Mayor cuts homeless prevention money; hundreds at risk

The cheapest solution to homelessness is prevention -- so why is Ed Lee cutting funding that keeps vulnerable people in their homes?

 

Eduardo Pubill once shared a beer with Ringo Starr. He’s been a New York theater stagehand, a chef, a merchant seaman, and a cook on board the legendary Jeremiah O’Brien when that liberty ship made its historic 1994 trip to Normandy to commemorate D-Day.

Now 70, blind and mostly deaf, Pubill is facing homelessness –in part because Mayor Ed Lee has cut a $3.1 million program to provide rent subsidies for San Franciscans who are vulnerable to eviction.

Mayor Lee is cutting a program that could save hundreds from homelessness
Mayor Lee is cutting a program that could save hundreds from homelessness

The mayor is undermining an incredibly inexpensive way to prevent a problem the city is spending hundreds of millions to solve. With a $400-a-month city subsidy, Pubill could stay in his one-bedroom apartment. If he’s forced out, the city will spend many, many times that much taking care of him.

He’s not alone. The Homeless Emergency Services Providers Association says that 250 people, mostly seniors, disabled people, and vulnerable members of the LGBT community, could stay housed if the mayor would allocate that (already approved) funding.

Eduardo Pubill served on the Jeremiah O'Brien
Eduardo Pubill served on the Jeremiah O’Brien

And yet, in the mayor’s midyear budget letter, dated Dec. 8, this housing assistance program has been defunded in the name of budget cutbacks.

The $750,000 in existing subsidies was spared, but the window for new support is now closed. “It makes no sense,” Brian Basinger, director of the Q Foundation, which handles much of the money, told me.

Pubill is one of those people. After a lifetime of hard work, his sister, Bebe Pubill, told me, Eduardo started losing his vision, and is now blind. He’s lost most of his hearing, and was recently hospitalized. “It’s the stress from the threat of losing his home,” she told me.

Pubill cooks for sailors as the O'Brien steams to Normandy for a 50th Anniversary  D-Day event
Pubill cooks for sailors as the O’Brien steams to Normandy for a 50th Anniversary D-Day event

Pubill shared his modest apartment with a partner who died in 2015. Without her income, the $725 a month he gets from SSI can’t cover the $1012 rent. He gets Meals on Wheels and assistance from the Lutheran Church, but he keeps falling behind on rent, and Mica Williams, a Hastings law student who has been helping him, told me he was just a day or two away from eviction this fall when she was able to find a charity to pay his back rent.

Williams works with the school’s Medical Legal Partnership for Seniors/Veterans, and has been trying to keep Puill housed. It seems so simple: A modest rent subsidy would work for the immediate and probably the long term.

Rent subsidies aren’t as sexy as $10 million tech-industry grants to “end family homelessness,” and don’t fit into any neat category. But they make such an immense amount of sense. As longtime housing activist Calvin Welch likes to point out, in a crisis, the cheapest affordable housing is the existing affordable housing; it costs far less to keep someone from losing their home than to provide services, relocation, and rehousing, and protecting existing rent-controlled housing is way, way cheaper than building new affordable housing.

Most of the people who get rent subsidies under Basinger’s program are living on fixed incomes, in many cases Social Security or SSI. That makes the subsidies particularly relevant these days in San Francisco: Forty years ago, before Reagan and then Clinton gutted “welfare as we know it,” Social Security and SSI paid enough money to cover rent in this city. The cost of housing has gone up by a factor of ten, at least – and benefit checks, when they exist at all, have been flat.

So while San Francisco officials decry GOP-style cuts from Washington, they have a chance to make up some of the difference locally – and save lives, and save the city money, in the process.

“We have an innovative program that works,” Basinger told me.

Yes, it does – and there are referrals coming in every day that the group can no longer help. “We have an 88-year-old man who is paying $1,400 in rent for an SRO,” he said. “He gets $1,000 a month from Social Security. If we can make up the difference he will stay housed. If we can’t, he will be on the streets.”

And the city will be spending far more than $400 a month to try to care for and rehouse him.

Then there are the people who could qualify for city affordable housing – if they just had a little more money. I have heard so many of these stories – people who get that Golden Ticket and win the lottery for an affordable place, but are then told that their income is too low even for nonprofit housing.

As MissionLocal reports, Lorena Moz and her family have a chance to move into a Mission affordable unit. But after a fire destroyed the family’s business, they no longer qualify. All they need is $500 more a month, and Basinger’s program could have provided that – if those funds hadn’t been eliminated.

