Residents question clinic’s plan at Drake Hotel 

click to enlarge Raymond Bockhol, 58, right, and Eve Fromm, 46, are Drake Hotel residents. They will have neighbors who are part of a halfway house-type program beginning in June. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Raymond Bockhol, 58, right, and Eve Fromm, 46, are Drake Hotel residents. They will have neighbors who are part of a halfway house-type program beginning in June.
Drake Hotel residents Raymond Bockhol and his partner, Eve Fromm, say they’ve seen many changes take place over the past year at the three-story, single-room-occupancy hotel in the Tenderloin.

In that time, all but 17 residents have taken buyouts at the 235 Eddy St. building, which has 64 units. The pair have also seen the landlord board up vacant rooms for renovations like new granite-top sinks, microwaves and kitchenettes.

They and other tenants on March 11 learned the reason for the flurry of activity.

The Tenderloin Housing Clinic, San Francisco’s largest permanent housing program for single homeless adults and a legal services provider for low-income tenants, will soon be managing a transitional housing program for adults on probation at the hotel, clinic Deputy Director Krista Gaeta said.

Program participants will be moving into the hotel’s renovated units. That’s not going over well with Bockhol, 58, and other residents.

Bockhol and Fromm, 46, who acknowledge having served time in prison for prostitution and other offenses, met years ago at a halfway house. They’ve paid $800 per month to share a hotel unit for the past 4½ years.

Now the pair fear they’ll be surrounded by the halfway house environment and regulated supervision they thought was behind them. They’re also afraid the program will lead to an influx of sex offenders and other felons.

“We were all criminals, so don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone a second chance. But don’t tell me you’re not going to have sex offenders when I know it happens,” Bockhol said. “I didn’t move into a halfway house or transitional housing, is what they call it. We’ve both been through that.”

The plan represents the clinic’s first attempt at operating a supervised, 12-month clean-and-sober transitional housing program for adults on probation, who won’t be charged rent but are expected to participate for permanent housing. Eligible clients have been sentenced to probation for a range of felony or misdemeanor offenses that can include sexual and violent offenses, said Jennifer Scaife, director of the San Francisco Adult Probation Department’s re-entry division.

The number of people who will participate is still to be determined.

The probation department, which will contract with the clinic for one year to provide services at the Drake Hotel using state funds, had 3,724 active clients as of March 5. At any given time, at least 55 percent lack stable housing, Scaife said.

There’s “absolutely” a need for transitional housing, Scaife said. “The capacity that we’re developing right now will barely scratch the surface.”

The Drake Hotel has a muddied history, like many Tenderloin hotels.

Two law firms have active lawsuits against hotel operators Meher Patel and Mohsin Patel and landlord Dipak Patel for habitability issues, failure to make building repairs and allegations of “musical chairs,” which involves forcing people to move around to different units so they don’t qualify for rent ordinance protections granted after staying at one unit for 30 days.

Efforts were made to reach the hotel operators and landlord, but calls were not returned for comment.

Gaeta said the clinic, needing a home for the program, approached the hotel, as it had many vacant units “and it was something that the owner was open to.”

Permanent residents not in the program will be allowed to stay at their old units without rent increases, Gaeta said. Another meeting with the permanent residents will be held in the coming weeks to discuss the possibility of them moving into renovated units.

Scaife said the probation department will observe the program and its effectiveness in transitioning clients into stable housing before deciding to invest in more projects or rethink the model.

The clinic anticipates moving into the Drake Hotel in June.

In the meantime, Fromm and Bockhol said they’ll wait and see how the program turns out.

“The program will be OK. I guess the idea scares me, though,” Fromm said. “The not known is worse than lived experiences.”

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Bio:
Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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