By Sherilyn Adams, Brett Andrews and Steve Fields
The need for community services in San Francisco is at an all-time high. This was true even before the pandemic hit, and it is all the more dire now that people are sheltering in place, losing their jobs and homes, and unable to access the programs they once relied on for basic needs, support and treatment.
Proposition F, which may appear to be a dry, complicated tax measure, is the key to preserving our City’s human services. Thousands of vulnerable San Francisco residents rely on City-funded programs for housing, food, childcare, mental health treatment, healthcare, crisis intervention and more. The City’s two-year budget is balanced precariously on the assumption that voters will recognize the necessity for fair and equitable tax reform that invests in people and protects small business.
Most likely, you are well aware of the increase in poverty and homelessness. If you are a San Franciscan, you have noticed the growing numbers of tents on the sidewalks, lines outside of food programs and the rise of those struggling with mental health and substance use issues on our streets.
What may be less obvious is the wide array of community-based nonprofit programs that address these increasing needs, and the creative and resourceful systems they have developed to prevent hundreds more from joining the ranks in the food lines and on the streets. For every haggard person asking for a donation to get their next meal, countless others do not have to beg to line their stomach thanks to our nonprofit service providers.
In every neighborhood throughout the City, community service providers thoughtfully and compassionately feed, house, counsel, treat and employ people every day. While they may be invisible to most residents, these organizations play a significant part in reducing the numbers of people in need that you encounter in your daily life.
Imagine if these community services were not here to provide the safety net that exists today. The quality of all our lives depends on our most vulnerable residents getting the care they need.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not far-fetched. The health and economic crisis is stretching San Francisco’s comprehensive network of nonprofits to the limit. Those of us who do the lion’s share of the work supporting our poor and needy neighbors are operating on shoestring budgets, and making do with less as costs continue to rise, all while facing the constant risk of losing the funding that we do have at any time.
Now we face another threat that would be devastating to our budgets. If the voters do not approve Prop F, our elected officials will have no choice but to cut human services, leaving more people in need and creating more barriers to access.
As nonprofits, our ability to recruit and retain our frontline workers is riding on the revenue included in the City’s tax laws. Our workforce, who are tirelessly providing care and treatment throughout the pandemic, are awaiting funding from the City budget that supports their salaries. Nonprofits are struggling to reward these workers with small pay increases that reflect their dedication and allow them to survive in our expensive City. The Mayor cannot allocate this funding without Prop F’s $100 million revenue stream.
Without Prop F, our neighborhoods and communities will suffer service cutbacks, forcing more people in need to fend for themselves on the mean streets of the City. If you want to live in a City where people can get help from a robust service sector, vote yes on F on November 3.
Sherilyn Adams is executive director of Larkin Street Youth Services, Brett Andrews is CEO of the Positive Resource Center and Steve Fields is executive director of the Progress Foundation. They are the co-chairs of the San Francisco Human Services Network, an association of San Francisco health and human service nonprofits.