SF mayor's budget includes $4 million for trans, HIV subsidies over 2 years

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday August 20, 2020
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Clair Farley, left, from the Office Transgender Initiatives, and Mayor London Breed checked out the new kitchen at Our Trans Home SF during a January tour. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Clair Farley, left, from the Office Transgender Initiatives, and Mayor London Breed checked out the new kitchen at Our Trans Home SF during a January tour. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Mayor London Breed's proposed balanced budget for the next two fiscal years includes $2 million annually each for Our Trans Home SF and the HIV/AIDS rent subsidy program.

This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors started its work on the budget, with its final presentation expected in mid-September.

Breed made the announcement August 20.

Clair Farley, a trans woman who is the executive director of the city's Office of Transgender Initiatives, said that even with the budget deficit brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, she is hoping the city will prioritize impacted communities such as trans people.

The city expects to see a $1.7 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years. The deficit was projected but was addressed in the mayor's balanced budget and was able to preserve critical life saving services, according to the mayor's office.

"San Francisco made history last year with these critical investments, we are grateful for Mayor Breed's continued partnership and investment in our most underserved communities," Farley said in a news release. "Now more than ever with the public health emergency, economic crisis, and continued attacks by the federal government we need to assure our most impacted residents have access to safe, inclusive and affordable housing."

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, Our Trans Home SF was launched last year. St. James Infirmary and Larkin Street Youth Services were awarded city contracts to handle rental subsidies and case management, respectively, in the amount of $490,000 annually and $660,000 annually, respectively.

The total budget request of $4 million also included $300,000 for trans housing stability case management for fiscal years 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The mayor's proposed budget would keep Our Trans Home SF at the same levels of funding.

"We continue to keep the health and safety of our communities as our number one priority and this means keeping our residents in their homes," Breed said in the release. "We know that the economic and health impact of the pandemic is disproportionately impacting communities of color, specifically our Black and Latino residents, our already underserved trans and gender-nonconforming housing insecure community members, as well as those who are more at risk, including those who are HIV-positive.

"During these unprecedented times we must continue and expand our investments in getting and keeping our most vulnerable communities housed," she added.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said he supports the mayor's proposal.

"Even in San Francisco, trans and gender-nonconforming and HIV-positive residents face higher rates of housing insecurity and significant health disparities," he said. "In this COVID era, these rental subsidies will help keep our most vulnerable residents housed and healthy over the next two years."

Sherilyn Adams, the executive director of Larkin Youth Street Services, said in a phone interview with the B.A.R. that more subsidies are needed.

"I think that the needs of Our Trans Home in the ability to have subsidies specifically for trans folks are incredibly important given the disproportionate impact of homelessness on trans folks. For trans folks of color and trans youth of color — it's exponential the risks they face," Adams said. "I say we need more subsidies. Housing assistance for trans folks is life-saving."

Akira Jackson, director of TAJA's Coalition and a consultant on the Our Trans Home SF project at St. James, stated housing for trans and nonbinary communities must continue to be prioritized because of pervasive discrimination in that area, as well as employment and health care.

"Trans and nonbinary communities experience homelessness at a rate 18 times the general population and have much higher rates of underlining health conditions that put us at greater risk for COVID-related illness, such as HIV, cancer, diabetes and asthma," Jackson stated. "Shelter in place has further exacerbated mental health challenges as well relating to increased isolation."

Jackson added that the city's investment needs to be continued through Breed's budget request.

About 65 people have signed up for subsidies thus far, according to Farley. The subsidies cover up to 30% of a tenant's rent.

The funds will also be used to help continue the transitional housing the B.A.R. This text will be the linkreported> on earlier this year.

There is a new property that will come online with capacity for at least 14 people, Farley added.

HIV/AIDS rental subsidies

A total of $2 million over the 2020-21 and 2021-22 fiscal years is also being proposed for the HIV/AIDS rent subsidy program launched late last year.

As the B.A.R. previously reported>, $1 million was awarded to the Q Foundation by the mayor's office. The Q Foundation administers the program.

"Mayor London Breed's initial investment in the first new HIV subsidies in SF in 12 years is already yielding incredible results," Q Foundation Executive Director Brian Basinger stated in the release. "Thanks to her support, in the first seven months, we have provided over 10,000 nights of stable housing to over 100 households for less than $25 per night. The fact that this happened in the middle of COVID-19 shelter in place is a testament to the dedication, resilience and grit of my team at Q Foundation and of the HIV+ community, who know how to overcome adversity."

To qualify for this rental subsidy, which has been provided to about 120 HIV-positive individuals in San Francisco thus far, individuals must be housed (or offered below-market rate housing) and pay more than 70% of their income toward rent. San Francisco separately offers rental subsidies for HIV-positive people and AIDS via the federal Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS program.

The rental subsidies are a key part of Getting to Zero, the initiative started by the city and other organizations in 2014. This initiative brings together people and resources from throughout the city with three goals in mind: zero new HIV infections, zero HIV-related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination.

Helping HIV-positive individuals remain housed or find housing advances the city's goal of "getting to zero" new HIV infections and HIV-related deaths, the mayor's release noted. Stable housing allows people to more easily access the regular health care and medications they need to achieve viral suppression. Viral suppression drugs have made HIV a survivable disease for many, but there is a major disparity when it comes to people who are marginally housed or homeless.

Thirty-three percent of homeless persons living with HIV in San Francisco are virally suppressed, compared to 74% of housed persons.

Updated, 8/20/20: This article has been updated to include comments from St. James Infirmary.

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