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Sheehy, Lee propose $1.54M increase for youth services

by Matthew S. Bajko

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, left, talks with San Francisco<br>LGBT Community Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe after a news conference<br>announcing more funding for the center and other agencies. Photo: Jane Philomen<br>Cleland
Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, left, talks with San Francisco
LGBT Community Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe after a news conference
announcing more funding for the center and other agencies. Photo: Jane Philomen

For months gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy has criticized Mayor Ed Lee's administration for not adequately funding services for the estimated 1,500 homeless youth on the city's streets, 43 percent of who identify as LGBT. Thirteen percent are HIV-positive.

In May Sheehy, who is the first out HIV-positive person to serve on the Board of Supervisors, had publicly expressed his frustrations during a meeting with merchants in the gay Castro district.

"I see a lot of young people on our streets but not a lot of services for those people. In my perspective the situation since I have been in office is getting worse," said Sheehy, who was appointed to a board vacancy by Lee in January. "I have voiced my frustration at Room 200."

This week Lee responded by announcing at a news conference Monday in the newly remodeled LGBT Community Center that he had proposed $1.54 million in additional funding for services targeted at the city's youth, particularly those who are homeless. It is in addition to the $2.9 million grant the city received in January from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.

"We talked about what is happening on the streets. He emphasized youth and how this center here is a welcoming center for so many generations," said Lee about his discussions with Sheehy about his budget priorities.

Due to the election of President Donald Trump, young people who felt emboldened to come out of the closet during the eight years Barack Obama was in the White House now face being attacked and are moving to places like San Francisco in search of acceptance, noted Sheehy, who worked as a bike messenger and couch surfed when he first moved to the city in 1988.

"We have an internal refugee problem. As a sanctuary city we also have to be a home for refugees from Trump's America," said Sheehy, adding that he was "very grateful" for the mayor's funding allocation.

Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, thanked Sheehy "for challenging us to do better on this issue of youth homelessness, and we need to do better."

The majority of the money, $906,000, will be used for housing subsidies for 94 transition-age youth between 18 and 24 years old. The LGBT center will receive $289,000 to expand its drop-in hours for its youth program, which will now be open on Saturdays, and increase its meals program from one night a week to five.

"San Francisco is making an investment in those who come here, young LGBTQ people who come to San Francisco seeking to be themselves and seeking safety," said Rebecca Rolfe, the center's executive director.

Larkin Street Youth Services will receive $350,000 to partly fund a new outreach coordinator and increased staffing for outreach teams that work with homeless youth in the Castro and Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods.

"We are ecstatic to expand services to this population of young people," said Sherilyn Adams, the agency's executive director, "as it furthers our work to end youth homelessness."

The funding is part of the mayor's two-year budget proposal for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 fiscal years. The supervisors are expected to approve the pair of $10 billion budgets by early July.


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