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in depth

ISSUE 23, FALL 2017

Unsheltered people in S.F.


Empty residential hotel rooms that could house the homeless



Dozens of residential hotels have rooms to spare, but city cannot force owners to rent

NO VACANCY FOR THE HOMELESS of Building Inspection reveal that, as of early September, 1,827 very night, thousands of San residential rooms were known Franciscans have no place to to be sitting vacant in the city’s sleep. And yet, every night 404 privately owned single-room hundreds — possibly thouoccupancy hotels. That is around sands — of single-room occupancy 14 percent of the 13,190 residenhotel units are left empty. tial rooms available for rental in SOLVING According to the latest count, private SRO hotels — around one HOMELESSNESS out of every seven. And yet this 4,353 people were living unsheltered in our city. Among them, number is undoubtedly on the 1,020 were between 18 and 24 years old. low side: Sixty hotels shirked their annual If, by some alchemy, the city could beam usage reports, offering incomplete data or them into these empty rooms, the entire none at all. There are some 1,903 resipopulation of homeless youths and a decent dential rooms in these delinquent hotels number of older adults could be indoors by alone. And, logically, establishments either nightfall. opting to spurn the city or unable to handle The hang-up in this plan, of course, is that the city cannot exactly tell people VACANT ROOMS continued on Page 8 where to sleep — and it also cannot unilaterally place people into privately owned hotel rooms. Believe it or not, homeless issues are complex. Housing issues are complex. And alchemy, it turns out, does not work. Why are the rooms empty? There is no one reason. Certainly, some are in no condition to be rented out. Some hotel owners are choosy when taking on what will be a rent-controlled tenant. It could take an owner months to evict the tenant if he or she stops paying rent. And, notably, others are holding rooms empty, perhaps for years, driving up the value of a building that may eventually be transformed into a high-rent, shared-living space for the city’s transcendent new residents. That puts a crimp in the city’s plans to lease out these rooms to the needy. Over the past 20 years, San Francisco has underwritten the price of thousands of formerly homeless residents’ rooms in private hotels run by nonprofits. But now it is a seller’s market. Hotel owners can charge upward of $2,000 for rooms in hotels formerly occupied by the down and out. Other owners are holding those rooms empty, perhaps in search of an even bigger payout down the The city classifies the derelict, 156-room road when they sell their buildings. Chronicle Hotel as vacant. Statistics compiled by the Department Photo by Sharon Wickham // Public Press By Joe Eskenazi // Public Press


Results-Based Investment Motivates Private Capital to Help House Neediest By Rishika Dugyala // Public Press


or homelessness efforts in San Francisco and across the country, Nima Krodel is convinced that “business as usual” is not doing much to decrease the number of people on the streets. Krodel, vice president of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, argues that traditional contracts between governments and service providers have focused too much on shortterm activities — hours of case management conducted, individuals served or housing units being rented. Often lost in the standard benchmarks is the desired permanent outcome: that someone is stably housed and healthy. “It’s the difference between a measure of an activity versus a change in someone’s life,” she said. “‘Outcome’ goes beyond ‘Here’s a bed’ to ‘Let’s not make someone

homeless anymore.’” To that end, local and state governments are increasingly experimenting with what are called social impact bonds, a novel “pay for success” model of financing services through private capital. Investors are repaid, with a small profit, only if a project proves successful. Since their debut seven years ago, these bonds have generated $200 million in the United States and 14 other countries toward programs to reduce homelessness and related social problems. San Francisco could tap into this new funding source to permanently house homeless families, as well as help low-income mothers and at-risk youth, after the city upgrades and unifies its computer systems. Santa Clara County, however, is already experimenting with leveraging private investment to house 150 to 200 people who are among the county’s most costly and chronically homeless individuals.

Empty rooms in privately owned residential hotels could house more than 40 percent of San Francisco’s unsheltered homeless population. But city leaders are struggling to overcome legal and economic impediments to accessing those spaces in an overheated real estate market. Sources: San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing; Department of Building Inspection. Graphic by Reid Brown // Public Press

PAY FOR SUCCESS continued on Page 5

A homeless man relocates his box house to Berry Street. Photo by Judith Calson // Public Press


increase the number of SRO hotel rooms for residents. | 7

CEO TAX: S.F. supervisors looking at chief executives’ pay to help fund social services. | 5


MORE INFOGRAPHICS INSIDE: All known empty rooms, and the locations of the top vacant hotels. | 6-7





ON WHEELS: Five Keys brings


SHORT TAKES: Highlights from our

Host Home program shows potential. | 4

Contra Costa County wrestles with rising homelessness. | 9


care money used for housing. | 9


Santa Clara County tries social impact bonds

Chronic alcoholics have a safe place to live. | 3


solving homelessness. | 12

State budget includes $5 million for bilingual teachers. | 11 classroom to neighborhoods.  | 11 nonprofit news partners.  | 10


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Crossword Puzzle by Andrea Carla Michaels

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GRAPHIC ARTIST Solution on Page 11 37. Car roof with removable panels 538. 5. Professor of potions at and Actress Daly ("Cagney Hogwarts Lacey") 540. 6. Poet Nash whobaseball rhymed High-scoring “Bronx” game with “thonx” Bond baddie 544. 8. Cast one’s ballot say noup 545. 9. AllJust squared Calm down 649. 0. Doctor’s order Idle and Clapton 651. 1. Hammock snooze Archaeologist's find 652. 2. Altar words "Presumed 654. 3. DJ’s stack Innocent" author Scott 55. Professor of potions at Hogwarts 56. Poet Nash who rhymed "Bronx" with "thonx" 58. Cast one's ballot 59. All squared up 60. Doctor's order 61. Hammock snooze 62. Altar words 63. DJ's stack

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Bevan Dufty, San Francisco’s former director of HOPE SF, brought Mayor Ed Lee to the 1811 Eastlake “wet housing” facility in Seattle, above, hoping a similar project could be created in San Francisco. “From a financial standpoint and a human standpoint, it’s absolutely the right way to go,” Dufty said. Below, a resident spotted and poured out a can of beer before going inside the facility. Photos by Andrea Peer Photography // Public Press

For Alcoholics, ‘Wet Houses' Offer a Home

Seattle model has saved city millions

a similar project could be created in San Francisco. ore than five years ago, San Fran“Shelters have kind of been the same way cisco Mayor Ed Lee visited Seattle they are for over 100 years, said Dufty, now and toured 1811 Eastlake, a national a BART board member. “The city really model of what is sometimes known should be much more of a change agent in as “wet housing”: supervised facilities that how we offer services.” let chronically homeless alcoholics drink “We were ahead of the game as far as on the premises. Studies have found that harm reduction, and reducing the rules and the project, which houses 75 discipline within our permanent people, helps keep alcoholics off housing so that people that are in the streets and out of jails and addiction crisis can get housing emergency rooms, and even helps and succeed,” said Sam Dodge, them drink less. deputy director of San Francisco’s It is “permanent housing ... not Department of Homelessness and transitional,” said Greg Jensen, Supportive Housing. who works with Seattle’s DownBut other communities have town Emergency Service Center, “gone much further” with housing SOLVING which opened 1811 Eastlake in that permits alcohol use onsite, he HOMELESSNESS added. 2005. “Homeless people living with addiction problems move in The Oaks homeless shelter in and stay as long as they need or want.” Ottawa, Ontario, supplies and distributes That promise of unconditional “housdoses of alcohol like medication. At Dann’s ing first” allows residents to stabilize. A House in Traverse City, Michigan, staffers 2013 study found that only 23 percent of go on a beer run every morning, but the residents returned to the streets during residents pay for their own. the two years after they moved into 1811 The concept — derisively called “bunks Eastlake. for drunks” — was a tough sell in Seattle. “It didn’t matter how much a person was Robb Anderson, whose trophy shop is down drinking; they were able to retain housthe block from 1811 Eastlake, told the Los ing,” said study author Susan Collins, a Angeles Times that he and his family opclinical psychologist and assistant research posed allowing alcoholics to keep drinking professor in the Department of Psychiatry “on the state’s tab.” He and other local busiand Behavioral Sciences at the University ness owners unsuccessfully sued to stop the of Washington. “And this was a group of building’s construction in the early 2000s folks for whom a lot of people, experts even, because of concerns about panhandling and said they just couldn’t, they would burn petty crimes. through housing. … And we found that to Most advocates also avoid the term “wet be patently not true.” housing.” They believe it can lend credence Collins’ research also found that the to a misguided stigma. average alcohol consumption of residents “Many of us live in houses in which we shrank between 7 percent and 8 percent are able to consume alcohol. I do. I have every three months; on their heaviest a liquor cabinet. I had some scotch last drinking days, they consumed an average night. Do I live in a wet house?” said Laura of 26 drinks instead of 40. Thomas, state director of the Drug Policy Although that still might sound like a lot Alliance, a national advocacy group. of liquor, it translates into a major reduc“It’s not the alcohol that’s the problem,” tion in the use of emergency and other she said. “The problem is the social context public services and their attendant costs, in which people are existing. more than $4,000 less per person every “I can drink to excess in my home and month, according to a 2009 study in the it’s nobody’s problem except mine and my Journal of the American Medical Associahousemates’ and my spouse’s. Someone tion. Annually, the average cost per person does that on the street and it’s everyone’s dropped dramatically, from $86,000 to just problem, and it becomes an expense, and over $13,000. police get involved, and so on,” she continued. “So it’s as much about access to OTHER CITIES AHEAD OF S.F. housing and access to social services and economic status as it is actually about the So why hasn’t San Francisco gotten on drug use or the alcohol use itself.” board? But according to Dodge, an umbrella of “From a financial standpoint and a hutolerance may be part of what is holding man standpoint, it’s absolutely the right back the creation of a specific facility for way to go,” said Bevan Dufty, a former San alcoholics. Francisco supervisor who later ran the Because the city’s permanent supportive city-funded HOPE SF, or Housing Opportuhousing already operates under a harmnity, Partnerships and Engagement. Dufty reduction model that welcomes chronic inebrought Lee to the Seattle facility hoping briates, “we hadn’t seen the absolute need By Andrew Stelzer // Public Press


for a sort of special carve-out program,” he said. With 7,500 homeless on San Francisco’s streets every day, “there’s only so many units of permanent supportive housing that come available every year, so we have really had to look at other kind of services we can provide,” he added.

IDEA RESONATES But alcohol and its associated problems aren’t going away, and as the city’s homeless situation reaches crisis proportions, the idea of housing for chronic alcoholics continues to resurface. San Francisco’s 2017 homeless count and survey found that 41 percent of homeless people reported drug or alcohol abuse. And a Public Press investigation found that 68 percent of citations issued for quality-of-life crimes between 2003 and 2017 were related to public drinking and intoxication. Police officers said a small number of individuals accounted for a large portion of those citations. As director of HOPE SF, Dufty said, he tried unsuccessfully to get 50 “wet” beds at a privately funded shelter, but the idea never panned out because administrators were worried about needing more staff.

“A facility that really would have 75 to 100 individuals would definitely have an impact. You would see a change on our streets having that many people safe and housed,” said Dufty. He added that in Seattle, “You don’t see the problems that even you see in some of our regular shelters, where there are folks that are on the street and then there are people who are dealing to those people.” In 2016, the idea resurfaced. After pushing the Board of Supervisors to declare a public state of emergency on homelessness, then-District 9 Supervisor David Campos advocated for one of several new homeless navigation centers to allow alcohol on the premises, and another to be a “safe injection” site for intravenous drug users. Although his proposal did not specify how much the dedicated services might cost, Campos said he was convinced that “in the end something like that just pays for itself.” But support for both concepts faltered. Instead, the city administrator was instructed to “explore the feasibility of operating a managed alcohol shelter.” The city already has a “Sobering Center” to help divert actively intoxicated people from using ambulance and police services. As part of its $100 million plan to cut chronic homelessness in the city, the non-

profit Tipping Point Community recently donated $612,000 to expand its capacity. But will San Francisco ever see a pilot housing program focused on chronic alcoholics? Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Public Health, said that the concept has “promise” but that the department is not actively working on it. The same holds true with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “I think that we could do it,” said Dodge. But “it’s certainly not the most pressing issue that I hear from constituents and from the Board of Supervisors.”

OPIOID ADDICTION A PRIORITY More of a priority, he said, are San Franciscans suffering from opioid addiction and needing a safe place to inject drugs — an idea that faces legal and logistical hurdles of its own. The city has created a Safe Injection Services Task Force. But in early September, the state Senate killed a bill to establish a first-in-the-nation program that would have permitted supervised injections in San Francisco and seven other counties. As with medicinal marijuana, allowing illegal drug use on-site would still have been against federal law. “You cannot end homelessness without doing something about substance abuse and drug addiction and alcohol addiction,” said Campos, adding that both ideas need “a champion” now that he is no longer in office. “You really need someone on the Board of Supervisors with a vision to push it forward, because the mayor will not do anything that is new or innovative,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a silver bullet, but I think it has to be part of the answer.” The mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Thomas said she believes that “there’s a lot of support for the idea here” and that if residents are “unhappy with seeing people passed out on their sidewalks from alcohol abuse, they should be happy that people will be housed and indoors.” A 2016 survey commissioned by her organization found that 64 percent of likely San Francisco voters supported housing that allows indoor alcohol consumption. “I think the bigger problem is actually finding a building where this program can be situated, given the intense demand for supportive housing and for affordable housing,” Thomas added. Dodge agreed. “We know that we have a really insufficient amount of affordable housing, and it’s not just for homeless people,” he said. “I think the question would be, what is the universe of people that are really so extreme in their alcohol use that they need these kind of treatments, and then how much resources are we able to put forward?”


Host Homes Could Get Young Adults Off Streets Recruiting hosts also remains a struggle. Green said that even when the host and youth have a relationship, it is hard to persuade hosts to participate when the county can pay only a small fraction of the cost. The program can pay $500 a month per host family, and “generally in San Francisco room and board costs way more than that,” she said. Funding is the biggest barrier keeping a program like Edgewood’s from expanding, Green said. With enough funds to hire more caseworkers, Green said this model could work for a wider demographic. Even with ample funding, hosts must face another hard reality in their desire to help: Their guests have likely suffered through some form of trauma. Calinsky said the challenge of hosting a youth, especially one who has been on the street or in foster care, can overwhelm well-intentioned hosts, whether they have a relationship with the youth or not. “You’re taking one of these kids off the street with everything that they have, and I’m not talking about personal belongings. Whether it’s drug addiction, alcohol or trauma, they’re still carrying it around with them,” he said. “The kid might have good intentions and might be an amazing person, but the family is not equipped to deal with that.”

By Sarah Asch // Public Press


ore than 1,200 young adults between 18 and 24 years old were unsheltered — living outside, in a vehicle, or in a place not meant for habitation — in San Francisco earlier this year, about the same as in the previous biennial count in 2015. As the city steps up efforts to house this nationally targeted population — classified as transitional age youths — officials are adapting services used for older homeless adults, including navigation centers and rapid rehousing, while looking for new approaches. One proposed solution is based on a simple quesSOLVING HOMELESSNESS tion: Would you host a homeless youth in your home? “It’s important that we find different ways to access housing in the community,” said Ali Schlageter, the youth programs manager at the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “This idea of asking community members to open up their homes is something we want to explore.” Based on existing programs, this model has shown some success, and it could potentially help the city meet the federal government’s goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020. According to a 2016 report to Congress, San Francisco has the third-largest population of homeless youths under 25, behind New York and Los Angeles, but the highest proportion of homeless youths who are unsheltered — nearly 92 percent. The chronic lack of affordable housing leaves youths few options beyond supportive housing, which is expensive to build and operate. Host homes may provide a small-scale alternative.

HOW IT WORKS Although many residents might dismiss the idea of taking in homeless youths, there are precedents, most targeting specific populations. The Edgewood Center for Children and Families runs a host home program in the San Francisco Bay Area that assists former foster youths in identifying family or friends to stay with and helps cover the cost. In Minneapolis, the GLBT Host Home Program operates homes for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer homeless youths, and they rely on volunteers within that community to be hosts. This offers a potential model for San Francisco, where 49 percent of homeless youths identify as LGBTQ, according to the 2017 Point in Time count. Both organizations provide case management to help youths work toward their educational and employment goals. Caseworkers meet with youths in their host homes to help them stay on track to find stable housing after leaving the program, which can last several years. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is considering funding a pilot host home initiative with some of a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to end homelessness among transitional age youths. Stakeholders are debating whether this model, which has a track record, would gain enough support among youths and potential hosts to get off the ground in San Francisco.


David Holman, 20, and living in Haight-Ashbury, writes in his journal, “Simplicity is the key to greatness.” Photos by Garrick Wong // Public Press Edgewood’s program for emancipated foster youths offers an idea of what a bigger host home initiative might cost. The average yearly cost of independent transitional housing in San Francisco is about $30,500 per youth, said Simone Tureck, associate policy director at John Burton Advocates for Youth. But Edgewood’s host home program costs only $16,000 a year per youth, including a monthly stipend for the host, as well as a stipend and case management, said Cynthia Green, Edgewood’s director of family support. Schlageter said that by asking people to open their homes, the city could scale up the overall response to homelessness, even if the host home program itself were small, because the housing options for this population are limited. Edgewood’s program has yielded positive results. A year after leaving the program, 78 percent of the 28 youths who have participated since the program began in 2010 were housed in some capacity: 65 percent as contributing adults in the host family’s

home, 10 percent in shared independent housing and 3 percent in another housing program. Only 5 percent were homeless again. The remaining 17 percent could not be located. The Minneapolis program has also kept the majority of participants housed. Over the past 10 years, nearly 84 percent of the 68 youths who left the program went into stable housing immediately or soon after they left, program manager Rocki Simões said. The program can handle only 10 to 15 youths at a time, however, highlighting the limited capacity of the host home model. To skeptics, that is one of the biggest shortcomings. “The host home thing is a small solution to a large problem,” said Christian Calinsky, co-founder and executive director of Taking It to the Streets SF. “There’s at least 1,000 homeless youth and I can pretty much guarantee there’s not 1,000 host homes.” He also said a host home program would not work for the majority of the youths

in his program. As someone with a history of homelessness, Calinsky said that it takes time to work through the trauma of homelessness to the point where a youth could live in someone’s home, especially a stranger’s home.

RECRUITING YOUTHS AND HOSTS One barrier to growing a host home program is getting youths to participate. According to Calinsky, youths build networks on the street and often do not want to leave that support system, which is why his program houses groups together. Because a host home program would most likely split up homeless youths, Calinsky does not think many of them would volunteer. Green said that in her experience with former foster kids, though, she is able to find willing youths because they want to live with familiar figures. “The most attractive thing about it is getting help with room and board and finding connections with family,” she said.

LOWER COST, MORE HOUSING Schlageter, who oversaw the city’s planning process for the HUD funds, identified several benefits of host homes, including that they cost significantly less than supportive housing programs that require the city to pay market-rate rents or employ 24-hour staff.

LOCAL AND NATIONAL EFFORTS TO END YOUTH HOMELESSNESS 1974: Congress passes what would later be called the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. This law changes the national approach to helping at-risk youths and paves the way for programs that serve homeless youths, including emergency shelters, street outreach and long-term supportive housing. 1984: Larkin Street Youth Services opens in San Francisco. Larkin Street has been on the forefront of San Francisco’s effort to end youth homelessness. It runs a large percentage of existing housing programs and offers a myriad of services, including outreach, shelter, housing, health, wellness, education and employment. It is the largest service provider for homeless youths in San Francisco, serving those 12 to 24 years old. 2006: Mayor Gavin Newsom creates a task force on “transitional age youth,” those between 18 and 24. Newsom assembles service providers, youths, city advocates and funders to develop a housing plan and set a goal of building 400 housing units for this age group by 2015. (As of June 2017, only 188 units were completed, and 94 under construction.) 2008: Congress reauthorizes Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. This law has been reauthorized several times since 1974. In the 2008 version, Congress directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop an estimate of the number of runaway and homeless youths nationwide.