Then there’s a 60-year-old woman who lost her home in the Western Addition to redevelopment, and has a Certificate of Preference that allowed her to qualify for affordable housing. But her SSI income won’t be enough. She’s homeless now, and has cancer, but can’t start treatment until she is housed. A modest subsidy would let her move into permanent housing; without it, she will lose her lottery ticket for housing and remain on the streets.

I’m glad that Mark Benioff is giving money (a tiny fraction of what he would pay in taxes if we had a fair tax system) to help homeless families. But he and the city could help a whole lot of people if they just put up money to help pay the rent.

Yes, that’s sometimes money going to private landlords, and I would rather that we just buy that housing and take if off the private market. (If Mark Zuckerberg and Benioff gave less than 10 percent of their net wealth – a tiny fraction of what they would have paid in taxes under that radical socialist Richard Nixon – the city could buy more than 10,000 market-rate units and turn them into social housing. Mr. Mayor? Something to suggest to your pals.)

But the leading cause of homelessness in San Francisco is, well, loss of housing. Some 70 percent of the people living on the streets were once housed in this city. And if, for a few million a year, we can prevent hundreds of people from losing their homes, it’s such a no-brainer. What is the mayor thinking?

If anything, we need more rent subsidies.

Half of the money that is being cut was added by the Board of Supes in the last budget process. The mayor has the legal right to refuse to spend it, but seriously: Will Board President London Breed and Budget Committee Chair Mark Farrell, who approved that money, stand up to this shit?

Even worse: I am told by eminently reliable sources that when advocates have gone to the mayor’s chief of staff, Steve Kawa, to ask about this kind of funding, Kawa has tried to divide and conquer in a vicious way: He’s told them to talk to Sup. Jane Kim, who is trying to protect her measure, approved by the voters, to pay for free City College.

This is going to be an ugly budget season if the Mayor’s Office tries to pit free City College against housing subsidies. In one of the richest cities in the history of the world.

Happy New Year.

 

  • jhayes362

    The comment attributed to Kawa is chilling. We know Ed Lee hates City College. Now we see him trying to pit potentially homeless people against City College. This sounds like something Donald Trump, the divider, would do.

    • Geek__Girl

      If you pulled Lee’s pants off, you will find, tattooed on his butt, “Property of Ron Conway.” Lee has sold his soul to a man who is cut from the same fabric as Trump.

  • playland

    This is going to be an ugly budget season if the Mayor’s Office tries to pit free City College against housing subsidies. In one of the richest cities in the history of the world.

    Just curious…is there any city in the world that spends more per capita on its people than San Francisco does?

    We know that there is none in the United States.

    Dubai maybe? Some city in Scandinavia?

    I ask because I know how easy it is to sanctimoniously claim that San Francisco is “one of the richest cities in the history of the world” and therefore should be able to fund everything, but San Francisco is already off the charts in terms of spending. Why should anybody be shocked that the Mayor resists taking it further into uncharted territory?

    • Geek__Girl

      Lee does what Ron Conway wants.

      • OpenFullHeart

        Lee is disgusting. Lee actually used to be a housing advocate for the poor. Politics is such dirty business that it slimes even the ones who start out as good guys. What happens to guys like Lee? If he benefits, does he, what, sell his soul or just his integrity?

        • EllaFitzbunbun

          Without integrity you’re bordering on having no soul.

    • Penn

      It’s not the spending, it’s where the money goes and how it is used. Some cities may spend less per capita but with more success.

  • curiousKulak

    These are v sad stories. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in any of these situations. And while I think this needs a more in-depth investigation, I have a few questions of my own. Like ..

    “With a $400-a-month city subsidy, Pubill could stay in his one-bedroom apartment” // “and Pubill shared his modest apartment with a partner who died ” – So, if he can’t make the rent on his own, why does he not get another roommate to help him cover the rent? Why is the City the First Responder for this? Or, if I might be so brash, where is his sister in this? If it were me, I’d certainly prefer to take free money, than to ask for help or inconvenience my family. But is this the best policy? The City has many other responsibilities (unfunded liabilities) and priorities. Ya know, approximately 120,000 people in SF are below the Poverty Line. Giving each of them $5000 would be generous, but is it really a good idea? Especially if they can provide somewhat for themselves?!

    As to the suggestion that Zuck/Benioff should chip in 10% of their wealth, and that that would fund 10,000 units of social housing for San Francisco … . Their combined wealth, according to Forbes is <$60B. So perhaps, buying 10k units @ $500,000 MIGHT be possible. But why is it that ONLY San Francisco gets a claim on their wealth? And even then – as Tim describes in the MIssionLocal piece – there will always be people left out who couldn't or wouldn't qualify under even the most modest of limits.

    But I guess anything is possible with Other Peoples Money – is that the message?

