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Keeping Abreast of Castro Merchants

The December MUMC Report

Bill Sywak

Challenges Facing Initiatives for the Homeless

At the December MUMC meeting, Bevan Dufty, former supervisor of the Castro’s District 8 and currently reporting to Mayor Ed Lee as director of the San Francisco Office of Housing, Opportunity, Partnerships & Engagement (or HOPE), and Mission Police Station Captain of the Bob Moser spoke about current quality of life issues in the Castro.

Most of the discussion was led by Dufty, who reviewed a variety of homeless issues and actions either underway or planned in order to remedy what has been for years a seemingly intractable situation. Captain Moser summarized the role and actions of the police in cooperating with programs and organizations such as the city’s HOT Team (Homeless Outreach Team) under the leadership of Jason Albertson.

To this observer, the degree of passion that Bevan brings to his job is inspirational, and even profound. Bevan told the MUMC audience that being in the HOPE job has changed him more than he would have imagined nine months ago.

A sampling of some of the points made by Dufty include the following: 20 percent of the homeless in San Francisco, where housing costs are astronomical, are veterans; praise to President Obama’s VASH initiative (Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing) to provide supportive housing to veterans by 2015. He went on to enumerate various sites where additional “stabilization beds” and security are being added.

On the quality of life issue of dealing with chronic alcoholism, Dufty stated that the city currently spends $60,000 a year on just one alcoholic, using approaches that obviously are not working. Another example of a quality of life issue is panhandling.

Dufty pointed to a study currently underway that hires homeless to interview their peers in an effort to understand what motivates such behavior. All we have now is anecdotal data, he said, and this study is a shared project of Union Square businesses, the hotel council and others working with HOPE. It is expected that the results will inform new and more effective approaches.

While Dufty discussed many more initiatives and programs, his main point was that the city and Mayor Lee to his credit are willing to explore and try different avenues for homelessness and other quality of life issues.

He left his audience with the conclusion that the “number one program” in the city was being done by the North Beach neighborhood because storefront, staff and neighborhood concern and energy were really doing something and making a difference in order to turn the neighborhood around.