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Homeless Shelter Residents Displaced

Episcopal Sanctuary Closed for Renovations

From the Coalition on Homelessness

Only one week following the City's much heralded, extensive outreach effort to connect chronically homeless people with city services, residents of Episcopal Sanctuary one of the largest city-funded shelters in San Francisco learned that they would be forcibly relocated to locations unknown on Tuesday, October 19, 2004.

The Sanctuary was being closed Tuesday for an unspecified period to accomplish long-planned renovations. Although several vaguely worded flyers had circulated in the facility, advising residents of impending "very important meetings," most of the Sanctuary's residents were stunned to learn that they had less than 24 hours notice before they were required to relocate to makeshift accommodations at other shelters. As of 4 pm Monday, most Sanctuary residents still didn't know where they would be transferred, echoing memories of a similar debacle when the City suddenly closed a temporary emergency shelter at Mission Rock during Mayor Willie Brown's administration. Similar to that well-documented fiasco, most Sanctuary residents did not know where they would be sleeping on Tuesday, or even how they would transport their belongings from the Sanctuary to storage at the City's 150 Otis Street facility.

Former Episcopal Sanctuary resident Paul Thomas Cahill, age 60, was worried. "Shelter residents are being forced to move and store their belongings at 150 Otis Street, just in time for this winter's first big rain storm."

Forty-two-year-old Episcopal resident Kenneth Johnson was angry. "Since Care Not Cash has taken over these [shelter] facilities, the system is stacked against people like me, who are only trying to find work, real housing, and transportation. How is Care Not Cash helping me get off the streets?"

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez was scheduled to introduce long-awaited legislation Tuesday, October 19, 2004 to create a Shelter Monitoring Committee, providing public oversight of shelter conditions and policies. If such an oversight body were already in place, residents of Episcopal Sanctuary would have been better informed and prepared for their relocation. Sanctuary residents planned to attend the hearing and voice their displeasure that they weren't given adequate time to prepare for their mandatory move.

Paul Boden, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, observed, "It's ironic that if any private landlord had handled a tenant relocation effort this poorly, informing those affected as a seeming afterthought, the City Attorney would likely sue them. After 22 years of the City operating homeless shelters, it's not very encouraging to see they still haven't learned to accomplish a simple relocation plan without creating needless drama and upheaval in these homeless people's lives."

For more information, contact Paul Boden, Jennifer Friedenbach, or Chance Martin at 415 346 3740.