    • playland

      As to the suggestion that Zuck/Benioff should chip in 10% of their wealth, and that that would fund 10,000 units of social housing for San Francisco

      You can’t take that one seriously.

      If the FEDERAL government told those rich guys that they were going to take about $3 billion out of their accounts then the rich guys would have some thinking to do about moving off shore.

      If San Francisco asked them for $30 billion each they would obviously just use a hundred million for an estate elsewhere in the Bay Area and then spend a couple of hundred thou a year on a limousine for when they wanted to be in San Francisco.

      • OpenFullHeart

        It’s not just those two multibillionaires: they have thousands of employees who want to be in SF and it is their industry that has seeded the housing crisis in SF. Even Zuck has chosen to live in SF even though his company is headquartered on the peninsula.

        Billionaires in every city with homeless people should be kicking in. At the very least, they should be paying corporate and personal income taxes at the level theyw ould have paid when the very conservative Nixon was el presidente. These guys are the ones getting free rides, not an old man who worked all his life for a tiny place to call home.

        • playland

          they have thousands of employees who want to be in SF and it is their industry that has seeded the housing crisis in SF

          I know what you are saying, but here is the problem: Due to an unfortunate loophole in the US Constitution those people have exactly the same rights as you and I, even though they have good jobs. I have no idea how Madison and Jefferson could have missed that one, but they did. Hence the people who work in tech — even Zuckerberg — are allowed to live in San Francisco and we have no legal recourse.

          Meanwhile, every time someone wants to build housing for them it is declared to be “luxury” and Progressives fight tooth and nail to stop it. Moratoriums, demonstrations, everything.

          In a perfect world tech workers would not be allowed to live in San Francisco but would be required to hand over 10% of their net worth anyway. Unfortunately we don’t live in such a world.

          • Penn

            The hi-rise condos are more than half empty. They were built with long-held permits by developers who have no ties with or interest in the city or what happens to the neighborhoods they are over-shadowing. The moratorium on building height was more than reasonable, protecting the environment from developing microclimate, preserving the uniqueness of each neighborhood, everything that made San Francisco one of the most desirable places to live in the world. Nobody was fighting or demonstrating at all when the new buildings went up; nobody knew it was happening. Within three years, they changed the landscape of the city — to no purpose. It is indeed a perfect world: the techies take over the regular housing, lowering the vacancy rate even further, and ignore the sterile units they could easily afford but don’t want to live in any more than anyone else with sense or sensibility would. . . . Then there’s the Millenium building . . . .

          • curiousKulak

            “to no purpose”? Every empty condo contributes $25,000 in additional tax revenue annually. Maybe some of that could even go to rent subsidies.

            Or the annual $2.5M from a 100 unit bldg could go to adding another staffer for each Supervisor.

            It all depends on one’s values.

          • Penn

            You are correct. It all depends on one’s values. Hey! Why not just evict all the people and fill up the whole city with empty ugly living-space-destroying excrescences. “Maybe some of that could go to ….” WHERE? Oh, right. Ed Lee’s coffers and the real estate developers pockets and if there’s anything left over, we can dribble it out in tent purchases and church dinners. You’re not curious, mister – you’re just plain mean. I won’t be wasting any more time on you.

    • Geek__Girl

      He lost his partner, i.e. someone he was in a relationship with. It is not so easy to just find someone else. And as pointed out, the City will spent far more caring for him, which is really not an option that can be avoided, if he ends up homeless.

      And no, simply throwing money at people is not a good solution. But providing help that is targeted is.

      • curiousKulak

        “its not so easy to find someone else”
        Its not a matter of finding another *partner* or get thrown out on the street – its a matter of finding someone, who also needs housing, or getting thrown on the street; not the same thing at all. Hey, I realize that some people are really slow to take action; I get that. But funding a permanent solution to a temporary problem is lousy policy – especially in the face of a massive City budget deficit.

        Maybe people like you and me should kick in $5 or $10/mth to help this poor sot out. But if I do that (and I imagine you would as well), then I’m going to want to see results. “Is he dealing with his stress issues?” “Has he got a roommate yet?” “What can the family to to help?” “Whats a reasonable timeline, so that someone else who needs help doesn’t get cold cocked by a procrastinator?”

        With this current program, I have doubts that anything of the sort will be posited. Its just another cypher in the funding game; another job to be managed.

        • OpenFullHeart

          How old are you? and are you deaf and blind? have you no empathy? Having a roommate in a spacious apartment is very different than sharing a small one bedroom with a stranger, esp. while blind and deaf and old. This guy is very vulnerable and the $400 needed to keep him stable is, as the article repeatedly points out, much cheaper than it will be to help him once he becomes homeless.

