Posts Tagged 'Gavin Newsom'

Conditions in Gavin Newsom’s Shelters

San Francisco Mayor and Gubinatorial Candidate Gavin Newsom instituted “Care Not Cash” in 2003, in which General Assistance grants were lowered from as much as $359 per month down to $59 per month plus a promise of housing.  For many homeless people, “housing” has meant shelter beds under inhuman condition.  See  “Is San Francisco’s ‘Care Not Cash’ a Sucess?”

Two San Francisco Gray Panthers spoke recently with a couple about conditions in the shelter.  This is their report, in the form of a letter to the San Francisco Supervisors:

San Francisco Supervisors:

Today, after participating in a protest against cuts to San Francisco’s health and human services budget, I met a remarkable couple. As my fellow protesters and I were disbanding, the couple — I’ll call them Rosa and Richard — urged us to join them at a meeting of the [Homeless] Shelter Monitoring Committee, which was about to take place inside of City Hall. My partner and I took them up on the offer.

During the public comment portion of the Shelter Monitoring Committee meeting, Richard stood up at the podium. He spoke briefly of his efforts at turning his life around as an able-bodied and employable man who, granted, had made some bad decisions at a certain point in his life. He then read aloud to the Committee the text of the mission statement that hangs on the wall at the shelter where he and his wife sleep. The mission statement was replete with such aspirational words and phrases as “compassion,” “integrity,” and “self-determination” – which rang hollow, in Richard’s view, given the punitive and abrasive treatment that he and Rosa routinely receive at the hands of shelter staff.

When the meeting concluded, my partner and I got into a conversation with Rosa and Richard and walked with them for several blocks after leaving City Hall. Our progress was slow because Rosa was limping. Rosa told me, in a manner devoid of self-pity, of the particulars of her situation. For the past four years, she has suffered from a systemic disease impacting her lymph nodes. Pus accumulates in one of her legs, which she keeps wrapped in diapers to absorb the pus and prevent infections from developing due to her chronically open pores. Her foot below the affected leg is discolored from impaired circulation.

Rosa has been told that, in her present condition, should be elevating her leg for fifteen hours a day. As a homeless person, however, this is impractical. She cannot simply sit at the library or in a café for hours on end without arousing suspicion. Nor does she have regular day-time access to any shelter. Rosa has been hospitalized for thirty days or more on twenty-two occasions since her diagnosis — yet, Medicaid refuses to pay for the materials she needs to wrap her leg.

Rosa also spoke of the inadequate and gruel-like food provided to her at the shelter, and the lack of access to a healthy diet she and Richard experience due to limited means and mobility. All of these things she conveyed to me with gripping clarity and without relinquishing her dignity.

The extremity of Rosa’s circumstances would easily crush another person’s spirit and will. It is bad enough to chronically want for the basic needs in life that many of us take for granted. Worse, is to be fated; fated by virtue of belonging to a certain demographic. “The most evil and insidious thing,” Richard commented at one point this morning, “is that all of this is by human design.”

Advertisements

Shrinking Government: Newsom’s budget cuts public health and city employees — includes no new taxes.

SF Bay Guardian, June 3, 2009

Shrinking government

Newsom’s budget cuts public health and city employees — and includes no new taxes

By Steven T. Jones

Mayor Gavin Newsom released his proposed 2009-10 city budget June 1, proclaiming it far better than doomsayers predicted and emphasizing how he minimized cuts to health and human services that he once said could be as deep as 25 percent in order to bridge a $438 million budget deficit.

“It doesn’t come close to balancing on the backs of our health and human services agencies, as some had feared,” Newsom told the department heads, elected supervisors, and journalists who were tightly packed into his office for the announcement event.

But there’s still plenty of pain in a city budget where the General Fund — the portion of the budget local officials can control — would be reduced by more than 11 percent, its only reduction in recent memory. And at a time when every reasonable Democrat in Sacramento has been nearly begging for tax hikes to prevent budget blood, San Francisco’s Democratic mayor proudly proclaimed that there are no new taxes in the budget.

“We didn’t raise taxes, and we didn’t borrow,” he said. You can almost hear that line being repeated in the ads he’ll be running as he campaigns for governor.

Newsom proposes slashing the city’s public health budget by $128.4 million, or 8 percent (a total of 400 employees), while the human services budget would take a $15.9 million hit, or 2 percent. “That’s a lot, but by no means is it devastating,” Newsom said, noting that he restored some of the deepest cuts that were the subject of alarming public hearings. “I listened to the public comments at the Board of Supervisors… Things got a lot better than the headlines and the hearings.”

The proposed budget includes 1,603 full-time-equivalent layoffs, or a 5.8 reduction in the city’s workforce, trimming more than $75.5 million from the general fund budget. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services is cutting back its workweek to 37.5 hours to further trim costs.

“The smoke hasn’t cleared yet and there’s a lot of devastation in this budget that isn’t being talked about,” Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee, said at the event. Newsom’s budget will be analyzed and then face its first committee hearing June 17, with approval by the full board required by July 31.

