Amid a bitter neighborhood dispute, supporters of a proposed homeless shelter in the Bayview neighborhood prevailed Tuesday when the Board of Supervisors approved a nearly $1 million state grant to transform a warehouse into a 100-bed facility.
As department heads, homeless advocates and operators of Mother Brown’s Kitchen in the Bayview backed the shelter plan, opposition came from business groups and Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes the proposed site at 2115 Jennings St.
“I do firmly believe that if the proposal were occurring in any other neighborhood in The City that there would have been a significantly more robust public dialogue around the location,” Cohen said. “My inability to support the item has nothing to do with being anti-homeless or NIMBY [not in my backyard].”
After several amendments were made at Cohen's urging, such as requiring a one-year assessment of the shelter and the creation of a citizen advisory committee to oversee the shelter impacts, the board voted 9-2 to accept the grant. Cohen and Supervisor Katy Tang opposed it.
While opponents argued the shelter was in the wrong location and would be a setback for the community, supporters said it was merely meeting an existing need. The surrounding area has a high number of homeless people at 1,278, according to the January citywide homeless count. At Mother Brown’s homeless center, next door to the proposed site, 70 homeless people have been staying overnight in chairs.
The shelter had the support of Mayor Ed Lee’s homeless czar, Bevan Dufty, and head of the shelter system, Trent Rhorer, who is the director of the Human Services Agency.
The Board of Supervisors’ approval was greeted by applause and cheers from the roughly 20 backers, wearing white T-shirts in support of Mother Brown’s and the shelter plan.
“I’m just so, so very happy that we finally are getting beds out there in Bayview,” said Gwendolyn Westbrook, executive director of the United Council of Human Services, which runs Mother Brown’s under a city contract. “We have a whole slew of homeless people in Bayview that are senior citizens living very hard on the street. This is just a step to help that.”
Dufty celebrated the vote with shelter supporters.
“There’s a resource center there where people are sitting in chairs overnight; it’s seems to me we are going to provide a much better service having a dedicated 24-hour shelter where people do not have to go out into the street in the morning,” Dufty said.
When asked to respond to shelter critics, Dufty had a message for them: “Come work with us.”
The approval process is not completely over. A zoning change is needed for the warehouse to become a shelter, and the contract for the shelter operator also requires approval. The shelter is expected to cost $500,000 annually to operate.
Correction: This story was updated Nov. 20 to correct the outcome of the Board of Supervisors' vote on the shelter grant.