          I am thinking of the song “I left my heart in SF” only now it seems many heartless people people SF.

          • curiousKulak

            The article doesn’t mention anything about whether his 1 BR is “tiny” or “spacious”.

            Besides, it sounds like the guy could use some living assistance. And 1 BRs now are allowed to have 3 persons, iirc, from the Fire Code. Shame to keep someone out on the street when they could share a space, share the cost, and help someone out. But don’t listen to me – I’m just another “heartless” San Franciscan.

            Its kinda fun to watch the “knee-jerk” types put their hearts on their sleeves while they put their minds on the rack. Are there any “we” solutions?

          • ShayLaVie

            I didnt realize “let his sister deal with it” was a “we” solution. Face it dude, youre playing the age old game of poor shaming here.

          • curiousKulak

            It used to be the case that before we asked strangers or The Govmint for help, we sought help from family, friends and Faith community. That’s my understanding of “we”. Shame on me, I guess.

          • Heart

            Poor shaming and age shaming. Beating up on the most vulnerable.

          • He’s using the idiotic Margaret Thatcher “other people’s money” phrase, what do you expect?

          • curiousKulak

            Wow! I didn’t know that was a Thatcher quote. New-found respect!

          • curiousKulak

            “let his sister deal with it”

            Didn’t say that.

            Shame on YOU.

        • Geek__Girl

          My, but your view is very simple minded. First off, finding someone you are compatible enough with is difficult. Second, the City budget was supposed to be in great shape after Lee sold the City to Ron Conway and the techies. Oh, wait, I guess that isn’t working so great after all.

          I agree that results should be shown by any program receiving public funding. But the result should be about whether or not the people being assisted are actually showing improved lives, not whether or not they are jumping through arbitrary hoops. And it should also include information about how much actually reaches the intended recipients, and how much flows into people’s pockets.

          • playland

            Second, the City budget was supposed to be in great shape after Lee sold the City to Ron Conway and the techies. Oh, wait, I guess that isn’t working so great after all.

            Actually, it is. When Lee took office revenues were about $6.6 billion. Now they are 38% higher at $9.1 billion. Without that extra $2.5 billion we would be much worse off.

            And here’s a news flash…while tech workers most likely are responsible for a lot of the increased revenue but they aren’t largely responsible for the huge increase in spending. They aren’t homeless, they typically don’t get arrested often, they have medical insurance and they don’t require housing subsidies.

            I know that it is MUCH easier to just create a bogey may (Ed Lee, Ron Conway, whatever…) but you should also make some attempt to understand the numbers. It’s called “reality”.

            Google it.

          • Geek__Girl

            Are you paid to be a spin doctor for Lee? You sure sound like one. You might want to read the piece in Fortune about the problems with fraud in Silicon Valley. The bubble WILL burst. Sooner, more likely, than later. I do understand the numbers. Granted, a good deal of the problem was that Lee did not make any effort to get his tax increase passed, choosing instead to focus SOLELY on his fear of losing a bit of power. He should not have assumed it would pass. Of course, it is just as likely that he knew it wouldn’t, and planned it that way to enable him to pull some shenanigans while avoiding the blame. I didn’t create any boogey men. Lee and Conway are responsible for their own actions.

        • ShayLaVie

          If he sublets his apartment he would likely be breaking his lease. And if he gets thrown out of a rent controlled place where he is paying $1,000 per month there is no hope. Why is it that people always assume poor folks must be making bad financial decisions? Its easy to act like you could do better, but you dont really know anything about this guys situation. A lot of people do everything right, but just arent as lucky as you or I.

          • curiousKulak

            It’s true that we don’t know the whole situation. I’m just saying thhat this is probably one of the more severe cases, and that there seem to be holes, that’s all.

            BTW, he won’t lose his lease by subletting; but he will by not paying.

    • Mica Williams

      Mr. Pubill is on SSI. Any assistance from his sister is deducted from his SSI payment, which is already not enough to pay his rent. His sister does not have the ability to house her brother at this time. As stated in other comments, it is not easy to find a safe, responsible roommate willing to share close quarters. Mr. Pubill is vulnerable, and people in that situation are more than not abused by others given the opportunity to take advantage of them. Also, the landlord would need to approve of that situation. As it stands, Mr. Pubill’s health may not withstand a new roommate. He’s extremely fragile. I know this, because I’m one of the Hastings students who helped him. As for the funds from City Hall, the money was already promised for housing of elders and disabled. Mayor Lee is holding onto it. Hoping to clear up some of the unknowns causing arguments in this thread.

