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Trans housing subsidy program set to launch

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Toni Newman. Photo: Courtesy Toni Newman
Toni Newman. Photo: Courtesy Toni Newman  

After months of preparation, including hiring and training new staff, St. James Infirmary is ready to launch San Francisco's first rental subsidy for transgender people, agency leaders said.

Our Trans Home SF and its partners will hold an orientation session for interested people next week, said Toni Newman, a transgender woman who is executive director of St. James, which also provides services for sex workers and others.

"This event will provide community members with additional information on the program and support people through the application process," Newman said in a news release.

The other nonprofit involved is Larkin Street Youth Services. St. James Infirmary will provide case management for each person receiving assistance and the funds will be distributed through Larkin Street.

Addressing the homeless issue, which disproportionately affects trans people, has been a priority for Mayor London Breed, who last year announced that St. James Infirmary and Larkin Street Youth Services were awarded two-year contracts for the subsidy program. St. James will receive $490,000 annually while Larkin Street will receive $660,000. The total budget request of $2 million also includes $300,000 for trans housing stability case management for two years.

After remarks from elected officials, including Breed and District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, participants at the January 29 orientation will be introduced to newly hired staff and will be enrolled with the program, according to the release.

The push for subsidies was prompted by the Our Trans Home SF campaign. The program is being called the Our Trans Home SF initiative.

People will be allowed to use subsidies to move out of single-room-occupancy hotel units into their own apartments, according to Matthew Paden, the housing case manager at St. James for the initiative.

"In order to receive any assistance, each individual needs to come to the office for an intake and meet with a member from the TGNC housing team," Paden wrote in an email to the B.A.R., referring to transgender and gender-nonconforming people. "Requirements for the subsidy program are based on income and the ability of the participant to locate housing on their own and other factors.

"If they qualify, then yes, someone who is currently in an SRO and is looking for other permanent housing, could qualify for our housing program. Being in an SRO does not disqualify someone from being accepted into the subsidy program," Paden added.

Paden is one of three employees who were hired with the allocated money to oversee the subsidies. The others are housing navigators Camdyn Carter and Jessy Santos. Paden said all three identify as members of the LGBTQ community.

People seeking assistance can fill out the applications at St. James, and then go to Larkin for the subsidy, Newman said last October.

People do not have to attend the upcoming workshop to receive subsidies, Paden said. The amount of subsidies will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

"We do not have a set number, since our funding is being provided from a grant from the mayor's office," Paden said.

The B.A.R. reported last year that the subsidy program is expected to help at least 55 households.

Paden added that Kayla Moore, who identifies as a woman of trans experience, will be speaking at the orientation. Moore, who lives in an SRO in the Tenderloin, is seeking an apartment of her own. It would be her first time getting a subsidy.

"A friend of mine introduced me to St. James Infirmary and that's how I met Matthew [Paden]," Moore told the B.A.R.

Moore said she is already looking for new places to live.

"It's been really great," Moore said. "I'm very grateful for the opportunity. I'm trying to make ends meet."

In a related matter, the B.A.R. reported January 9 St. James will be opening the first transitional housing soon. (See related story.) The agency (https://www.ebar.com/news/news/286534) has leased two flats in a building where it plans to house eight individuals and hopes to lease an additional apartment in the coming months.

"We are currently working to get participants access to housing through the subsidy program and are preparing to launch our transitional home in February 2020," Paden said.

The transitional housing is separate from the rental subsidies, Paden said.

"However, once participants have graduated from the transitional program the idea will be to then move them into the housing scholarship/subsidy program," he added.

At the end of two years the program will be evaluated, according to a 2019 memo from the Office of Transgender Initiatives.

The subsidy orientation takes place Wednesday, January 29, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Main Public Library, 100 Larkin Street.

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