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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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HousingHomelessnessWhy Mayor Breed suddenly blocked a homeless drop-in center in the Haight

Why Mayor Breed suddenly blocked a homeless drop-in center in the Haight

A plan that CIty Hall and community activists fully supported abruptly died last month. Here's what happened.

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Mayor London Breed Tuesday tried to explain why she abruptly shut down plans for a drop-in center for homeless youth on the corner of Haight and Stanyan—and all she did was create more confusion.

Sup. Dean Preston, who represents the area and has pushed for the drop-in center, asked the mayor during Question Time why her office, which had supported the idea for months, suddenly shut it down just weeks before it was slated to open.

The site was once a McDonald’s, but the city bought it several years ago and it will eventually be a 100 percent affordable housing project.

Breed suddenly killed a homeless drop-in center

But the project has changed (in fact, expanded), causing delays. For a while it was a (successful) safe-sleeping site, but now it’s empty.

Preston set aside more than $200,000 in the budget to fund a modest drop-in center (which would only be open eight hours a day five days a week).

Here’s what Preston asked the mayor:

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing committed to my office and the community that services for homeless [youth], at minimum bathroom, hand washing stations and showers and drop-ins and referrals would be launched as part of an interim use following the closure of the safe sleeping site. After the slight delay they guaranteed my office they would launch in October at the latest. This representation was also made to the community at public meetings in August.

HSH issued the solicitations Sept. 7 and the Homeless Youth Alliance was selected and was preparing to open the critical services on the site. Then less than two weeks before the site was to open, HSH informed our office and the Homeless Youth Alliance that the project would not proceed.

This was disappointing both because these are critical service for a vulnerable population and because the administration violated the promise to the community. What are the reasons, all the reasons your administration slid reversed course and violated its commitment to open [youth] homeless services at 730 Stanyan by Oct. 31?

Breed started off by saying there wasn’t enough money in the budget to pay for the program:

The resources that you helped to provide during the budget cycle was not, according to the organization, sufficient in order to do what was discussed with the community.

Kyle Smeallie, an aide to Preston, told me that never in the entire process that this plan has gone forward did anyone raise any questions about adequate funding. If HSH had said they needed more money, of course, Preston could have gone back to his colleagues and asked for a supplemental appropriation. (And we are talking a pretty small amount of money here, it would have been pretty easy.)

Then we got to the real issue: Breed said:

Let’s be honest. Not everyone in this community supports this project.

Preston is calling for a hearing next week on the project, but I would hazard a guess this is the real issue.

The Haight has always been a progressive neighborhood, but there are also people who really, really don’t want to see more homeless kids. And they see a drop-in center as a problem.

And they have always had the ear of then-Sup. London Breed and now Mayor London Breed.

This is, I suspect we will learn, not about money at all. It’s about the actual, real Nimbys—the folks who oppose homeless services in what is now a fully gentrified neighborhood—convincing the mayor to scrap a plan that everyone had already accepted.

That’s how the Mayor’s Office operates these days.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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