  • 4th Gen SF

    I hate to say this but if you want to live in SF that means choices. Choices mean you either pay the rent, get roommates, get smaller places or you have to move. While Zuckerberg, Benioff, Dorsey, the ex-Mrs. Steve Jobs, the ex-Mrs. Sergey Brin, Sandberg, Meyer, Cook, and ALL of the titans of Tech are all extreme LW liberals in rhetoric, they do zero to give more $ to actual people. They are all limosine liberals & very selfish & greedy but hey, their rhetoric is good. An example is Mrs. Steve Jobs who lets Steve’s sister rot in poverty & on food stamps & does nothing to help the poor single mom.

    • Geek__Girl

      You need to learn some compassion.

      • OpenFullHeart

        Your comment to 4th Gen SF seems weird. He seems to be voicing compassion to me. Are you saying all the rich freeloaders he mentions need his compassion?

        • Geek__Girl

          No, I am saying that his statement that people need to move lacks compassion.

      • Do Something Nice

        Not possible for people for Republicans.

        • Geek__Girl

          Unfortunately, this is generally true. But it never hurts to try.

  • MKR

    Do any of the SF voters think the city might benefit by electing a mayor who does not have a perpetually befuddled expression on his face?

  • Geek__Girl

    I still maintain that Ed Lee is working to insure that homeless people remain homeless, and on the streets as much as possible. This benefits him, and his possible successor Farell who has already followed in the footsteps of Newsom by introducing a scam proposition.

    • SnapsMcKenzie

      Funny how you blame the supervisor who introduced the proposition and not the voters who passed it.

      • Geek__Girl

        The supervisor wrote a law that clearly was only intended to pander to bigots, and gullible fools. That it was intended to pander to bigots can be seen from the heartless nature of the law. It provides no real housing, and only gives a 24 hour notice before the encampments are cleared. That it panders to gullible fools is indicated by the cynical title, “Housing Not Tents,” which is not what it provides at all. It is like “Care Not Cash.” Newsom quickly eliminated the care as he deprived people of cash that could help them get back on the feet. Newsom lied and said people were using the money for drugs and alcohol. Rubbish! To get the assistance, one had to navigate a Byzantine set of steps, and messing up on any one of them could cause one to have to start over. Then one had to report monthly to keep the assistance. That part exists, and is actually even worse. Now, instead of getting about $400 a month, they get, at most, $72 and a shelter bed. Someone hoping to get a job has no hope of maintaining their appearance and hygiene.

        • Penn

          Good points, Geek__Girl. The correlation with “Care Not Cash” was especially apt. Thanks.

  • Turk B.

    …many will suffer as the empire races to the bottom.

  • Kraus
    • curiousKulak

      Yes, the little units are nice. But what about the cost of conglomerating them into something like an apt bldg? Connecting plumbing? Airwells? Access? and or course siting? They seem to be well designed for sitting in the middle of a blvd median, but how about congregated together like most other housing in SF?

      And then, there’s the “Laguna Honda” effect.

      • Kraus

        This technology is designed to allow efficient/economical assembly into apartment buildings that can be as tall as 8-stories (85-feet.)

        • curiousKulak

          Ok. Thought I saw windows on 3 sides but … the is still the “Forest Hills” problem.

  • mikipryor

    I am now paying more than double for a tiny subsidized studio ($244) than what I paid for an unsubsidized 2 bdr ($115) when I moved to SF in 1970. My income (soc sec+Ssi) is Less than what I earned in 1970! This is truly insane!

    • curiousKulak

      How does one get Social Security AND SSI?

      • mikipryor

        Old, poor and disabled

      • OpenFullHeart

        If your social security monthly payment is lower than the SSI payment and SSI is welfare for poor seniors and disabled people, your low SS payment gets bumped up to the very low SSI amount.

        • curiousKulak

          So you get SS in addition to SSI? And SSI isn’t exactly “low” (my neighbor’s SS is only $500).

    • SnapsMcKenzie

      Move

      • mikipryor

        Love SF. Not leaving the City. I do a lot of volunteer work to pay it forward! Been here since 1967.

        • curiousKulak

          You can support others but you can’t support yourself?

          • mikipryor

            It is possible to live well on $900/month! I volunteer @ cultural events and performances & don’t own a car. I bury my pride and ask friends who can afford it to pay for my movie tickets when they ask me to see a film with them, or pay for my meal if they ask me to go to a restaurant. I do take friends out for coffee or bring them to events or performances whenever I can. You have to think carefully about where you go, what you do, who you see & make your life beautiful whether you are a billionaire or a pauper.

          • curiousKulak

            Yes. Not needing much is the best situation, whatever resources you have.