“The mayor told us a lot about what’s in the budget, but not a lot about what’s not in the budget, so we’ll spend a few days figuring that out,” board President David Chiu told the Guardian.

The budget was aided greatly by more than $80 million in federal stimulus funds and other one-time revenue sources (such as $10 million from the sale of city-owned energy turbines) that were used to plug this year’s gap and offset cuts by the state and depressed tax revenue.

Although Newsom doesn’t want to raise taxes, licenses and fees would go up 41 percent, increasing revenue by $64 million to $220 million. Some of those proposed fee hikes range from the cost of parking in city-owned garages to admission fees for city-owned facilities such as the Strybing Arboretum. Muni riders will also see fares hiked to $2.

There will also be deep cuts to some key city functions. The Department of Emergency Management would take a 24 percent cut under the mayor’s plan, while the Department of Building Inspection faces a 20 percent cut to expenditures and a 29 percent reduction in staff.

The Planning Department would also take a hit of about 7 percent, with most of that focused on the department’s long-range planning functions, which were slashed by 19 percent to $4.7 million.

But it’s not an entirely austere budget. The police and fire departments have status quo budgets with no layoffs. Travel expenses would increase 13.5 percent to $2.9 million and the cost of food purchased by the city would rise 127 percent to $7 million.

The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development — which often uses public funds to subsidize private sector projects — would get a 32 percent increase, to $24.7 million.

It’s unclear how much the Mayor’s Office has shared the budget pain. During the presentation, Newsom said his office’s budget has been cut by 28 percent, but he later clarified that was spread over the five years he has been mayor. Yet even that is tough to account for given that some functions have been shuffled to other departments.

The document shows a proposed 60 percent increase in the Mayor’s Office budget, although the lion’s share of that comes from the Mayor’s Office of Housing’s one-time financial support for some long-awaited projects, including rebuilding the Hunters View housing and support services project for low-income people connected to the Central YMCA, and an apartment project on 29th Avenue for people with disabilities.

Avalos has said he will look to find money by cutting some of the highly paid policy czars and communications specialists added to the Mayor’s Office in recent years, as well as Newsom’s cherished 311 call center and the Community Justice Court he created. Supervisors are also expected to resist Newsom’s penchant for privatization. Newsom proposed to privatize seven city functions, from jail health services and security guards and city-owned facilities, and to consolidate another 14 functions between various city departments.

Newsom pledged to work with supervisors who want to change the budget, continuing the rhetoric of cooperation that he opened the budget season with in January, which supervisors say hasn’t been matched by his actions or the secretive nature of this budget. “This budget is by no means done,” Newsom said. “It’s an ongoing process.”

In fact, Newsom warned that the budget news could be even worse than his budget outlines. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is talking about new cuts that could total $175 million or more for San Francisco only, although Newsom only included $25 million of that in his budget because it went to the printer on May 22 and the total hit is still unclear. “So,” Newsom said, “we’re by no means out of the woods.”

Is San Francisco’s Care-Not-Cash a Success?

SF Gray Panthers Newsletter, June, 2009

Is San Francisco’s Care-Not-Cash a Success?

A May 3 SF Chronicle article on Mayor Newsom’s Care-Not-Cash proclaimed, “SF Making Strides to Solve Homeless Problem. 83 percent reduction in people receiving checks who are homeless.” Our new member was outraged. “Are we to be happy that there has been a 5/6th reduction in money for homeless people? How does this relate to abatement of human suffering? Why does the Chronicle or Newsom feel that it’s a great accomplishment?”

Most General Assistance (GA) recipients got their checks reduced to $65 monthly, but only one in three or four got any kind of housing. And “housing” increasingly means a shelter bed.

The increasingly inadequate number of shelter beds are reserved for those GA recipients because every shelter bed occupied by a GA recipient represents a big savings for the City.

If you don’t qualify for GA, such as being undocumented, or are receiving any other benefits (like most seniors and people with disabilities), you start standing in line at 4 AM to get a bed, and even then you’ll be turned away an average of six times a month.  You’re not allowed to use your bed until 8 PM, so you’re on the street all day. The drop-in center where you can rest or use the bathroom is being closed as part of the budget cuts.

If you get a bed, it’s supposed to be yours for a week, but some are one-night-only beds that belong to other programs but aren’t being used that night for some reason.  So if you’re unlucky enough to be assigned a one-night-only bed, you’re back on the line the next morning at 4 AM hoping you’ll get a week-long bed.

The number of families needing shelters doubled from 2007 to 2008, At the same time, the city has reduced family shelter beds by 20 percent, and the waiting list is now more than four months long — meaning families are waiting for shelter longer than they can actually stay in it.

Around 3 AM on even the coldest of nights, a City water truck makes its rounds through the Tenderloin, hosing down doorways where homeless unable to get a bed are sleeping. And this is what Newsom and the Chronicle call success.

Also see Conditions in Gavin Newsom’s Shelters


Archives

Categories

RSS Gray Panthers in the News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 589 other followers


%d bloggers like this: