S.F. mayor visits tenants in housing for formerly homeless people

Barry White, a decadeslong San Francisco resident, was homeless until last week.

The former decorative painter lost his rent-controlled apartment on Nob Hill when work dried up about a decade ago. Then his recreational drug use got serious.

“I just kinda slid down,” he said Monday in the hallway of his new home, the Rene Cazenave Apartments.

White and another 40 formerly homeless tenants have moved into the complex, which is on Essex Street just north of Harrison Street.

“I feel great here. I feel solid. I feel safe,” he said.

Volunteer Lemalie, 51, another new resident who for a time lived in his car, opened his door Monday afternoon to find Mayor Ed Lee and television camera crews.

The mayor, who was touring the building, then handed Lemalie a gift basket.

“This is a little something for the family,” Lee said.

The tour comes less than a week after the mayor announced efforts to speed up the construction of housing in general — below-market-rate housing in particular — in order to alleviate the housing crunch that comes from a growing population and the rapidly improving economy, including a burgeoning tech sector that many blame for pricing out the middle class.

The nonprofit Community Housing Partnership owns the property and manages the site, while a variety of other organizations provide counseling and social services, among other things.

The first tenants began moving into the newly completed apartment complex last week. By early next year the complex will have all its units filled by people who were formerly homeless, according to the Community Housing Partnership.

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