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SF seniors ask mayor to focus on housing, jobs for older residents

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Mayor London Breed announced she will hire someone to focus on The City’s senior population and people living with disabilities. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor London Breed on Friday said she plans to hire a staff member to focus on San Francisco’s growing senior population and those living with disabilities, and to help them obtain employment.

In a meeting with the Dignity Fund Coalition, a collection of nonprofits providing senior and disabled services, Breed revisited campaign promises made during a mayoral forum in April 2018.

More than half of adults over 65 living in the San Francisco area experienced in 2016 a moderate or severe housing burden, according to a March 2018 report by the Department of Aging and Adult Services. Severe housing burden is defined as paying more than half one’s income on rent, while moderate is paying between 30 percent and 50 percent.

She pointed to her efforts to buy more small apartment buildings to protect residents from evictions. She also said that she has expanded rental subsidies, but it’s never enough.

“Every year we have increased those dollars and it justs gets swept up right away, which it makes it clear there is definitely need for more,” Breed said.

Michael Stokes, 68, who attended the discussion, has rented an apartment in Hayes Valley for the past 30 years. “‘I’m in a vulnerable situation I feel,” he told the San Francisco Examiner after the talk.

Stokes said he planned to educate himself on the city services to better plan. “Things can change. I don’t want to be a homeless person,” he said

Breed also pointed to her plans to place a $300 million affordable housing bond on the November 2020 ballot and re-committed to build “at a minimum” 5,000 new housing unit a year. She noted she now has Judson True working as her housing delivery director, a new city position she created to speed up approvals of projects.

Breed took a swipe at the Board of Supervisors: “We have a Board of Supervisors who introduces legislation on a regular basis and sometimes there’s unintended consequences to many of the policies that they put forward which add additional layers of bureaucracy that make it difficult to build more housing.” She didn’t specify what policies.

However, when asked if she’d build housing specifically for long-term care workers, Breed said no. “What I am most dedicated to is creating more housing opportunities period,” Breed said. “You have people from all spectrums of employment that need housing.”

Senior employment is also increasingly a need, and Breed said, “If there is any interest we would love to host a job fair where we can invite people in.” She continued, “We want to break those barriers.” She invited job seekers to discuss their interest with her workforce director Josh Arce after the event.

Among those who spoke to Arce was Denise Minter, 63, a homeowner in Visitacion Valley since 1993. She told the Examiner she is a trainee with Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I am a person who used to have a big job. As I became a senior citizen I lost those opportunities,” Minter said. She said it’s difficult to compete with younger works for jobs at places like CVS or Target when there is such a low unemployment, which is at 2.3 percent, and she said “there is still a lot of discrimination” against hiring seniors.

“They need to work because they are still living in the city and it is an economic reality. The ends are not meeting,” Minter said.

Breed also committed to hiring a new staff member that would focus on policies of seniors and the disabled, like there is for transportation issues. “There will be someone in our office that will be a direct connection to the community,” Breed said.

She admitted, though, that there was one campaign promise she hadn’t worked on: access to technology to reduce social isolation. “I haven’t gotten to that yet,” Breed said. “I forgot I even said it. We will get on that right away.”

San Francisco voters approved in November 2016 a “Dignity Fund” charter amendment, Proposition I, that set a $38 million baseline for spending on services for seniors and people with disabilities and mandated an annual increase in spending — an initial $6 million then an annual $3 million over the next nine years. Afterwards, the increase is adjusted based on a percentage of city revenues.

The funding, overseen by the Department of Aging and Adult Services, is spent on such things as home-delivered meals, training for caregivers and phone or web support for persons who are isolated and experiencing depression.

In San Francisco, there are 169,189 residents aged 60 and over and 33,463 residents aged 18 through 59 living with a disability, according to a March 2018 report from DAAS. The senior population is expected to grow from 20 percent of the population to 26 percent of the population by 2030 — a estimated 100,000 more seniors.

The department completed Prop. I’s required needs assessment last year and is currently putting together the required four-year spending plan.

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