Coalition report slams city shelters

The City’s shelters for the homeless are places of neglect, abuse and overcrowding, according to a report released Wednesday by an advocacy group for the homeless.

A survey of 215 homeless people in and outside of The City’s shelters during a three month period found that more than half experienced some form of abuse — such as physical, verbal or harassment — nearly 25 percent said that shelter staff were rude and neglectful and 27 percent said they had no access to toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, soap or supplies in the bathroom, according to the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco May 2007 report, titled “Shelter Shock.”

Trent Rhorer, director of the Human Services Agency, vehemently defended the conditions of The City’s shelters. “What we’re finding through our own interviews and our own monitoring is far different from what this report is telling us,” Rhorer said.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano said he is “shocked and appalled” by the “barbaric conditions” found in The City’s shelters, and plans on introducing in June legislation requiring minimum standards of shelter conditions.

The report said, “Our homeless shelters should become places that support a transition out of homelessness instead of being the outrageous, fear-and-disease generating places they are today.”

Ammiano said that given the conditions of the shelters it’s no wonder why The City’s homeless population “is not being significantly reduced.”

Mayor’s Office spokesman Nathan Ballard called Ammiano’s claim “absurd.” “San Francisco homelessness is down 38 percent since [Mayor] Gavin Newsom took office,” Ballard said.

The City’s counts of the homeless have identified 8,640 homeless persons in 2002, 6,248 in 2005 and 6,337 in 2007.

“While Mayor [Gavin] Newsom claims homelessness is his No. 1 priority, under his administration, over 260 shelter beds have been lost and conditions in the shelter system have gone ignored,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, the coalition’s organizing director.

Rhorer said that The City has about 1,500 shelter beds. “We may have lost beds, but that discounts the fact we have over 100 vacant beds every night and that we have placed well over 3,400 people in supportive housing.”

Rhorer said he doesn’t “have any problem” about adopting minimum standards, although he expressed concern that the legislation would require improvements without providing the funding need to implement them.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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