by Seth Hemmelgarn
Backers of a proposed LGBT-friendly homeless shelter in San Francisco announced this week that they're getting some help in making the long-delayed space a reality.
A Tuesday, December 4 news release from gay Supervisor David Campos said that the Haas Jr. Fund is offering a $30,000 challenge grant for the space, which is planned for 1050 South Van Ness Avenue.
Bevan Dufty, the gay director of the city's Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement program, helped secure the grant, which is to be matched in community donations, according to Campos's office.
In an email, Matt Foreman, Haas's director of gay and immigrant rights programs, said the challenge grant is from the organization's critical assistance.
He didn't directly answer a question about whether the shelter's supporters would get the grant if they don't raise $30,000.
"We are confident that with the leadership of Dolores Street and Bevan Dufty, the challenge will be met in the very near future," Foreman said.
Dolores Street Community Services, the nonprofit that already runs a shelter at the site, will operate the planned mixed-gender, 24-bed shelter.
Work to establish the gay-friendly space began not long after a Board of Supervisors committee hearing that Campos led in March 2010 in which LGBTs testified about harassment in the city's shelters.
"There have been several hurdles in getting this project off the ground," Campos noted in his statement.
Issues involved in expanding the shelter have included redoing bathrooms and setting up partitions. The designated space is in a second floor section that's been used as a classroom.
Last December, Dolores Street Executive Director Wendy Phillips and others learned that her group's existing shelter didn't have the permit to operate as such.
"We were ready to go with the rehab work on the expansion for the new queer-friendly space, and when the architect went to pull the permits, they realized our existing space had a permit for social services, but not for sleeping accommodations," Phillips said in a July interview. She said at the time that they needed a conditional use permit from the Planning Department, as well as permits from the Department of Building Inspection to do the rehabilitation work.
In an interview Tuesday, Phillips said they don't have the permits from those two agencies.
"We can't start that process until we have the funds secured," she said. "We're doing some preliminary work to be able to hit the ground running, but until we have the funds, we can't finish the contractors bidding process."
According to Phillips, the Human Services Agency will fund the ongoing costs of operating the shelter, but backers still need to raise about $100,000 to cover rehabilitation costs.
She estimated HSA has added $150,000 a year for the operation of the LGBT shelter space "once it's up and running" to Dolores Street's existing shelter budget. A call to the city agency wasn't returned Tuesday.
"It's hard to say" when the space will open, Phillips said, but it will probably be next fall.
"The first step is securing the money, and then we have to get the permits and do the construction," she said, adding, "We think once we start it will take about six to nine months."
Donations can be made online at http://www.dscs.org.
Ammiano introduces homeless rights bill
The news about the shelter comes as a gay state lawmaker proposes recognizing homeless people's rights, and the first anniversary of the death of a homeless man in the Castro neighborhood approaches.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced Assembly Bill 5, the Homeless Person's Bill of Rights and Fairness Act, Monday, December 3, the first day of the new legislative session.
"Current local laws on urban camping, sleeping, loitering, and even sitting and lying down, in reality, are often attacks on the homeless, who have few safe options on where to go," said a statement from Ammiano's office.
"We need to stop criminalizing the behavior of people who have nowhere else to turn," Ammiano stated. "People who are in need of mental health services or who have lost their jobs and their homes are being told, 'Move along or go to jail.' The Homeless Person's Bill of Rights begins to give us a framework for appropriate approaches to protecting our communities and those who are vulnerable."
According to Ammiano's office, the act would protect the right "to use public spaces, keep personal property and engage in life-sustaining activities," as well as guarantee people "the right to legal counsel to defend themselves from prosecution."
Homeless man remembered
Pedro Villamore Jr., 44, a homeless man who'd been living with AIDS, died December 8, 2011 in a doorway near 536 Castro Street. Friends and family had tried to help him, but he had apparently struggled with drug use.
"I think about him all the time," said David Kilgore, who was once Villamore's partner and remained friends with him after they broke up. "... I'll see people who look like him or dress like him in the Castro. He loved San Francisco, so he just really thrived here. He loved being here, and being out. Whenever we walked down in the Castro, you could walk there with him, and he always stopped and had to hug any number of people going through." Kilgore said Villamore "knew a lot of people" in the neighborhood.
The medical examiner's report of Villamore's death was still pending as of Thursday, November 29, but police have said there were no signs of foul play.