Re: ALERT: Homeless Voucher Ballot Initiative launched by SF

Coalition on Homelessness, SF (
Fri, 22 Oct 1999 10:36:05 -0800

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>OK Tom-

Earl Rynerson has a grudge against Mayor Brown for booting him off 
the Human Services Commission when Brown took office.

Rynerson was a key player in getting Prop V passed, which required 
all GA recipients to be have a digital scan made of their right 
thumbprint. It cost over 1 million dollars to implement.

The selling point was to catch 'welfare cheats'.  Since its 
implementation it has netted I believe maybe four people who were 
'double-dipping'.  So it has saved the county about $17,000 a year 
since it was sold to the voters.

Oh, did I mention that Earl Rynerson is a computer systems 
consultant?  I haven't yet been able to document it, but I think he 
profited off the deal.  This would make him the 'welfare cheat'.

Tom, you may remember how I told you when we were in DC at the 
National Summit that we were still reeling from a hit piece by TV 
station KPIX?  That was an Earl Rynerson/David Heller-initiated 

Rynerson worked KPIX to spread a lie that most GA recipients weren't 
even FROM San Francisco, and that they all spend their GA money on 
drugs and booze.  At that time, we were the only agency in town who 
would take people at their word and provide a letter stating they had 
been a resident of San Francisco for thirty days - which they had to 
document to get emergency assistance.

It got played like this: Earl provided the poison, followed by lots 
of b-roll shots of people at check-cashing stores on payday and 
street drinkers on sixth street.  Then, a shot of a "confidential 
source" with his face pixelated telling the KPIX reporter that all 
someone had to do to scam GA was go to the Coalition office to get 
documentation to collect GA.  The "confidential source" was David 
Heller, or else there are TWO fat, short, dumpy little white guys 
running around San Francisco with the exact same unfortunate haircut. 
It IS a one-of-a-kind, something only a beauty-supply store owner 
would be caught dead wearing.

So KPIX sent a producer to our office, he committed fraud and lied to 
us, and then the reporter shows a few days later and ambushes Paul on 
camera.  Paul's response was "good for him."

As you can plainly see, the results just DEVASTATED us.  Just 
kidding.  Actually, a lot of our supporters rallyed to our side 
because they knew we must be doing something right to merit such an 
obvious attack.

Who REALLY lost?  Everybody who needed emergency assistance on GA, 
because after the piece ran the Dept. of Human Services told us we 
could no longer write letters of residency.

Buoyed by their "successful" attack on us, Rynerson and Heller 
started working to get this proposal on the November ballot.  They 
circulated a paper outlining the plan, and supported it with a sheet 
of "data points" to prove that the vast majority of GA recipients 
were a) not from San Francisco, and b) spending all of their $347 per 
month pittance on booze and drugs.  This was an attempt to lobby the 
Board of Supervisors to support the initiative and vote to include it 
on the November ballot.

Fortunately, the "data points" were pure bullshit, and very simple to 
refute with the REAL facts, which we assembled and then sent to all 
the supervisors.  I'll see if I can dig up these to post later.  The 
outcome was that, with the notable exception of Supervisor Amos 
Brown, NONE of the supervisors would give these guys the time of day.

Now, they must have found some money to advance their cause.  (There 
ARE some close ties with the Hotel Council - I've mentioned them 
before.)  They hired a firm based in L.A. to gather the ten thousand 
signatures needed to get the initiative on the March ballot.  The 
name of the outfit is Progressive Concerns or something like that. 
The local point person for the signature drive is some twelve-stepper 
who really buys into this garbage, and probably thinks GA recipients 
all belong in jail, anyway.

Oh, did I mention that about eighty percent of GA recipients are 
already housed, and that our local homeless population represents 
only a minor fraction of all GA recipients?

Who's going to get hurt this time?


chance martin
Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco

PS Both these assholes have websites.  Earl's is and 
Heller's  is the Geary Merchant's Association.  I'm sure they'll 
appreciate fan mail, viruses, or whatever concerned homeless people 
would care to send.

