SF supervisors recommend 2 LGBTQs for new homelessness commission

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Monday March 13, 2023
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Former San Francisco supervisor and current BART board member Bevan Dufty, left, and Joaquin Whitt Guerrero, who had been director of housing for Our Trans Home SF, were recommended for seats on the city's new homelessness commission by the Board of Supervisors' Rules Committee. Photo: Screengrab via SFGov.TV
Former San Francisco supervisor and current BART board member Bevan Dufty, left, and Joaquin Whitt Guerrero, who had been director of housing for Our Trans Home SF, were recommended for seats on the city's new homelessness commission by the Board of Supervisors' Rules Committee. Photo: Screengrab via SFGov.TV

Two LGBTQs were among three people recommended by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' rules committee March 13 to be the supervisors' appointments to the brand new Homelessness Oversight Commission.

They are Bevan Dufty, a gay man who is currently an elected member of the BART Board of Directors and was formerly a District 8 supervisor, and Joaquin Whitt Guerrero, a Two-Spirit trans man who was the inaugural director of housing for Our Trans Home SF, and who now does landlord-tenant mediation work for the San Francisco Bar Association.

The third recommendation is Christin Evans, the co-owner of Booksmith Bookstore and The Alembic Restaurant and bar in the Haight, where she lives with her husband.

It's not a done deal yet — the prospective commissioners have to be approved by the full board — but Dufty told the Bay Area Reporter after the meeting that he'd be "appreciative of the opportunity."

"I have a good sense of what San Franciscans are feeling and I'm hopeful that the commission can get things done and create some shared values around how to respond to homelessness in an effective and caring manner," Dufty said.

Before being elected to the BART board, Dufty served for three years as the late San Francisco mayor Ed Lee's homeless czar as director of Housing, Opportunity, Partnerships, and Engagement, or HOPE.

Dufty noted how important it is to have LGBTQ representation on the committee (as the B.A.R. editorialized recently).

"This panel is important to the LGBTQ community because it is likely that just as young people came because they heard of Harvey Milk and the freedom in San Francisco, I think a lot of trans and queer youth may be running away from states seeking to erase them," Dufty said.

Dufty was referring to the recent spate of anti-trans and anti-drag legislation in many states, especially in the South. As the B.A.R. reported last week, Mississippi banned gender-affirming care for trans youth, and Tennessee not only passed a similar law, it also enacted an adult entertainment law that some fear could restrict people's ability to legally dress in drag.

Guerrero could not be reached for comment after Monday's meeting, but he voiced a similar sentiment during the hearing.

"Like many trans leaders in San Francisco, I came here to access trans services and be somewhere I can be myself with safety," Guerrero said. "I'm here because I feel a sense of duty as a transgender person as our community is under attack."

The committee agreed about the need for trans representation since the problem of homelessness disproportionately affects the community.

"Forty-one percent of transgender people of color experience homelessness in their lifetime," gay rules committee chair District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey said during the proceedings. "Transgender community members face five times the rate of homelessness. One of the things I've seen throughout my career, but especially in the last couple of years, is the disproportionate violence that targets the transgender community, particularly transgender people of color."

Dorsey was also keen on having Dufty serve, saying to him, "I've always appreciated [that] you bring an institutional memory, knowledge of city bureaucracy and how it works, but you also have a heart for the individual."

When voting on the slate of Dufty, Guerrero, and Evans, however, Dorsey voted no — breaking with his colleagues District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, the committee's vice chair, and District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. He told the B.A.R. after the meeting that he also wanted Tracey Mixon, a peer organizer with the Coalition on Homelessness, as a commissioner.

"I advocated for Guerrero, Mixon, and Dufty," Dorsey said. "I think, and again it's no disrespect to anybody, there were a number of really qualified people but it could have gone either way. I did feel strongly that Tracey Mixon would make a great commissioner. ... I will speak for myself: I think the best commission would have been the prospective commissioners I was recommending. Two went through and I'm happy about that."

New commission

The oversight panel for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services was approved by voters last November as Proposition C. Commissioners serve four-year terms. Four are appointed by the mayor with the consent of the supervisors, and three by the supervisors.

