city agencies
dealing with the homeless and related problems - among them the police,
Human Services, Health and Public Works - submit reports that summarize
their expenditures on the homeless services they provide. He hopes to use
the information to determine whether the programs are working.

       "If we don't somehow ensure the effectiveness of the homeless
programs, the homeless issue is going to get out of control," Yee said. "We
will need to continue to provide services and expand the services, and in
effect continue to warehouse people."

       A report Rose prepared five years ago on the homeless showed that
The City spent nearly $76 million on its entire spectrum of homeless
services, though many costs were indirect, such as salaries for city
gardeners to clean up homeless encampments and for eviction-prevention
programs. Millions of dollars also were spent administering the programs.

       For years, homeless advocates have called for closer scrutiny of the
books, which they say will show that the actual amount of money that goes
to shelter and feeding homeless people, and to provide them with mental
health and substance abuse care, isn't as much as people think.

       Supervisor Brown said he hoped the new audit he requested would help
direct money to where the most need was. That, he said, is essential to the
two-pronged approach he's pushing to address San Francisco's homeless
dilemma. Compassion, which he bases on providing adequate services, is one
component. The other, he said, is zero-tolerance of unsavory behavior -
getting drunk in public, urinating and defecating in public and setting up
illegal campgrounds.

       Monday, the board gave final approval to a measure that bans
overnight campers in Hallidie Plaza at Powell and Market streets, and
United Nations Plaza, a couple of blocks from City Hall. Supervisors Yee,
Tom Ammiano and Sue Bierman opposed the legislation, saying it would only
exacerbate the bigger problem of poor people having nowhere to go. Mayor
Willie Brown is expected to sign the legislation.

       Prior to Monday's vote, representatives of The City's religious
community who oppose Supervisor Brown's proposal held a prayer vigil
outside City Hall.

       "We are deeply concerned that people who are homeless are being
criminalized because they are forced to live their private lives in public
spaces," said the Rev. Louie Vitale, pastor of St. Boniface Church in the
Tenderloin.

       Brown, a Baptist minister, repeated what he had said before: that
that wasn't not the intent of his plan. "This is not about criminalizing
the homeless," he said. "This is about behavior."

       He also announced that The City was working on plans to open a
100-bed shelter soon in the Tenderloin. He would not disclose the location.

       Last week, the board approved a "Business Improvement District" plan
for Union Square in which property owners and shop keepers will pay a
special tax to make the area cleaner and safer. Part of the money, about
$750,000 a year, will be used to go after people engaged in some of the
same antisocial behavior that Brown is targeting in the two plazas.

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