S.F. Pulls Plug on Controversial Bayview Homeless Shelter
In this file photo from April 2014, Eddie Jefferson Jr. is pictured at Mother Brown's Dining Room. 'If I was building shelters, I'd put it here because it's out of the way,' he said. (Mark Andrew Boyer/KQED)
San Francisco has dropped a divisive plan to build a shelter in a neighborhood that has the second-highest homeless population in the city.
City officials have withdrawn an application for state funding to help construct a 100-bed shelter in the Bayview-Hunters Point district.
Trent Rhorer, executive director of the city's Human Services Agency, wrote a letter to the state Department of Housing and Community Development on Tuesday, acknowledging that the city would not move forward on the project because it would cost too much.
Several years ago the city estimated that it would take about $1 million to convert a warehouse next to Mother Brown's Dining Room on Jennings Avenue into a shelter.
The Department of Public Works, however, estimated construction would cost $4 million.
That would have required $3 million from the city's general fund.
"We made the decision that for $3 million we would rather pursue other alternatives to helping the homeless rather than a shelter," Rhorer said in an interview.
"It's basically a public policy decision," Rhorer added, saying he'd rather see the funding put toward supportive housing.
Around 19 percent of San Francisco's homeless residents live in District 10, which encompasses the Bayview, according to the city's latest homeless count. That report found that 1,272 people were living on the streets in the district last January.
The neighborhood has only one other shelter. The Providence Baptist Church on McKinnon Avenue is open for homeless people overnight but not during the day.
Many of the neighborhood's homeless people are served by the United Council of Human Services, which runs Mother Brown's.
Gwendolyn Westbrook, the council's CEO, was outraged by the city's decision not to move forward on the shelter.
"I think it's despicable," Westbrook said in an interview. "The city has money for everything else. They'd rather have people living and dying on the streets out here than give them a bed."
She added, "I have seniors here who come every single night to get a hot meal and then they're back out on the street, sleeping in a car, sleeping on the sidewalk. It's ridiculous. All we wanted to do was get some people off the street until we could get them in housing. Since there's no housing in San Francisco, they'll just sleep on the sidewalk."
The proposal for the shelter was a source of controversy for the last few years, chronicled in this article by KQED's Katrina Schwartz.
Some residents and business owners said it would have hurt efforts to revitalize the Bayview, an area that has struggled with violence and poverty.
District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen echoed those concerns, and applauded the city's decision.
"While there are undoubtedly a significant number of individuals that are in desperate need of emergency shelter and long term housing, the plan for 2115 Jennings Avenue was flawed from its inception," Cohen said in a statement.
"For years, the Bayview community has been forced to carry a bulk of many of San Francisco's supportive services. The idea to build a 100 bed shelter was another example of a unilateral decision by the city that completely lacked any real community process or input," Cohen said.
Rhorer said his agency is working with the city's real estate division and Mayor Ed Lee's Office of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships & Engagement (HOPE) to find other locations to possibly set up a new Navigation Center, like the new homeless facility in the city's Mission District, or some other type of supportive housing.