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The San Francisco Human Services Agency has won a state grant to refurbish a building in the Bayview district next to the United Council of Homeless Services, a community-based organization, that could offer overnight shelter to 100 people a night by early next year.
The nonprofit, often referred to as “Mother Brown’s” by its clients, already operates a drop-in center where homeless people may book reservations in city-funded shelters.
Pam Tebo, assistant to Human Services Agency Director Trent Rhorer, said it could take up to 15 months to complete the project.
“The next steps in the process will be to place the entire building under city leasehold, scope out the architectural work, and apply to the Planning Department for a change of use variance in order to secure a permit for the conversion of the building from its current use to a 100-bed emergency homeless shelter,” she said.
The grant, announced last week, also mandates competitive bidding for construction, Tebo said. The same would also hold true for shelter operations, which would require United Council of Human Services and other homeless service providers to submit a request for proposal, starting in January 2013.
The grant — for $978,000 — will be used to convert the former site of an auto repossession service at 2115 Jennings St. into a shelter. The development is one of 32 statewide projects creating or rebuilding emergency housing units, according to a statement from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
“These awards will assist California communities in addressing their most serious housing needs and provide hope for homeless families and individuals,” said Cathy E. Creswell, acting director of the department. “These critical funds will help increase and improve year-round homeless shelters, including the provision of cold-weather shelters.”
The addition of 100 new beds in the shelter system could translate to fewer people sleeping on the streets in the city’s southeastern area. The Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood saw a surge in its homeless population, which more than doubled in three years from 444 to 1,151, according to last year’s city-sponsored homeless count. This coincided with a decrease of visible homelessness in areas such as mid-Market, Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square, suggesting a migration to the city’s outskirts.
If the shelter starts accepting clients next year, it would be the second place in Bayview-Hunters Point operating under the city’s homeless services program. Providence Baptist Church on McKinnon Avenue takes in as many as 105 single adults, although it rarely operates at capacity, according to the city’s monthly shelter vacancy reports.
United Council of Human Services is one of two places in the city that reserves beds daily. It also also provides a dining room, laundry services and showers.
The opening of a new shelter is a logical outcome of ever-dwindling federal spending on affordable housing and the nationwide rise in homelessness since 1983, said Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project.
“We’re wiping out affordable housing so much that we’re now making much ado about building a shelter,” he said. “Lord knows, it’s not like we don’t need a shelter. We’re gonna be needing a lot more shelters.”
T.J. Johnston is a San Francisco-based journalist. He has been published in Newsdesk.org; Street Sheet; Street Spirit; Poor Magazine; Race, Poverty & the Environment; and Now Public, among other publications and Web sites.
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