            Stil, I wonder about the legitimacy of taking what I haven’t put in – whether its SS or SSI or a pension (which I contributed to but which I expect/hope to out-live those contributions). They say we are a rich society, and that we can afford all these things. But it worries me that with the advent of Medicare, that something like 90% of medical spending (subsidized) occurs in the last 6 mths of life. Surely that has negative implications for children and younger people who are still contributing (but suspect they’ll never see any benefits).

            OTOH, I suppose that its better to be thankful for what we have, than to insist on what we *really* deserve.

            Its always difficult to broach subjects that could be considered unkind. But in policy considerations, there are always limits, and sometimes tough questions need to be asked (and answered). Maybe some of our 6-figure City employees could be trimmed a bit; or the consultants that populate any budget stew. However, they have powerful political allies; and I’m guessing Brian Basinger – and by extension his Q Foundation – is on the wrong end of that calculus.

          • Penn

            “You can support others but you can’t support yourself?”

            I can speak for myself if not for mikipryor: I like miki’s answer but it is only one of dozens. I too volunteer. At the age of 76, I can still handle crisis line calls, train other volunteers, update the training manuals, help out with a literacy program, support local candidates of my choice, and work, like miki,, with cultural events and performances. In every one of these programs there are others like myself. It is a good, full, useful life that continues a professional life interrupted by disability before there was a chance to vest, earn a pension or get more than early, i.e. considerably lower than full, Social Security. There are many like me and we are earning our way, supporting ourselves in all but rent as well as supporting others. I hope that satisfies your curiosity.

          • curiousKulak

            Ok. So I’m guessing that, push come to shove, you could go out and earn money somehow (cashier, answer phones, telemarket, take tickets, back-office, training, whatever it is that people pay other people to do) to the limits of what is physically possible.

            I likewise am retired. I volunteer in several areas. I doubt feeding feral cats would earn me money anywhere, though I find it satisfying and it keeps me healthy. If push came to shove, I could find some kind of work I hope (probably low-paid). Since I have savings and retirement, thankfully thats not necessary at this point. As I said above (or is it below?) I feel like I’m self-supporting, and I hope that continues. But I worry about my bro & sis, who retired early for medical and other reasons, and live on v limited means; and they have their own challenges of sick family members etc. That I may have to somehow go back to work because I could be of help hangs on me.

            Do I do that, or urge them to suck of the Govmint tit? You tell me?

          • Penn

            Since you have savings and retirement benefits, you are in fine shape. Enjoy it. You may not be employable at some point – it happens eventually, and more frequently every year. You will begin to understand.

          • curiousKulak

            Yes, there’s always that possibility – of being entirely, or mostly, at the mercy of others. That is actually how we got here, eh? However, I believe that if one is honest, somewhat reliable and willing to be of service, that those attributes will prove a value to someone and could lead to compensation or support. Old age means a narrowing of possibilities, which sux. But I’ve been told to just keep breathing. At some point we all will face the Great Mystery, alone. I hope it finds you – and us all – at peace.

        • 4th Gen SF

          Miki, it does seem weird that you are doing volunteer work instead of work work. You could work at Safeway part time & make more than what you’re getting from the gov’t.

          • mikipryor

            Cannot work anymore… am 73, no one will hire me and I get tired being on my feet more than a couple of hours. I have two replaced hips and arthritis in my spine and knees. Not a candidate for paid work. As a volunteer, I can leave or cancel my commitment anytime. + I see poverty as a challenge, not a burden. How do I live on $900/month? Rent = 30% or $246, low cost utilities (@$7/month) + free medical care ( both hips replaced, cost me nothing ). Free bus pass, free cell phone (unlimited talk and text), free food (yay FoodRunners) and $10/ month internet (12mbs) ! I can actually Save $2-300/month some months, which lets me travel internationally (hooray for couchsurfing) ! I belong to a great gym, which I go to 4 or more times a week. My lifestyle is basically the same as my friends and family who earn six figures (or more) ! I am blessed with a functional family who supports my travels and active lifestyle.

    • 4th Gen SF

      ok so, and correct me if this is wrong, the average income for SS is $1180 & SSI is $733 a month. Is this a ballpark figure of what you’re getting? That would be $1800+ a month more or less. Do you also qualify for SNAP?

      • mikipryor

        $170/month SSi. Total income @ $900/month. Rent is based on 30% of income.

        • Historical note, acceptable rent used to be considered 25% of income, based on tons of research. In the Reagan era that was officially bumped up to 30%, based on no research but a general willingness to make things harder for the poor.

          We have had an acute homelessness problem ever since.

          • mikipryor

            Rent for extremely low income should be 10%! $200 more each month in my pocket would allow me to do more volunteer work and significantly improve the lives of others.

