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Brakes put on indigent transportation program

SF Public Press
 — Jun 17 2010 - 6:01pm

Tyrone Bordeaux suffers from degenerative disc disease which confines him to a wheelchair, and he uses the Mobile Assistance Patrol program to get to and from his doctor's appointments. He isn't sure what he'll do when budget cuts relegate the program solely to the evenings. 
"I'll have to roll myself from point A to point B," Bordeaux said. "I'm broke. I only get $65 a month." 
Run by the nonprofit Community Awareness & Treatment Services, Mobile Assistance Patrol (MAP) has a fleet of six vans that provide 24-hour transportation for the city's homeless. 
The program is facing a $300,000 reduction in funds for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which means that the transportation service will operate for shelter clients only at night. During daylight hours the program will solely move clients between emergency departments, medical respite centers and crisis stabilization programs. 
Bordeaux, a resident of the Embassy South Shelter who cannot walk more than a few steps without falling, was one of many MAP clients who came to protest the proposed cuts at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors hearing on public health rollbacks. After a rally outside City Hall, the group joined others waiting to speak in a line that stretched down the hallway outside the Board of Supervisor's chambers. 
"I'm sure we could find a lot of things to be cut that are not going to impact those that need assistance," Bordeaux said. 
The San Francisco Department of Public Health was forced to severely trim its reliance on the general fund for the upcoming fiscal year as the city is facing a $483 million shortfall.
"We have reduced our general fund [appropriation] by $135 million," said Dr. Mitch Katz, director of  the Department of Public Health. Much of the chopping relies on one-time revenue streams like federal stimulus money and new hospital fees with $12 million coming from cuts to services. 
The $300,000 reduction in MAP funds, while a small portion of the $135 million, will affect t 841 people, according to Department of Public Health estimates. 
One of those 841, Ivan Graddy who lost his left foot in a car accident, doesn't know what he'll do without MAP. 
"We're going to be in big trouble," he said. "I use MAP to get to my doctor's appointments, to pick up my prescriptions, to go to Glide when I want to go to church." 
Dr. Katz said that the department had to make difficult choices to work with the available money from the general fund. 
The choice to slash funding from Mobile Assistance Patrol, however, is a decision that will result in the sick getting sicker, argued Wayne Garnett, manager of the St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Shelter Multi-Service Center South. The largest homeless shelter in Northern California often hosts people who are ill and without money or insurance and need MAP to get to the hospital. Garnett argued that without it, they simply won't go.  
"Don't cut from the bottom," Garnett said. "Raise my taxes. If I know it's going to the less fortunate, I don't care. It's one less trip to McDonalds."