Written by Junior Mayema
Testing, testing, testing , 1234…Boom beautiful June junior is here…: San Francisco, the famous Castro yet LGBT homelessness remains rampant over here as a LGBT person who suffered worse homelessness while living in South Africa, it is my concern and this article down here clarifies more and more about this crisis of the so-called gay Mecca of the world:
December 18 is a day set aside to remember people who have died in San Francisco without a home. Recent rains that have hit the Bay Area make an already hard existence even tougher for many people who live on the city’s sidewalks and in the city’s parks and other outdoor spaces.
What may be shocking in other cities can seem routine here: Sidewalks dotted with people covered in blankets, boxes, or just the clothes on their back to shelter them from the rain and cold.
Last June, the biennial San Francisco Homeless Point-In-Time Count and Survey was released and, for the first time, included statistics on LGBT people. The report found that out of a total of 7,350 homeless people, more than one in four (29 percent) identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or “other” for a total of 2,132.
According to recent figures from Bevan Dufty, a gay man who serves as director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement for Mayor Ed Lee, the city has 1,150 homeless shelter beds. Many have said they don’t want to stay in shelters anyway, for reasons including they don’t want to get robbed, or they don’t like the rules.
Nationally, the memorial day for homeless people will be recognized Sunday, December 21. In San Francisco, events are planned for Thursday.
Colleen Rivecca is the advocacy coordinator for St. Anthony’s Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides meals and other services in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. She’s organizing the nonprofit’s participation in the homeless memorial.
“We don’t know the exact number of homeless people who died” this year in San Francisco, Rivecca said in an email, adding, “I’ve been going to the memorial service for years, and there are usually about 150 names that are read during the service.”
Beginning at 4:30 p.m., St. Anthony’s is holding a “small” gathering in its dining room at 121 Golden Gate Avenue. There will be a speaker and a brief program, then people will march to Civic Center Plaza.
At 5, the San Francisco Night Ministry and the San Francisco Interfaith Council will have a ceremony on the Polk Street side of Civic Center Plaza. Participants are asked to bring candles.
LGBTs have cited concerns of abuse and harassment by other shelter residents and even staff. A space designed to be welcoming to LGBT people who are homeless has been bogged down by city bureaucracy for almost five years and has received little public attention.
One neighborhood that continues to draw homeless people is the Castro.
Last week, the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District launched its Castro Cares initiative, which is designed to help everyone, from the district’s homeless people to shoppers.
Through an $8,875 contribution from the district nonprofit, $1,400 worth of care packages will be distributed to people “at risk living on the street “and is paying for 72 hours of overtime police who will be “on foot patrol throughout the district,” according to a news release.
Castro Merchants President Daniel Bergerac, who owns Mudpuppy’s Tub and Scrub on Castro Street, said in the release that homeless outreach workers funded by the health department would deliver the care packages.
The overtime police have been assigned to work evenings and late nights “to limit trouble in the neighborhood caused by late night partiers and to create an increased feeling of safety during the evening holiday shopping hours,” Bergerac said.
Castro Cares is collecting data on the work the overtime officers are doing, and that information will be analyzed and shared publicly by mid-January.
Homeless outreach workers have been dedicated to the district four hours a week since mid-September. Those workers have engaged with 54 people, Alan Beach-Nelson, president of the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, said in the news release. Four were “referred to shelter,” one got a room, and nine “were referred to other services,” Beach-Nelson said.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, allocated $100,000 a year for two years in the city budget for the initiative, according to Castro Cares. When it’s fully funded, the budget will be $360,000 a year.
Andrea Aiello, the district nonprofit’s executive director, said in an email that the holiday program would run through December 27.
After that, “services will slow down” until her agency “has a signed contract with the city for additional services,” Aiello said. “In the meantime, Castro Cares is fundraising through grant writing and soliciting subscriptions” from merchants and residents “to help fund the full array of services.”
Once its fully funded, the plan is for the program “to bring 51 hours a week of additional, dedicated [overtime] officers and 44 hours of additional dedicated homeless outreach services,” she said. “Ultimately, the amount of services rolled out will depend on the amount of funds raised.”
In an interview, Aiello said the program isn’t meant to get homeless people out of the Castro.
“The community has been working on this for a little over a year,” she said, and those involved “have been really careful. … The Castro Cares program really is about providing services to people who are at risk and not just sweeping them from one neighborhood to another,” she said.
Last Sunday, a handful of homeless people in the Castro spoke to a reporter but wouldn’t give their full names. They generally indicated many problems they’ve faced in the neighborhood in the past are ongoing: the services offered to them, including housing, are inadequate, and they continue to be approached with offers of money in exchange for sexual favors.
Rachael Kagan, a health department spokeswoman, said in an email that according to her agency’s records, from July 2007 through June 2013, there were 771 deaths registered in the California vital records system related to people who were “known to be homeless in San Francisco during year they died.”