The Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge on Jan. 2 will explore the possibility of using inexpensive, movable housing to create a safe place for San Francisco's underserved population to live. (Cindy Chew/2008 S.F. Examiner)

New concepts emerging to address homelessness

Broke Ass City Header

Oh, man, it is cold! It’s so cold that I’m wearing a beanie and a hoodie in my apartment and I’m still not warm enough.

When my building was erected in 1914, it was done so without central heating. No one has thought to install it since then, so there’s a lot of bundling up going on. While I do have a space heater, I can’t really afford to run it all the time. I mean, just look what my nickname is …

But I’ve got it relatively easy. Despite everything I mentioned, I still get to stay dry while sleeping indoors on a bed with lots of blankets and a down comforter. I’m like the goddamn Prince of Brunei compared to the nearly 10,000 San Franciscans that sleep outside every night. This winter is going to be cold and wet, and each time I walk by the tent encampments near my place, my heart breaks a little.

Everyone should have a home.

Luckily, there are people who are trying to make this happen. Former mayoral candidate and community organizer Amy Weiss has teamed up with Ken Fisher of RouteHome — a project that explores low-cost, movable shelters for the homeless — to create the “Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge.” And they are kicking it off on Saturday at SOMArts at Brannan and 8th streets.

While the SFHC is a larger campaign aimed at addressing San Francisco’s homelessness crisis on a large scale, Saturday’s event is intended to showcase proof of concept for a pilot project that will serve unhoused neighbors on underutilized public land.

The idea goes a little something like this: If there are already people living under the freeway where Highway 101 crosses Cesar Chavez, why not put some inexpensive and movable housing there?

If you’re as saddened by the way our system has allowed these people to slip through the cracks as I am, you probably ask yourself all the time, “What can I do to help?”

The SFHC is the perfect way to get involved.

The press release I was sent breaks it down further:

From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, volunteers will construct a 12-and-a-half foot dome shelter, designed by Eric Lipson of DecaDome. The DecaDome will be utilized as a “Healing Hub,” a service location for group acupuncture and workshops between 1:30-5:30 p.m.

RouteHomes, attractive micro structures made from wooden shipping containers provided for free from a local tech company, will be used as “Sleep Sanctuaries.”

Additional services include:

Noon-6 p.m. Free meals, sock giveaway, phone-charging, monitored porta-potty

1:30-4:30 p.m. Free acupuncture

1:30-3:30 p.m. Free training on compassionate communication and deescalation on the streets of San Francisco

1-4 p.m. TEAM Marketing Group, an authorized dealer of Budget Mobile, will help homeless neighbors apply for and receive activated mobile phones

The prototype presented during the event will serve as an example of a pop-up, off-grid service hub that would provide needed support for secure sleep, hygienic toileting, and increased access to healing, harm reduction, and transition services — all while improving livability and cost-effectiveness for the larger community.

Weiss and Fisher hope to begin working with city officials in order to identify public land that could benefit from sanctioned monitoring, enhanced service offerings and beautification.

I know where I’ll be on Saturday. Hopefully, I’ll see you there.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.

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