One of the mayor's nominees, Vikrum Aiyer, a straight man, fudged his resume regarding his education and billed U.S. taxpayers for personal expenses that totaled more than $15,000 when he worked in former President Barack Obama's administration, as has widely been reported.

Aiyer dropped out of contention before the rules committee meeting, as a majority of supervisors had said they would not support his nomination. The committee recommended the other three mayoral appointees. They are Katie Albright, CEO of Safe and Sound; Jonathan Butler, Ph.D., a social epidemiologist and associate director of the Black Health Initiative at UCSF and executive director of the San Francisco African American Faith-Based Coalition; and Sharky Laguana, the former president of the city's Small Business Commission and nightlife advocate.

The B.A.R. asked Dufty and Dorsey if they feel the supervisors' recommended appointees are representative enough; none of the three are Black, though 37% of the city's homeless population is despite the fact Black people make up 5% of the city's population. (Mixon, whom Dorsey supported, is Black.)

"We don't really know who's coming into that seat [Aiyer's] and what that may bring to the overall diversity, but I do think everyone in the room was of the mind that we have to do better for the Black community," Dufty said. "I think that there can be challenges when you have a split appointment. I favor it; I think this is important that the board have the individuals they've picked for the commission."

Dorsey told the B.A.R. that there's a lot of different things to balance.

"There's so much representation to reflect, because there's activism and this is the hard part about a commission like this," Dorsey said.

Dufty said that if he serves on the commission his goal is to increase the public's confidence in city government, which he characterized as low.

"I don't think San Francisco can be a healthy city and have a Black population that is six times the rate of homelessness of the general population," Dufty said. "That's not how we see ourselves as a city, but I think broadly there's a lack of trust in government's ability to impact homelessness favorably and part of our agenda has to be to demonstrate that we can get things done. I think that's job No. 1 and also recognizing there are other cities that are gaining ground and they may not have some of the challenges we do in terms of housing cost but there are cities where disproportionality is being reduced."

When asked about alternative approaches, Dufty brought up Pathways to Housing PA in Philadelphia. The group helps people address the problems that lead them on the path to eviction. He was adamant in the meeting that "we've got to stop the evictions."

"I think it [stopping the evictions] looks like providing the financial support necessary to prevent an eviction and then providing support to the tenant to address the issues that put them there," Dufty said. "I've been a big fan of Pathways to Housing PA. ... It's kind of like insurance for landlords, in a way. Pathways is definitely one of the programs I'd have us look at because I think they've been very successful in Philadelphia."

Evans was an advocate for Prop C, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. During the meeting she said, "ultimately we are a rich city in a rich state in a rich country and all San Franciscans deserve a place to rest their head."

Speaking to the B.A.R. after the initial publication of this story, Evans said, "Representation is incredibly important. There are only seven seats and it'd be impossible to reflect all aspects of people experiencing homelessness in that regard and it would've been great to see folks in permanent supportive housing on the board.

"We also lack representation for seniors experiencing homelessness, veterans experiencing homelessness, and ultimately I think the job of the homeless oversight commission is to ensure all voices are lifted up and that's the very exciting thing about the forum: to bring folks a platform about what the system is and isn't doing for them," she added.

Safaí noted it's good that there were so many prospective commissioners; indeed there were 12 applicants for the three seats. The others were: Robert Paul McCloskey; Ennis Scott Samuel Jackson; Masood Samereie, a straight ally who's a former president of the Castro Merchants Association; Andrea Salinas; Gay Crosthwait Grunfeld; Greggory Johnson; Jason Michael Albertson; and Neil Sims.

"This is the issue San Franciscans care about the most," Safaí said. "As much as we think there may be fatigue in this area there's not."

Updated, 3/15/23: This article has been updated with comments from panel nominee Christin Evans.

Updated, 3/27/23: This article has been corrected. Joaquin Whitt Guerrero was the director of housing for Our Trans Home SF. Guerrero reached out to the B.A.R. after publication to clarify that since January he's been a mediator for landlord and tenant disputes with the San Francisco Bar Association.

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