Holman, a Philadelphia native, lights a cigarette at Buena Vista Park on Haight Street while trying to sell his golden Buddha sculpture to buy a bus ticket to Oregon.


Youths age 18 to 24



In emergency shelters

In emergency shelters

San Francisco County 6,996: Total homeless 17.8%: Unsheltered youths

Las Vegas/Clark County 6,208: Total homeless 16.9%: Unsheltered youths


Los Angeles County 43,854: Total homeless 5%: Unsheltered youths

New York City 73,523: Total homeless 0.2%: Unsheltered youths




149 2,689






1,052 2,277


San Jose/Santa Clara County 6,524: Total homeless 11.3%: Unsheltered youths


1,244 2,525

These five locations are home to the largest homeless youth populations in the country, federal data show. Of those, San Francisco has the second-highest percentage of youths, out of its total homeless population, and the highest percentage of unsheltered youths — those living outside, in a vehicle or another place not meant for habitation.




Source: The 2016 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress. Graphic by Sarah Asch // Public Press

2010: The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness creates Opening Doors, the first comprehensive national strategy to end homelessness in the United States. The strategy focuses on four demographics experiencing homelessness — youths, families, veterans and the chronically homeless — and sets goals for each group, including ending youth homelessness by 2020. In the process of creating Opening Doors, the council conducts listening sessions with service providers and stakeholders all over the country to narrow down which groups to focus on and how best to serve them.

2013: Cities conduct the first biennial Pointin-Time Count for youths. The nationwide Homeless Unique Youth Count and Survey is conducted on one night in late January every two years, alongside the larger count that assesses the adult homeless population. The 2013 survey finds 1,902 unaccompanied youths in San Francisco: 134 under age 18, and 1,768 transitional age youths, 18 to 24. 2015: San Francisco conducts second Homeless Unique Youth Count and Survey. The city finds 1,569 unaccompanied youths:

128 children under 18 and 1,441 transitional age youths. 2015: The University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall begins research project Voices of Youth Count to better understand youth homelessness. 2016: Congress appropriates funding in June, designated by the 2008 reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, and HUD grants research funding for the Chapin Hall project.

The Minneapolis program prepares hosts for the experience with training sessions. The program covers conflict resolution and boundary setting, as well as issues such as race and class. “The vast majority of queer and trans youth in our program have been youth of color, and the folks who have the resources to step up and help out are often white and middle class,” Simões said, which can lead to power dynamics between youths and hosts the training hopes to address. The training contributes to the program’s ethos of grassroots Cynthia Green, activism. They also Edgewood anchor themselves Center in the community by staying small and avoiding government funding, which can have strings attached. For example, Simões said, some of their youths stay in accommodations that would not meet child-welfare requirements, but that are still better than sleeping outside. “I understand the need to talk about liability,” she said. “But I think sometimes we need to get out of our own way.” Schlageter said parts of the Minneapolis and the Edgewood programs could work in San Francisco. She also sees the potential for multiple host home programs that target different demographics. HUD is reviewing the city’s plan, which it must approve before Homelessness and Supportive Housing can solicit project proposals from service providers. Once proposals are submitted, the Youth Policy and Advisory Committee, composed of homeless and formerly homeless youths, will help decide which projects to fund. Service providers who support the host home model are hopeful that San Francisco will implement it. Mollie Brown is the director of programs and community development at Huckleberry Youth Program, an organization that serves San Francisco and Marin. She participated in the planning sessions for the HUD grant and advocated for host homes because the lower cost could expand the city’s capacity. “We need to be really honest with ourselves,” Brown said. “If we want to house 1,000 kids ages 18 to 24, how are we going to get it done?”

