“There is no other place to get access to these resources,” said Cuiping Tan, a Chinatown SRO tenant who works with SRO Families United Collaborative. “I have no other place to go.”
Tan is one of the many tenants who gathered in the Mission District on Thursday to rally against Mayor London Breed’s proposed budget released June 1.
The proposed budget would cut 100 percent of the funding for the Code Enforcement Outreach Program and the SRO Collaborative. These organizations act as liaisons between tenants and their landlords or the Department of Building Inspection to keep buildings habitable and up to code.
Most of their work engages people from low-income and marginalized communities who do not speak English, and they have translators who can help people communicate their complaints and be heard.
The supporting organizations at the rally included the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, the Mission SRO Collaborative, Causa Justa/Just Cause, the Chinese Progressive Association, the Chinese Community Development Center, the South of Market Community Action Network, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, and the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition.
The rally took place outside an apartment building whose residents actively contact the CEOP and SRO Collaborative for help with building issues.
“The combination of all of our organizations have spoken to and provided services for one in every three tenants in San Francisco in the last 20 years,” HRCSF Organizing Director Maria Zamudio explained. “In the last 10 years, we have talked to more than 50,000 people and supported them in being able to navigate the bureaucracy that is the Department of Building Inspections. There is no other alternative for where tenants are supposed to go. That’s a little bit of what’s at stake here.”
Tan spoke about her experiences with the help of translator Sandy Jiang from the Chinese Community Development Center. “She and her daughter have lived in an SRO for a long time because they cannot get into any affordable housing,” Jiang said. “Their living conditions are really harsh. Any time the bathroom is leaking or there is mold, there is no help. But fortunately the SRO Families United Collaborative… they are able to speak the same language and help provide these essential services.
“We don’t know how to take care of these building issues on our own. Every time we tell the landlord, they say they will take care of it, but they never do. I’m here to urge the mayor not to cut the budget because these are essential services that we who are the vulnerable populations deserve.”
If these programs are so necessary and widely used, why is the entire budget being cut?
Last year’s proposed budget described these programs as “preserving affordable housing for the city’s most needy residents with a focus on single-room occupancy, non-English speaking, public housing, and low-income.” Some of the organizations have been working with the city for 25 years, so the 100 percent cut of their budgets came as a shock to everyone.
“The department (DBI) itself recommended no cuts,” says HRCSF Executive Director Fred Sherburn-Zimmer. “They said they had the money, that they could make minor changes… and fund these programs 100 percent.”
The proposed budget also makes cuts to programs that support children and the families, such as Family Connection Centers. In contrast, most parts of the SFPD’s budget would increase, such as the Department of Field Operations and the administration, in order to aid “recruitment and retention” issues and support “chronic understaffing” within the police department.
The Budget and Appropriations Committee is holding hearings almost every day as the supes begin to consider the mayor’s budget. DBI will be presenting on Wed/14 and the Police Department on Friday/16. All hearings start at 10am and include public comment.