skip to content

probono.net/bayarea

Bay Area lawyers serving the public good.

Tough Cases: City's Homeless Plan Would Help the Neediest First

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A new 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness is hitting the streets -- and the public eye -- today, calling for greater efforts to tackle the most severe cases where people have been without a home for a year or more.

Angela Alioto, former supervisor and mayoral candidate who was chosen by Mayor Gavin Newsom to head the 33-member council that produced the draft document, said it's been "a revelation" to her to see that prioritizing the needs of the 3,000 most seriously ill people will free up resources and indirectly help the other 9,000 people currently considered to be homeless.

"If you have four kids in the house and one of them's very, very sick,'' Alioto commented, "it makes everyone feel bad.''

At the Department of Public Health, Marc Trotz backs up the new approach, which he says will save money by stanching the "hemorrhaging of resources'' that people with mental-health or substance-abuse issues, or both, currently cause through repeated trips to the emergency ward and other drains on city services.

"There needs to be some triage,'' said Trotz, who heads the Direct Access to Housing program. He said he believes it is "very realistic" to believe that 3,000 new units of housing can be found with the help of the various government and private agencies.

On 10th Street near Civic Center, a group of lawyers and social workers has been helping some of the same clients, particularly the mentally ill, to qualify for federal Supplemental Security Insurance benefits and get off city-provided general assistance -- a process that people lacking a stable address often find nearly impossible to complete.

"They get turned down over and over,'' said Teresa Friend, managing attorney at the Homeless Advocacy Program, overseen by the San Francisco Bar Association.

She said she supports giving the neediest cases priority, but hopes thousands of less seriously ill people won't be left out in the process. "You can't ignore the needs of the others or the whole thing falls apart,'' Friend said.

Created in just four months, the report is set to be officially unveiled at midday today by Alioto, Newsom and Philip Mangano, the federal official who's been calling on cities to produce a plan to eliminate chronic homeless in the coming decade. Mangano, director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, has also been promoting the $70 million Samaritan Initiative in Congress, which would provide some money for supportive housing to stabilize people so they can begin to receive the medical treatment they need.

San Francisco leaders are also heading toward placing a bond measure on the fall ballot that could yield $90 million for supportive housing. For Alioto, that's a minimum figure.

"It was $150 [million]," she said, adding that she hopes the U.S. Veterans Administration will offer the use of federal property within The City to help provide more housing.

Whatever can happen should happen as quickly as possible, Alioto said. "We can't keep putting this off," she concluded. "People are dying."

A new 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness is hitting the streets -- and the public eye -- today, calling for greater efforts to tackle the most severe cases where people have been without a home for a year or more.

Angela Alioto, former supervisor and mayoral candidate who was chosen by Mayor Gavin Newsom to head the 33-member council that produced the draft document, said it's been "a revelation" to her to see that prioritizing the needs of the 3,000 most seriously ill people will free up resources and indirectly help the other 9,000 people currently considered to be homeless.

"If you have four kids in the house and one of them's very, very sick,'' Alioto commented, "it makes everyone feel bad.''

At the Department of Public Health, Marc Trotz backs up the new approach, which he says will save money by stanching the "hemorrhaging of resources'' that people with mental-health or substance-abuse issues, or both, currently cause through repeated trips to the emergency ward and other drains on city services.

"There needs to be some triage,'' said Trotz, who heads the Direct Access to Housing program. He said he believes it is "very realistic" to believe that 3,000 new units of housing can be found with the help of the various government and private agencies.

On 10th Street near Civic Center, a group of lawyers and social workers has been helping some of the same clients, particularly the mentally ill, to qualify for federal Supplemental Security Insurance benefits and get off city-provided general assistance -- a process that people lacking a stable address often find nearly impossible to complete.

"They get turned down over and over,'' said Teresa Friend, managing attorney at the Homeless Advocacy Program, overseen by the San Francisco Bar Association.

She said she supports giving the neediest cases priority, but hopes thousands of less seriously ill people won't be left out in the process. "You can't ignore the needs of the others or the whole thing falls apart,'' Friend said.

Created in just four months, the report is set to be officially unveiled at midday today by Alioto, Newsom and Philip Mangano, the federal official who's been calling on cities to produce a plan to eliminate chronic homeless in the coming decade. Mangano, director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, has also been promoting the $70 million Samaritan Initiative in Congress, which would provide some money for supportive housing to stabilize people so they can begin to receive the medical treatment they need.

San Francisco leaders are also heading toward placing a bond measure on the fall ballot that could yield $90 million for supportive housing. For Alioto, that's a minimum figure.

"It was $150 [million]," she said, adding that she hopes the U.S. Veterans Administration will offer the use of federal property within The City to help provide more housing.

Whatever can happen should happen as quickly as possible, Alioto said. "We can't keep putting this off," she concluded. "People are dying."

Topics:

Thanks to PBN Sponsors:

  • LegalZoom

National Practice Areas

Pro Bono and legal aid attorney resources - Pro Bono Net

Not a lawyer?
Need legal help?

LawHelpCalifornia.org
Legal info for the public

CALegalAdvocates.org
Statewide resources for legal services attorneys and staff