SF Mayor's Race: Reilly Scores Brown's Homelessness "Circus" FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 20 Jul 1999 10:14:46 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  San Francisco Chronicle - Wednesday, July 14, 1999


     John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer

Continuing his effort to pick a fight with Willie Brown,
mayoral hopeful Clint Reilly was out at San Francisco's biggest
homeless shelter yesterday, calling for changes in the way the city
deals with the down and out.

``This is a homeless circus-tent type of temporary solution,''
Reilly said as he stood in front of the rusty hulk of the Mission
Rock shelter on Third Street, where as many as 700 people bunk each
night. ``This building is a metaphor for Willie Brown's nonexistent
strategy to reduce homelessness.''

As the only major announced challenger to Brown's re-election bid,
Reilly already has spent more than $500,000 of his own money trying
to trumpet his differences with the mayor on such issues as the
Municipal Railway, homelessness and the city's housing crunch. A new
48-page book on Reilly's solutions to the homeless crisis is being
handed out to voters, and the candidate is televising a series of
30-second spots slashing at Brown's handling of the city over the
past four years.

But although polls have shown that the mayor's popularity has
waned since he defeated incumbent Mayor Frank Jordan in 1995, Brown
and his campaign staff have taken a low-key approach to Reilly's
increasingly pointed charges.

While a couple of city staff members showed up last week at a City
Hall news conference to dispute numbers Reilly is using on affordable
housing in the city, the mayor has either played down most of
Reilly's criticism or ignored it completely.

``We don't have Mayor Brown run out and respond to Clint Reilly,''
said P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for Brown's campaign. ``He's
responsible to the people of San Francisco and not to the half-baked
slogans and rehashed ideas that Reilly is putting out.''

The lack of political conflict is having an effect on the mayoral
race. At the news conference yesterday, the two reporters who showed
up were outnumbered both by the campaign staff members surrounding
Reilly and by homeless people wandering by to see what the commotion
was about.

That did not appear to bother Reilly, who stood behind a hastily
erected podium to call the Mission Rock shelter an embarrassment to
the city and to challenge the mayor to say when and how it will be

``This is Willie Brown's biggest shelter, and he doesn't have a
clue how it will be replaced,'' Reilly said. ``We have a huge
investment (in the shelter), and nothing to show for it.''

Mission Rock, which was hastily opened last year in response to
the drenching El Nino rainstorms, looks more like a prison than a
homeless shelter. Located on a dusty lot across the channel from the
future Pacific Bell Park, the weather-beaten, sheet-metal building is
surrounded by chain-link fence topped by barbed wire.

Complaints about overcrowding, plumbing problems and drug and
alcohol abuse inside the shelter have plagued Mission Rock, but it
still provides a roof for hundreds of people who otherwise would be
on the streets.

Time is running out for the shelter, however. It is slated to be
razed to provide parking for the Giants' new ballpark. Plans for its
replacement have not been completed.

``There are several sites we are looking at for a new shelter, but
we're not ready to say exactly where yet,'' said Kandace Bender, a
spokeswoman for the mayor. ``The bottom line, however, is that no one
will be put out on the street when (Mission Rock) closes.''

Reilly has called for construction of four smaller, 150-bed
shelters that would provide substance abuse, mental health and other
services that could help their residents move out of homelessness.

The shelters would cost about $8 million to build, but the city
would end up saving millions of dollars if it could move people off
the street for good, Reilly said.


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