          • Yes, 10% would be better. My point is that a ton of research went into the 25% figure as the absolute maximum before lives break down. Reagan raised it to 30% and we’ve had a nationwide problem ever since, which should be no surprise based on the research.

          • curiousKulak

            Miki – I should be forced to subsidize you so you can do what you want to do? Don’t you find that rather ironic? If you’re capable of performing useful labor, it seems to me that labor should be directed to supporting yourself (and if its in a manner that helps others, so much the better).

            I’m rather confident I could be a Grrreat philanthropist – if you’d just give me the money.

          • 4th Gen SF

            Wait, how are you able to volunteer when you’re getting disability $?

          • curiousKulak

            Historical note: acceptable rent used to be 16-20%. But, due to spiraling costs for Oper & Maint. (damn unionized plumbers and janitors), it was raised to 25% (Brooke’s Amendment, 1969). In 1981 Congress (or Reagan) upped the level to 30% as taxes were reduced (funny how politics works)
            https://www.census.gov/housing/census/publications/who-can-afford.pdf

            As for homelessness, seem like the demolition of “blighted” housing in the 60s & 70s might have contributed a little bit to that.

            And yes, Fed spending on housing (or HUD) has been reduced drastically. Frankly, not so sad to see some of the products it produced go away (my sister lived in the old Valencia “Gardens”, a particularly delicious hell-hole; as was Hayes North & South, Pink Palace etc etc.). Perhaps they do it better now. Cuz what we have now isn’t particularly appealing either.

          • The “might have contributed to that” narrative is speculation. The nation’s suddenly-huge homelessness problem began with a sudden halt to housing and to unaffordability-based housing assistance.

          • curiousKulak

            “suddenly huge” over a 35 yr time period is not “sudden”. But I’ll take your speculation about my speculation that reducing housing units might lead to a housing crisis as just that.

          • It wasn’t “over a 35-year time period,” it was a problem right away, while Reagan was still President. It was one of the signature issues of the 1980s.

          • curiousKulak
          • curiousKulak

            Actually, SF has seen a consistent increase (albeit tiny) in housing stock over the decades, with dips and growth in population. From 265k in 1950 to 380k today. Pop went from ~750k to 680k up til todays 800k+.

            No – actually thats a rather huge overall increase (almost 50%) in housing units, specially with the relatively lackluster increase in population number (750k to 800+) from 1950 to 2015.

            Guess bulldozing those Vict’s and converting the SROs was compensated by Lake Mercetera and Diamond Hgts.

  • Penn

    The subtitle of the piece says it: at the very least, keeping the part of the population who are currently housed subsidized to remain so is infinitely cheaper (in money, services, mental and physical health) than making them homeless. Arranging and paying for more housing is yet another subject. Yes, that one needs to be addressed also (in fact, it is), but this is here and now and do-able. And the best genuine chance we’ve had to solve a big part of the problem.

    And a reminder, folks. A is for Alleged, not Affordable. When you see the words “AFFORDABLE HOUSING” spit. By definition: Any housing that has rent or sales price restrictions. Most of San Francisco’s so-called affordable housing was developed with city, state and federal funds. It is
    restricted to households earning 50 percent or less of the city’s area
    median income.

    The MEDIAN INCOME in SF is over $84,000. Half of that: $42,000/yr. That’s about $3,700/mo. Now, look at this: Under “Affordable” housing, Very Low Income is $900/mo, Low is $1,400, Moderate is $2,100 and Middle Income is $2,500. So the highest level of required income of Affordable housing is about $1,200 UNaffordable. Got it?

    “Affordable,” in SF real estate terms, varies widely. In reality, the way the word is used, it amounts to a silly millimeter under Market for most people considered eligible. It’s a three-card monte trick. There are a few, a very few, apartments available to low income families (I have never heard of one available to an individual), who are lucky to be around when the housing lottery comes along … if they can hold on homeless for years and years on The Lists. The Lists, each one for a different residence, are usually full, read Closed, except for a few unadvertised days a year. So the other near 100% of the Alleged “Affordable” housing spaces are assigned either by lottery or top of the List. I was on all available lists for seven years without a chance at anything less than double what I could afford, having an income between the two lowest. AFFORDABLE, except to those MEDIAN-income earners or retirees who have over $3,000 a month coming in, is a scam, and a sop to voters. I was fortunate enough, elderly and disabled and about to be homeless (again), to land in a room whose tenant is protected under Section 8 federal law. Just blind luck.

    Mayor Lee is part of the same real estate buddy group Da (other) Mayor put into place decades ago. Fight him … or live with the homeless, their unavoidable costs and increasing population. Never mind crouching in a corner of your closet waiting for what Trump may (try to) do, or not. Pay attention to your city instead of thinking up obstructions, objections and old, long-since outmoded ideas.

