Group sues homeless program

San Francisco’s Care Not Cash program blatantly discriminates against disabled people, forcing them out of shelter beds and onto the streets, charges a lawsuit against The City filed Wednesday.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, alleges that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Care Not Cash program gives participants priority help when it comes to shelter reservations and case-management services — leaving nonparticipants — including the disabled — out in the cold, since there are not enough shelter beds for all of The City’s homeless. Disabled people who receive Social Security or veterans benefits are often above the income threshold to participate in Care Not Cash.

Plaintiffs include Western Regional Advocacy Project, a nonprofit coalition to protect the interests of homeless people, and two disabled homeless men in San Francisco, Anthoney Coleman and Calvin Davis. They are being represented by the Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates and a San Francisco law firm.

“This lawsuit isn’t a personal vendetta against anyone,” WRAP spokesman Paul Boden said. “It’s years of incredible frustration over the homeless shelters discriminating against disabled people,” The lawsuit does not seek any monetary damages, only to redesign the system, he said.

Trent Rhorer, executive director of The City’s Department of Human Services, said the complaint was filed by longtime opponents of the policy and the charges were “totally baseless and inconsistent with the facts.”

Care Not Cash, which was passed by voters in 2002 to help those on the county assistance program, reserves less than 25 percent of The City’s more than 1,300 beds for its participants, Rhorer said. Care Not Cash beds that go unfilled are turned over to the general population, including the disabled, he said.

“The disabled homeless population certainly has access to the vast majority of beds, and a third of Care Not Cash participants are disabled,” Rhorer said.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

 

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