SF backs project to house homeless veterans

More homeless veterans could have a roof over their heads in downtown San Francisco by the end of the year if a lease agreement announced by Mayor Ed Lee on Tuesday is approved by the Board of Supervisors next week.

Lee announced legislation for The City to lease the privately owned 136-unit building located at 250 Kearny St. in the Financial District. The project is expected to provide shelter as well as health and social services for the city's homeless veteran population.

The city's 2013 Point-In-Time Homeless Count and Survey showed that out of the 7,350 unsheltered and sheltered homeless people residing in San Francisco during the count, 716 of those individuals were veterans who had served on active duty in the armed forces. The count was conducted Jan. 24, 2013.

According to the 2013 San Francisco Homeless Count, 59 percent of the 716 homeless veterans in San Francisco were unsheltered and living on the streets during the survey.

Lee said the leasing of the property at 250 Kearny St., formerly the Stanford Hotel, would bring the city closer to eliminating chronic veteran homelessness by 2015, a goal that he pledged to work towards in response to a challenge proposed by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year.

According to Amanda Fried, deputy director of policy of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement at the Mayor's Office, the lease will be considered by the Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday and will then go on to be heard by the full Board of Supervisors for approval next week.

Fried said the building's owners are almost finished with a complete renovation of the site and it will be ready for occupancy by the time the lease is in place, which is expected to be Oct. 1, if approved by the Board of Supervisors.

If the Board approves the legislation, veterans are expected to begin moving in come November.

To fund the leasing project, a variety of federal and local money will be drawn on, including 130 federally funded vouchers, which represents over $1.75 million per year.

Additionally, the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center has committed $500,000 annually in support of services to the site.

The San Francisco Housing Authority also secured an additional 75 project-based Housing and Urban Development Veteran's Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers to support the veterans at 250 Kearny St.

The remaining $800,000 in costs will come from the city's general fund, according to the Mayor's Office.

Mayor Lee also said that short-term rental company Airbnb, which has faced ongoing opposition in the city by critics who say the company further drives up the cost of rents, has pledged volunteers and funds for volunteer projects to get the units at 250 Kearny St. ready for veterans.

The project, the mayor said today, provides a rare opportunity to provide high-quality housing for formerly homeless veterans in a safe neighborhood.

Del Seymour, a veteran who serves on the Local Homeless Coordinating Board said the location is great and that instead of moving homeless veterans into lower-income areas, veterans will have a chance to thrive in the Financial District.

“When a veteran walks around the block, he or she won't be faced with the challenges and demons that can detract from recovery and land someone back on the street,” Seymour said.

According to the mayor's office, veterans who are deemed the most vulnerable and who have been homeless the longest will be targeted for placement in the building.

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