Homeless mothers, advocates rally at City Hall for increased funding 

Homeless mothers, children and supporters paraded through City Hall on Tuesday to share the hardships of families living on the streets and push a $13.8 million funding proposal for increased homeless services in The City.

The group of about 30 homeless residents and advocates went directly to the offices of Mayor Ed Lee and city supervisors. They delivered handmade paper flowers and cards that laid out four initiatives to fund homelessness prevention and increase affordable housing.

While the homeless advocates are asking for their largest amount of funding yet from The City, the recession, coupled with skyrocketing local housing costs, has made the need for additional housing options vital, said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition for Homelessness, which has made the request along with the Emergency Services Providers Association.

Families comprise 40 percent of The City's homeless population, while just 6 percent of city-funded housing units go toward families with children, according to Friedenbach.

"As the housing prices are rising so dramatically, we have a huge homeless crisis among families with children," Friedenbach said. "Families are waiting six months for a shelter."

The City's biennial homeless census, most recently conducted in 2013 with a count of homeless youths for the first time, found that 914 youths identified as homeless out of the 7,350 total homeless population.

Additionally, the San Francisco Unified School District has more than 2,200 students who identify as youths in transition, a number that has stayed "relatively stable in the last five years," district spokeswoman Heidi Anderson said.

The initiatives call for preventing thousands of evictions, helping house hundreds of people living on the streets or at risk of losing their homes through rental subsidies, and renovating vacant units to alleviate the housing waitlist.

The proposals come as a budget analyst's recent report found The City spends $165.7 million on homelessness annually while the population has remained mostly flat at about 6,400 residents. Still, Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said increasing affordable housing is a priority for Lee.

"The mayor is working with the Board of Supervisors to develop a budget that supports homeless families and provides the housing and supportive services people need," Falvey said.

Supervisor John Avalos told the crowd in both Spanish and English that he is committed to extending subsidies for public housing, as well as making Section 8 housing less restrictive.

"I'm really concerned about families being out on the street," Avalos said. "I want to make sure we do everything we can to prevent that from happening."

Margarita Aleman, 42, broke down in tears while telling Avalos of the challenges she and her husband face raising four children without a home. When Aleman and her family moved back to San Francisco two years ago, they had spent a year living in their minivan before moving into a small subsidized studio, which expired at the end of April.

Aleman, who brought her 1-year-old son to the rally, secured a one-month extension on the studio but isn't sure where her family will go next.

"I'm doing my best," Aleman said in Spanish. "We just need to keep on fighting until we obtain housing."

The rally, which primarily advocated for homeless families and those who are disabled, was timed with Mother's Day and The City's budget season.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved an additional $1.4 million to expand and enhance the Department of Public Health's homeless outreach team.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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