Editorial: Breed's budget includes LGBTQs

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday June 1, 2022
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San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Photo: Rick Gerharter
San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Photo: Rick Gerharter

So far in her proposed two-year budget that she released Wednesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed has specified nearly $10 million for LGBTQs. Over half of that money, $6.5 million, is slated for programs that Breed says will end trans homelessness in the city by 2027. The remaining $3 million will go toward HIV prevention with the goal of reducing new infections. Breed is also proposing $35,000 for the first San Francisco drag laureate, who is expected to be named this fall.

As we reported last week, the mayor's proposal for HIV prevention services is a small portion of the $10.5 million advocates are seeking, but part of their request was this $3 million to maintain prevention services. That is critical if the city is to maintain its decreasing HIV transmission numbers. New HIV diagnoses in San Francisco declined 22% from 168 diagnoses in 2019 to 131 diagnoses in 2020 (the latest figures available). The city is working to reach its goal of zero new HIV infections and currently spends $28.7 million on HIV prevention.

It is also not yet known whether San Francisco will face any cuts in its allocation of federal Ryan White CARE Act dollars, currently pegged at about $15 million. If that were to happen, it is likely the mayor and Board of Supervisors would backfill the shortfall, as has happened in the past. Breed's request for the additional $3 million is aimed at addressing the loss of funding for certain agencies. According to the mayor's office, the health department will use the funding to allocate new resources to populations disproportionately impacted by HIV while ensuring there is stable funding for existing initiatives and services.

This is crucial. Nonprofit HIV/AIDS service organizations are faced with myriad challenges, some of them due to the COVID pandemic and others because there continues to be donor fatigue in regard to AIDS funding. There are persistent disparities in accessing services, particularly among Black, Latino, and Asian men who have sex with men and members of the trans community. It's true that San Francisco has been a leader since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic with its "model of care" that relies on the Department of Public Health and nonprofits. It would be disastrous if that model was significantly changed now that the city is making real progress in reducing transmissions.

Trans homelessness

Breed's proposal regarding trans homelessness could be transformative for the roughly 400 transgender and gender-nonconforming people the city estimates are unhoused at any given time. The mayor's plan calls for $6 million over two years dedicated to fund short-term rental subsidies, flexible financial assistance, and support to build up capacity among nonprofit providers. Another $500,000 will fund behavioral health services for TGNC individuals experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness, building on $500,000 already supporting trans youth experiencing homelessness.

What the mayor means when she talks about ending trans homelessness in five years is that the existing trans homeless population would be stabilized and housed during that time. Trans people who become unhoused in the future would benefit because there would be resources and support to get them housed quickly, making any instance of homelessness brief and rare, the mayor's office stated in a news release.

This is truly game-changing, to the point that trans leaders, who are currently fighting with the mayor over her decision to skip the Pride parade due to police officers not being able to march in uniform, are whole-heartedly in support of it. The proposal means that nonprofits would be able to prioritize equitable services for some of the city's most vulnerable residents, as Sharyn Grayson, co-executive director of the Transgender, Gender-Nonconforming, and Intersex Justice Project stated. It would also mean, Grayson added, that important wrap-around services could be provided.

We've all known for a long time that trans people are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness compared to the general population. Many frequently face violence and discrimination because of who they are. Finding and maintaining housing is the most important aid that can be provided for them. It will allow them to be more successful in finding employment, if needed, and to maintain any medical regimens.

Breed's budget plan is the starting point for the Board of Supervisors, who will spend this month amending it before the city's next budget is adopted. We urge the supervisors to fully fund these items the mayor has identified, and find the additional $6 million or so for HIV services that are badly needed.

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