>FWD  San Francisco Examiner - Thursday, October 21, 1999
>     By Ilene Lelchuk of The Examiner Staff
>It took just three weeks for a group of San Francisco merchants, who are
>tired of shooing sleeping homeless people out of their doorways every
>morning, to gather 16,000 signatures from voters who support replacing
>welfare checks with vouchers for housing.
>And as the shop owners circulated petitions this month to get their plan on
>the March ballot, three leading mayoral candidates in the Nov. 2 race
>pitched their own voucher proposals.
>It looks as if The City's homeless problem has finally taken its
>traditional spot at center stage in the election season, and the voucher
>system has emerged as the leading solution  --  one that sends General
>Assistance recipients a message that many don't think they can be trusted
>to spend their checks responsibly.
>"Partly, the idea is catching on because we're in an election cycle. And
>this appears to be a solution that doesn't cost the taxpayers any more
>money," said Steve Erie, a professor at UC-San Diego specializing in urban
>But looks can be deceiving, according to homeless advocates. They say
>high-rent San Francisco doesn't have enough low-cost rooms to accommodate
>the homeless and the very poor.
>"It's the "Field of Dreams' approach. Give a voucher and a hotel room will
>appear," said Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing
>Clinic, which helps the poor find local housing.
>City estimates show there are about 19,700 low-rent rooms in residential
>hotels throughout San Francisco. But Shaw says few or none are vacant. The
>City estimates there are 12,000 to 14,000 people living on San Francisco
>streets or are so poor that they face the daily threat of losing their
>*The latest voucher plan*
>The latest voucher plan comes from merchants and hotel owners led by former
>city Human Services Commissioner Earl Rynerson, who believes enough housing
>is available. He worries that welfare recipients are squandering their
>checks on liquor and drugs instead of rent.
>"Giving them cash is like giving them loaded revolvers," Rynerson said. "It
>keeps them on the streets."
>Rynerson said his group, SF CARES  --  San Franciscans for Cash Assistance
>Reform for Enhanced Services  --  collected more than the 15,000 signatures
>needed by Nov. 8 to qualify the measure for the March ballot.
>Rynerson wants to give GA recipients only 15 percent of their benefits in
>cash, while the remaining 85 percent would go for housing and services such
>as addiction treatment and job training.
>Monthly checks now range from $294 to $364.
>The measure also would tighten rules regarding proof of residency,
>fingerprinting and penalties for fraud.
>Supporter David Heller, who owns a beauty supply store in the Richmond,
>believes the current cash system encourages the down-and-out to move to San
>Francisco because easy money is available here. Then the recipients waste
>their checks.
>"We are talking about the people who get money on the first and the 15th
>and it's gone by 12 p.m.," said Heller, president of the Greater Geary
>Boulevard Merchants Association.
>The merchants previously tried and failed to win support for the plan from
>Mayor Willie Brown and the Board of Supervisors. So they are going to the
>voters, knowing there is a precedent of support there.
>*Voters have supported vouchers*
>Voters approved a similar measure put on the ballot by then-Mayor Frank
>Jordan in 1994. But when Brown replaced Jordan as mayor, the
>liberal-leaning Board of Supervisors declined to implement it.
>Now, at a time when pre-election polls show homelessness is voters' top
>concern, vouchers have reappeared as a popular plan with politicians. And
>that includes the mayor.
>Brown recently said he wants to force homeless people on General
>Assistance to use a portion of their welfare stipend to rent a room in a
>city-owned residential hotel.
>Jordan, who is running for mayor again, still believes in his original
>plan. Another leading mayoral contender, former political consultant Clint
>Reilly, also favors vouchers.
>Reilly would offer $100 more a month to recipients who accept their
>assistance in the form of vouchers. Those who want cash would receive $287
>a month, a little less than they receive now.
>*Homeless advocates nix vouchers*
>Homeless advocates and some policy analysts oppose voucher plans, calling
>them mean-spirited attacks on the poor.
>"The bottom line is their assistance would be cut down to about $50 a
>month," said Jennifer Friedenbach, a project coordinator with the Coalition
>on Homelessness.
>Attorney Stephen Bingham, with the National Center for Youth Law, said
>Rynerson's timing is off.
>"It might be a proposal worth looking at at some point in the future when
>this city can truely provide treatment on demand to all people who are
>demanding substance abuse counseling and mental health treatment," Bingham
>Despite this outcry to reform the GA rolls, San Francisco Human Services
>Department resource manager said the caseload is dropping. In September,
>9,508 people received assistance, while 11,855 received checks last
>The City's GA budget dropped, too, from $39.2 million this year to $45
>million last year.
>"More people are getting marginal jobs because the economy is booming,"
>Frazel explained.
>The City reorganized its GA system in July into four programs, three of
>which pay $364 a month and rent subsidies to people who sign up for job
>training or have a permanent or temporary disability. The last is straight
>GA, at $294 a month, with a Workfare requirement.
>**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
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Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
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