City adds $29 million for homeless housing

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Wednesday announced $28.9 million in proposed funding over the next two years to help homeless individuals get off, and stay off, the city’s streets.

The mayor, along with supervisors and other city officials, met with residents at the Raman Hotel in the South of Market neighborhood this afternoon to make the announcement.

The Raman Hotel, located at 1011 Howard St. near Sixth Street, is a single room occupancy, or SRO, apartment building for seniors that is leased by the city and managed by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.

Lee said the Raman Hotel is an example of what an SRO can be for residents. He said roughly half of the $28.9 million proposed funding announced today would go toward bringing five new SRO buildings into the city’s supportive housing portfolio.

Lee said:

“This model is a model worth investing in.”

The five buildings will contain 500 units of supportive housing for individuals who are currently homeless, including those who successfully transition out of the city’s Navigation Center, which opened in March, according to the mayor’s office.

The city will hold the master lease on five SRO hotels, some with sorted pasts, such as the Civic Center Hotel, which is one of 15 residential hotels owned and operated by members of the Thakor family.

In 2014, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the Thakor family and their business entities for violating health, safety and tenancy rights regulations. He cited bedbugs, roach and rodent infestations, mold and mildew, raw sewage leaks, defective wiring and other unsafe conditions.

The city will also hold the masterlease of the Henry Hotel, where San Francisco police officers were captured on video surveillance footage conducting illegal searches in 2009.

Lee said when the city will also hold the masterlease for the Minna Lee, Baldwin, and Drake hotels.

He said by holding the masterlease, the city can ensure that social services are brought to individuals and that properties are well managed.

Lee said $1.8 million will go to increased staffing at the SROs, to ensure that individuals placed in those units are able to work directly with case managers and other providers to make sure they stay housed.

Lee and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the South of Market neighborhood, said that $6.6 million will go toward a respite program where chronically homeless individuals with health needs will be able to get medical attention.

According to the mayor’s office, this expansion of the medical respite program will create a shelter-like environment where individuals’ medical needs will be addressed.

Wendell Simlin, a 40-year-old homeless man, who attended the mayor’s announcement, said he is excited about the $3 million that will go toward continuation of the city’s Navigation Center, located at 16th and Mission streets.

About six years ago, Simlin was working as a nurse when the client he was helping fell on him, causing him to fall onto a shovel and seriously injure his back.

After the injury Simlin went on disability and soon after lost his apartment went the rent went up. One thing led to another and Simlin found himself without a home.

Simlin said:

“In San Francisco, unless you have an advocate to talk to somebody from housing, they won’t accept your application, especially if you are black. If you’re a black male, they are not accepting any applications from you. … That’s just the way it is.”

Simlin said he spent many nights in the shelters and on the streets, often riding the bus with an all-night transfer to stay warm on cold nights.

Being homeless, Simlin said, often drove him to substance abuse:

“When you’re out there on the streets all night, who wants to be sober. Would you want to be sober?”

He said watching happy, rich, young, drunk people passing him by with slices of pizza all night long, was hard:

“They’re having a ball right in front of your face. … Why would you want to have all of your senses to take all this in? You’re trying to forget things.”

Simlin said now that he is housed at the Navigation Center, he is hopeful that he will have permanent housing and said he’d like to have a place where he can study and educate himself.

He said he was happy to get into the Navigation Center and work with a case manager. He said so far, the Navigation Center hasn’t told him if or when he’ll have to leave, or where he might go.

He said the stresses of living on the street, worrying about his next meal, are gone and he has time to think about getting other tasks accomplished.

Kim said:

“Today is a huge victory. … Now, there will be a continuum of care from the Navigation Center to the medical respite shelter to permanent stable housing for our most vulnerable residents.”

The City also plans to use the funds to build supportive housing units for chronically homeless seniors, launch a mobile integrated healthcare practice team to connect patients with non-emergency medical resources and expand the Homeward Bound program, which connects homeless individuals with their families.