    • OpenFullHeart

      Gee, I live in affordable housing in Berkeley, housing built using all kinds of public monies from many sources and people can move into my building with incomes up to 65% of area median income. It is hard to believe this is not the standard at any affordable housing in SF!

      • curiousKulak

        65% AMI (abt $45k) is actually quite high, which is what I think Penn was trying to say. SSI by itself (< $11k yr) is around 15% AMI. There are not too many locations that will accept that, for rather obvious reasons.

    • Spit? How ever so useful. Of course, we have a President-Elect whose political fortunes are linked to how much spittle flies during rallies (and, um, tweets).

      “Affordable” has an academic meaning, it’s 25% of one’s income. Yes, there are problems with indexing it to median income instead of individual incomes, and a huge problem with making that number 30% instead of 25%, as the Reagan Administration did when it touched off decades of homelessness. But putting the word in sneer quotes and spitting isn’t any sort of solution to anything at all.

      • Penn

        Affordable, specifically as I used it re housing in San Francisco – and explained in detail – is a lie. There is nothing academic about the word in this context; it is a horrible misnomer that leaves hundreds more people every year wasting their time and their hopes on a political trick. The word was not used sneeringly, the quotation marks simply set it off from the common definition. But the politicians, Housing Authority and housing administrators who make use of it in its current context (regarding housing that is called “Affordable” but which is un-affordable … is that clear yet)? … are worth that sneer. The spitting is what happens when you become speechless and foaming at the mouth when you find out you and your family are going to be or continue to be homeless because you bought into that “Affordable” lie. And by the way, that “25% of income for rent” does not fly in San Francisco and hasn’t flown since the real-estate mayors, under the leadership and with the partnership of Willie Brown, made the underhanded deals that pushed the young, innovative, working and truly diverse population out of the city tp make room, eventually, for the blight of hi-rise half-empty condos.

        • curiousKulak

          Thank you “Affordable” has become a political catch-phrase used to attract votes and designate teams.

          While it may have a technical or academic meaning, usually associated with one’s income; there’s no denying that its unrelated to the actual costs involved. And while some of those costs are soft (land, construction, financing), others are actual direct user-induced costs (water, garbage, heat, repair).

          Its odd that the public policy rhetoric rarely alludes to these.

  • OpenFullHeart

    At least SF still has some public housing, which is usually housing of last resort. People have to pay, if they have no income, a nominal rent, typically an amount easily panhandled or gifted by friends. I wish this article included some info about SF public housing. I believe the city is doing its best to gentry its public housing, push out the very low income residents and make room for folks in higher tiers of income (but still low income).

    • Penn

      (1) You must have strict proof of income to apply for public housing, report any changes immediately, and that is reviewed annually. (2) You must be able to guarantee that income to be paid monthly (by check tied to your bank account, not by credit card). (3) “typically an amount easily panhandled or gifted by friends” just breaks me up. OpenFullHeart, you are living in one fairy tale world!

  • Porfirio666

    The SF city budget was $6.83 billion when Lee took office. It was $2.10 billion higher in 2015, and projected nearly $10 billion this year (according to Heather Knight, SF Chron).

    Clearly we’ve got systemic problems. As the pension shortfall balloons, we will never have enough money here.

  • Don Sebastopol

    Wouldn’t low income disabled seniors be eligible for section 8 or public housing?

    • Penn

      New Section 8 vouchers for individuals were discontinued in San Francisco in the 90s There is now however, such a thing as a Section 8 voucher attached to the home (not the tenant) IF the the housing is public housing or under Federal, i.e. HUD, rules. There are other requirements. If someone has acquired such a voucher from another area and moves to SF, he or she is eligible to use it in San Francisco . . . IF a landlord can be found who is willing to take it. Because of the low vacancy rate in the city and the fact that the voucher itself is only good for 150 days, if the holder hasn’t found a place by then, they lose the voucher. According to definition: “A 2010 court ruling . . . decreed that Section 8
      money isn’t the tenant’s income. The court said that although it’s the
      tenant who receives the PHA voucher, the income goes straight to the landlord. Therefore, the landlord can refuse Section 8 tenants without breaking state law.”

  • Debra Moore

    Certainly cannot blame politicians for having too much brainpower.

  • sebra leaves

    There is an easy solution if the Board of Supes quits funding the street projects. Given the choice between housing and sidewalks and street tree cutting, I think we can choose rent subsidies. Take the cheapest instead of the most expensive alternatives.

  • Porfirio666

    “70 percent of the people living on the streets were once housed in this city.”

    Can you cite a source for that figure?