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Bay Area Homeless Question Hurricane Relief Plans

Saturday, September 10, 2005

It was only a matter of time before the complaints rolled in. San Francisco is offering at least 100 unused public housing units to hurricane victims. But that gesture is drawing criticism from homeless advocates who say the need is great right here.

An extended family of 21 escaped devastated Louisiana to land in San Francisco public housing. They have relatives in the city, so coming here made sense.

Frances Bruno, hurricane evacuee: "Last night we just spread them all out to each house, so many went to a different house, so they good get a good bath and a hot meal and a good nights sleep."

The city Housing Authority won praise for resolving to open more doors to hurricane victims. There are 100 vacant units in one Sunnydale building, and a 100 more might be found in Hunter's Point and the Western Addition.

But the welcome mat worries some. Advocates for the homeless say with some 3,000 families in shelters every day, vacant units should go to them. San Francisco has 15,000 people in subsidized housing, but another 20,000 on the waiting list.

One young woman we met just got to the top of that list after six years and feels her homeless crisis is as urgent as any disaster victims'.

Najuawanda Daniels, homeless housing applicant: "I don't feel they should be left off, kicked to the side, but I also believe that me myself, I deserve a place as well."

Jennifer Friedenbach, Coalition on Homelessness: "We want all the housing, we don't want it to go unused anymore. We want it turned over to homeless families, regardless of what their background is."

But the Housing Authority says Sunnydale has vacancies because some are leery of the rough neighborhood, and with sixty units turning over every month, no qualified homeless applicant will be bumped by a hurricane survivor.

Gregg Fortner, San Francisco Housing Authority director: "Homeless families already have a preference on our list, so as soon as they apply - if they apply today - they jump to the top of the list. So I'm not sure where that concern comes from."

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