Amanda Witherell of the SF Bay Guardian Gets it Right On Homeless Shelter Standards in San Francisco
Hat's Off To Journalist Amanda Witherell of the San Francisco Bay Guardian For Her Undercover Investigations of San Francisco's Tax Funded Homeless Shelter System.
They both deserve nominations for The Pulitizer Prize for their factual and unbiased, in depth, first-hand reporting. They lived in the shelter -- to see the realities that lay there, first hand.
She and her colleague, Bryan Cohen, went 'undercover' as homeless residents to see what was 'really happening' inside our City's tax funded homeless shelter system.
Public Officials, like Mayor Gavin Newsom want to keep shutting down shelters and 24 hour 'drop in' centers, even through the whole City realizes that it's money well spent as 'human investments' that save us money, almost immediately.
In a recent press conference, the Mayor said he wanted to 'get out of the shelter business'.
Well, that cannot be what he meant to say, because just as you need different size measuring cups to move ingredients from one place to the other, to make a cake, you need to have all of the assorted sizes of cups to measure out the ingredients properly.
Similiar to that example, we must have places for people to go that are safe and humane. Shelters are just one necessary step. It's part of a larger pipeline.
Others are transitional housing, SRO's and supportive housing and in certain cases, some sort of medical 'respite'.
Some people, no matter if they are on the streets or in an SRO or shelter or friend's couch, need a safe place to go, like a 24 hour center, even if its just a few nights a month to 'get away' and 'be safe' from bad or hostile home environment.
However, it's a continuous 'path' moving people from streets all the way to affordable housing which means not everyone should be at the 'same' type of place or need all services offered.
Every one has different needs, but what they all have in common, is the need and the right to be safe and taken 'good care' of, for as long as needed, at any place they go to.
One cannot replace the 'shelter beds' with 'respite' beds or 24 hour drop in center chairs; it's not like that. Each place and each type of place has it's unique needs.
Wiping out competition and choice by City Officials, expressing a desire to 'close all shelters' except the two largest (which would create a grotesque monopoly with, unfortunately, the 2 shelter providers that have not performed as well as the smaller competitors) is like some sort of dictator's dream.
It surely does not represent the will of the people and residents that live and work at all the shelters, resource centers, and service provider facilities.
It smells like cheese, say the latino residents.
That means it's bad for everyone and the real motives or reasons are either not clear or are not being given to us, or they do not exist.
Investment now, in standards and true shelter reform, will give us great returns because it insures the health, safety and enabling of our residents to get through the shelters, faster, onto their next step.
That's a lot cheaper than paying for preventable 'premium' costs associated with emergency response and treatment of people, later, who are 'loose in the streets' that need our help but have no place to go to 'be safe' because of short sided budget cuts.
We're talking about a couple hundred people a day, (elderly, disabled, mentally ill and women) at risk, due to our Mayor's 'cuts' to the only 24 hour center we have.
These short sided cuts perpetuate cycles of much higher costs (later) due to gross overtime pay to police, fire and medical response personnel, who's services could have been shifted elsewhere, if we had more shelter beds and 24 hour centers.
It's a no-brainer... but no one except a few 'elected servants', as seen by their own press releases and speeches, appear to want to keep putting the cart in front of the horse and they cannot seem to articulate 'reasons' behind the cuts... they just repeating repeating 'we have ot make the cuts' like trained parrots or puppets.
Who is pulling their strings to run up costs and cause more suffering, instead of just doing 'what the people want'.
Which is, to save tax money and prevent harm, suffering and premature death or aggravation of mentally ill residents. ???
Whose money is it, anyway ?
It's not the Mayor's money, it's Our Money.
We all pay these taxes, so why isn't it being spent according to Our Will ?
If we want to spend the money now to help people and save a lot more that won't have to be spent on emergency and crisis services later, why can't we ?
Makes no sense when they are unable to 'tell us' why and give us sound reasons for the ridiculously expensive cuts to Buster's Place, shelter beds and mental health services.
Is someone actually profitting politically or monetarily off the backs (and the blood) of our City's homeless ?