Homeless get a little help trying to stay out of the wet weather 

click to enlarge Homeless Outreach Team staffers worked to direct homeless individuals who were outdoors during the Thursday storm to various available shelters across The City. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • mike koozmin/the s.f. examiner
  • Homeless Outreach Team staffers worked to direct homeless individuals who were outdoors during the Thursday storm to various available shelters across The City.

James Maconey sat in his wheelchair outside St. Boniface Church on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Thursday, smoking a cigarette.

It was dry inside the church, one of the emergency and makeshift shelters that opened its doors to The City's homeless during the much-heralded rainstorm.

But here he was, one of a few dozen souls still outside in the biggest soaking in San Francisco in years -- and the first major rain since Maconey lost his room at a Polk Street single-room-occupancy hotel six months ago.

He'd wheeled himself outside from the church - where he'd had "one of the worst nights of sleep of my life" the night before, he said - to have a smoke.

He had no hat, no raincoat, and only a rough wet blanket aside from a beat-up Kansas City Chiefs jacket for cover.

Told of the extra rooms made available during the duration of the storm for Maconey and The City's other 6,400 homeless people during the storm, he shrugged.

"I'm wet already," he said.

Plenty of hard-luck San Franciscans stayed outside Thursday, despite a concerted push by The City to make sure nobody was left outside in the rain.

All of the Homeless Outreach Team's staffers were out working Thursday, trying to get people indoors in one place or another, said Bevan Dufty, Mayor Ed Lee's point man on homelessness.

Some shelters that normally close early in the morning were allowing families to stay all day long -- important for San Francisco's 1,000 homeless children and teens, for whom school was canceled.

Police as well as Department of Public Health staffers spread the message to anyone still outside, a rushed effort that earned high marks from homeless advocates.

"They did a really good job despite the short notice," said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. "There wasn't a lot of time ... in the future, it'd be good to have a better system to get the word out."

Not everyone got the message.

People congregated under awnings on Sixth Street, and tent cities sprung up on Division Street and on the bocce ball courts on The Embarcadero, where four tents were pitched Thursday afternoon despite a puddle a quarter-inch-deep and growing.

And not every shelter was open.

Some shelters closed as normal in the morning. Others closed at 3 p.m. Some offered a dry place during the day but left homeless to fend for themselves for the night.

One block away from where Maconey sat shivering in the rain was St. Anthony's Dining Room, where as many as 3,000 people had hot meals during the day.

The dining room would offer shelter from the rain for "up to 100 people," but not until later that evening, at 6 p.m.

It was 2 in the afternoon.

"Let's go," he said.

Maconey accepted a push up Leavenworth Street to the day shelter at the Hospitality House. There, he was told he could stay only until 7 p.m. -- but that if he could get to the rec center on Sixth Street near Folsom Street, he might be able to snag a bed for three days.

Back outside on the four-block wheel across Market, Maconey said he'd been in San Francisco five years, ever since his partner died and he lost a job driving at truck. He lost his hotel room for "cussing out" the front desk worker.

At the end of the slog, the doors of the Gene Friend Rec Center were locked. It wasn't clear if he was in the right place until the doors swung open from the inside. Staffers welcomed the two figures who sloshed inside with one question.

"Are you guys new?"

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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