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Mayor restores funding for Tenderloin drop-in center

The Public Press
 — Jun 22 2009 - 5:24pm

In a reprieve for San Francisco mental health services, Mayor Gavin Newsom restored funding to the decades-old Tenderloin Self Help Center, a drop-in counseling and service provider, according to Jackie Jenks, executive director of the parent organization, Central City Hospitality House. 

The center, which served 13,500 people last year, was slated to lose $650,000 from a city budget cut that would have closed the organization by Aug. 1, just as a troubled economy was almost doubling the number of daily visitors to the center.

"People are elated," Jenks said, calling the change "a wise decision."

"This is a critical service for the tenderloin community," she said.

Even with this restoration, she said, budget cuts threaten other social service providers, and the center might not have the capacity to serve the clients who need help.

Tenderloin Self Help provides counseling and housing support to homeless and the poor, and has been central to this summer's budget policy debate. Newsom proposed cutting $128 million in city funding to public health -- $13.5 million from substance abuse services and $11 million from mental health services -- a move that was met with anger from the Board of Supervisors and two tense rallies at which hundreds of public health advocates, including employees and clients of the center, gathered at City Hall.

The mayor’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story.

Last week, the board voted to recommend an interim budget for July that would transfer $82 million in funding from public safety to public health. Newsom, who is running for governor in the fall, has appeared in public with police and fire unions, and has been severely critical of the move saying it will put the city in danger. 

After the Department of Public Health prioritized the center, the mayor used a procedural device known as a technical adjustment to restore its funding, Jenks said. Four other mental health and substance abuse organizations also had funding restored through technical adjustments.