Posts Tagged 'Newsom for California'

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.”

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Budget Justice Rally Rocks SF City Hall

Budget Justice Rally Rocks SF City Hall

“Mayor Newsom said ‘We have a near-perfect budget.'”
Hell no! .. We have a budget with a lot of blood on the floor.”
” It’s your blood it’s our blood and all of our blood!”

Supervisor John Avalos

Hundreds marched from Hallidie Plaza to San Francisco City Hall yesterday afternoon to protest Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed city budget, which contains deep cuts to address a looming $438 million general fund deficit.

Organized by a coalition called Budget Justice, which includes Coleman Advocates, the Coalition on Homelessness, SEIU and others, the rally and march brought out a wide cross-section of people whose lives would be directly affected by cuts to the city’s health and human services programs. Homeless people, veterans, the elderly, AIDS patients, organizations that aid victims of violence and sexual abuse, people in need of mental-health therapy or programs for recovery from substance abuse, and single room occupancy residents were all represented. ( SF Bay Guardian Blog, June 11, 2009)

See Guardian editorial “Dismantling the Newsom Budget” below.
See video by  Bill Carpenter.
Thanks to Patricia Jackson for the photos.
See the leaflet for the event (pdf).

Dismantling the Newsom budget

The mayor’s cheery line may sound good when he’s out of town running for governor,
but it’s not going to play so well on the streets of San Francisco.

Guardian Editorial

EDITORIAL Mayor Gavin Newsom was upbeat when he delivered his budget proposal last week. It won’t be that bad, he told everyone — “At the end of the day, it’s a math problem.”

Well, actually, it’s not. At the end of the day, it’s job losses, major cuts to city services, and hidden taxes — most of them, despite the mayor’s rhetoric, falling on the backs of the poor.

You can’t cut $70 million from the Department of Public Health — which is already operating at bare-bones levels after years of previous cuts — without significant impacts on health care for San Franciscans. You can’t cut $19 million out of the Human Services Agency without badly hurting homeless and needy people. You can’t raise Muni fares to $2 without taking cash out of the pockets of working-class people. The mayor’s cheery line may sound good when he’s out of town running for governor, but it’s not going to play so well on the streets of San Francisco.

Just for the record, here are a few of the proposed cuts:

A 21-bed acute psychiatric unit would be shut and replaced with an 18-bed unit for milder cases. Where would the seriously mentally ill go?

The number of home-healthcare workers, the folks who take care of the very sick who need skilled clinical services in the home, would be cut by 30 percent. Those clients would either suffer, go to (expensive) hospitals, or die.

Ongoing outpatient mental health services would be limited to the most severe cases. People who are, for now, only moderately mentally ill would lose access to care (until, without care, they become severely mentally ill).

The emergency food-bag program for seniors will lose $50,000, so hungry senior citizens won’t get to eat.

Almost $3 million will be cut from community-based organizations that provide direct, frontline services to the homeless.

Almost half of the city’s recreation directors — people who provide direct services and mentoring to at-risk youth — will be laid off.

The Tenderloin Housing Clinic Eviction Defense Center, the only place that offers free legal defense for Ellis Act evictions, will lose funding, leaving hundreds of tenants at risk of losing their homes.

Drop-in centers will close. Programs for homeless youth will shut down. More homeless people with increasingly more serious mental illness will be wandering the streets with nowhere to go for help.

Mayor Newsom brags in his campaign ads about creating private-sector jobs — but the budget will mean layoffs not just for city employees but for perhaps 1,000 nonprofit workers. That dwarfs the job creation he’s claiming — and defies the Obama administration’s call for government and private business to try to preserve and create jobs.

This isn’t a math problem. It’s a political problem, and the supervisors need to make it very clear that the mayor’s budget isn’t going to fly.

The supervisors need to take the budget apart, piece by piece, and reset its priorities. Newsom increases funding for police investigators by $7 million, while cutting the Public Defender’s Office by $2 million. He’s preserving his own bloated political operation (a big press office, highly paid special assistants and programs like 311 that are part of his gubernatorial campaign) while eliminating big parts of the social safety net. He’s raising bus fares, but not taxes on downtown.

“The mayor has presented his vision,” Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the Budget Committee, explained. “Now our priorities have to be presented.”

This can’t be a modest, typical budget negotiation with the supervisors tweaking a few items here and there. This is a battle for San Francisco, for its future and its soul, and the supervisors need to start talking, today, about how they’re going to fight back. *

See the June 11, 2009 BeyondChron article “Supes Push for a More Equitable Budget,” describing the SF Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee’s passing an amendment cutting $82 million out of the Police, Fire and Sheriff Departments – so that the City can more adequately fund the Public Health Department and Human Services Agency, and more evenly “spread the pain” of the financial crisis among various agencies.


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