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Senior Shelter Sought

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Senior shelter sought
New policy seeks rooms for homeless over the age of 65


Alvin Bevil says he'd love to land a permanent residence after years spent on and off The City's streets. At 64, he says he's been through the homeless shelter system and is now living at a week-to-week hotel, but runs out of money every month and has to spend a few nights "outside."

Soon, according to Mayor Gavin Newsom, the seniors trying to get by in the shelter system will have a way out. The mayor announced plans Tuesday to put $1 million into a new program that will open individual rooms for The City's homeless senior population -- beginning with those over 65 years old and, within the next nine months, all those over 60.

"Seniors shouldn't be moved around," Newsom told a crowd at a South of Market senior center Tuesday. "Seniors should be prioritized out of our system."

Department of Human Services Director Trent Rohrer said there are currently 83 seniors over the age of 65 who are eligible for housing to be made available within 60 days. The City will select a suitable single-room occupancy hotel to house 149 seniors -- the slightly younger group being placed in the 66 remaining rooms -- which will also offer support services.

Newsom conceded there are still more seniors on the streets than the number tracked by the shelter-bed registration system, but he said he thought it was important to start implementing the 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness that former Supervisor Angela Alioto and her task force prepared earlier this year.

"No more reports, no more task forces," Newsom said.

The $1 million for the program is coming from money earmarked for homeless services that the Board of Supervisors was able to put back into the mayor's proposal for this year's budget, which included service cuts and layoffs. But Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, who chaired the Budget Committee, explained that decisions on spending the money were left to those in the field.

"We purposely didn't put any restrictions on it," he said.

However, Sandoval's fellow committee members, Supervisors Chris Daly and Jake McGoldrick, both said they wished the mayor hadn't acted on his own since they did the work to make the windfall possible. Daly said he would like to restore $150,000 for intensive homeless case management that got cut from this year's budget despite success.

With all the enthusiasm that greeted Newsom's announcement, one of the people gathered at the drop-in center pointed out how large the homeless challenge remains. Ian Johnson said he knows that at 45 years old, he's too young to take advantage of the new initiative to get off the streets. "I know my time will come," Johnson added, "if I'm not dead by then."

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