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SF Homeless Project: Gay man launches new homeless nonprofit

by Matthew S. Bajko

Shaun Haines, who started San Francisco Impact Partners, was an honoree in this year's Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Shaun Haines, who started San Francisco Impact Partners, was an honoree in this year's Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Amid his duties as an honoree at last weekend's Pride celebration, Shaun Haines was overseeing the public debut of a new nonprofit aimed at giving homeless people in San Francisco a leg up.

San Francisco Impact Partners, which Haines founded last year, organized a care package pop-up Saturday afternoon at the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist on 15th Street between the city's Mission and gay Castro districts. Volunteers handed out packs filled with personal hygiene products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and mouthwash.

According to Haines, the majority of the 100 homeless people they saw that day were African-American and Latino, some of whom were transgender men and women. He hopes to regularly hold the pop-up events in the coming months.

"I hope they will get bigger and bigger as we progress and are able to provide more services as time goes on," said Haines, 40, a gay man who received this year's Heritage of Pride Pride Community Award and rode in the parade Sunday in an open-top convertible.

Haines, a former member of the board that oversees Pride, is serving as executive director of the new nonprofit on a volunteer basis for now. It stems from his own experience struggling to find housing in San Francisco, where he was born and raised.

In the past year Haines has gone from sleeping one night on the street to couch surfing with friends to renting a shared apartment in the Mission district after securing employment last fall.

"I do have experience breaking down my house into several rolling bags," i.e. suitcases on wheels, said Haines, who has been working for an IT service provider since November.


During his time without a permanent home, Haines was able to store his belongings in friends' homes or offices. The experience made him realize there is a lack of storage facilities for homeless individuals in the city, as commercial storage facilities are economically out of reach for the majority of people living on the streets.

"I have been in poverty many times before and homeless many times before. What made me successful was I always had access to storage, laundry, and a shower," said Haines. "It is vital infrastructure support to get people through their poverty situation."

Providing storage space would not only benefit homeless individuals, noted Haines, but also lead to cleaner streets, an oft-cited concern of residents, tourists, and business owners.

"It will address the cleanliness of the city by giving storage access to people who are homeless on the street," said Haines.

Providing storage space to homeless individuals is gaining greater attention as cities grapple to address ever-growing numbers of people living on their streets. Earlier this month San Diego city officials opened a storage facility that will allow up to 500 homeless people to store their belongings in a secure space.

In San Francisco, there is a homeless storage facility located in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood. It provides free storage service for shoes and clothing only and has limited space.

The need for additional no-cost storage facilities for the homeless is an issue Haines hopes his nonprofit will be able to address.

"Everybody is providing housing and shelter. But no one is doing access to storage for the thousands of people homeless on the street," he said.

To ensure San Francisco Impact Partners is viable as a nonprofit, Haines has set a goal of raising $500,000 over the next three years. By the end of this year, he is aiming to raise at least $100,000.

"I have a three-year goal to get to a certain amount of funding not just to employ people but to be able to go out and advocate and promote what we want to accomplish," said Haines.

As he works to gain 501(c)3 status, Haines has partnered with several other nonprofit groups. The A. Phillip Randolph Institute San Francisco is serving as a fiscal sponsor so any donations to San Francisco Impact Partners are tax-deductible.

The Gubbio Project and Sacred Space SF teamed with Haines on the care package pop-up, which was San Francisco Impact Partners' first official public event.

To learn more about San Francisco Impact Partners, visit its website at https://sfimpactpartners.org/.


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