2016: Mayor Ed Lee launches Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing in July and names Jeff Kositsky the first director. 2017: San Francisco wins a $2.9 million grant in January for a demonstration project and begins the process of creating a community plan to end youth homelessness. The city assembles service providers, government agencies and currently or formerly homeless youths to draft the plan, which includes citywide efforts to house homeless youths. 2017: City conducts third Homeless Unique Youth Count and Survey in late January and finds 1,363 unaccompanied youths. Of those, 104 are children and 1,259 are transitional age. 2017: Lee’s office earmarks $1.54 million for homeless youths in the June budget. Given the fact that youths make up around 20 percent of San Francisco’s homeless population, the mayor and Supervisor Jeff Sheehy include money to help young people get off the streets as part of their new two-year budget plan. The majority of these funds would go toward housing youths. 2017: The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing sends HUD its community plan in July to end youth homelessness. Once approved, the department will solicit project proposals, which could potentially include host homes. 2017: The results of Chapin Hall’s Voices of Youth project is expected to be published in late fall or early winter. Research by Sarah Asch // Public Press


“We’re very invested in making sure the service provider is doing what they say they’re going to do.” — Andrew Rachlin, Reinvestment Fund

Leveraging Private Capital to House Neediest PAY FOR SUCCESS from Page 1

In 2015, the county raised about $7 million for Project Welcome Home, one of four social impact bonds established as of March 2016 targeting about 1,200 homeless individuals or families in the United States. The others are in Denver (nearly $9 million for 250 individuals), Massachusetts ($3.5 million for up to 800 people) and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which includes Cleveland ($4 million for 135 families). The six-year Santa Clara County project emerged after a study of the records of more than 100,000 homeless individuals from 2007 to 2012. The review found that around 2,800 chronically homeless individuals cost the county an average of $83,000 each per year. That SOLVING was nearly half of all HOMELESSNESS public service costs. The federal government defines a chronically homeless individual as someone who has been homeless for at least a year or has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years, and has a long-term disabling condition. Project Welcome Home targets these highest-need individuals — the top 5 percent of the chronically homeless — through what is known as a “housing first” model, said Maria Raven, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the project’s independent evaluator. Based on a previous housing-first program for a broader group of homeless people, the county’s costs fell 70 percent annually for those who remained housed through the program. After contemplating the pay-for-success approach, San Francisco determined in a September 2015 feasibility study that it did not have the baseline data system required to track target populations, the types of services needed or outcomes on services provided. That could change. With the creation of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing and its recent investment in the Online Navigation and Entry System — a unified network to better collect and manage data on the homeless population — the city is closer to adopting a pay-for-success model. The question is: Will the city turn to social impact bonds to do so?

THE BOND BREAKDOWN Unlike conventional investments, social impact bonds raise private seed money for long-term, innovative endeavors such as keeping the homeless housed and reducing their use of costly emergency services. Spending tax dollars directly on challenging problems or populations is usually a hard sell politically. What differentiates a social impact bond from other general outcomes-based approaches is the use of outside investors to front direct-service costs. This lets governments test new interventions without digging into their budgets right away and pay only when goals are reached. The best part, some experts say, is that these bonds align governments, nonprofits and the private sector in a way not seen before. “The structure links the capital provider much more directly to ‘Are these people’s lives being improved long term for themselves and for the society?’” said Andrew Rachlin, managing director of lending and investment at the Reinvestment Fund, which has invested in homelessness bonds for Santa Clara and Cuyahoga counties. “And we’re at risk, so we’re very invested in making sure the service provider is doing what they say they’re going to do.” The first social impact bond was launched in the United Kingdom in 2010 to keep ex-offenders out of jail. Since then, about 60 bonds have been implemented from Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. Although the bond model has attracted mainly philanthropic investors, notably the Rockefeller Foundation, it has also opened a pathway for private capital — Goldman Sachs invested in the first U.S. social impact bond in 2012. In the United States, 10 projects were established by March 2016. One, to reduce recidivism at the Rikers Island prison in New York City, was terminated for failing to show impact. Others target homelessness and early childhood education, with many more in the early stages or still being developed. With Santa Clara County’s project, investors are paid back as each individ-

By Liz Enochs // Public Press


The Donner Lofts in San Jose is part of Santa Clara County’s Project Welcome Home. Photos by Garrick Wong // Public Press


STAKEHOLDERS draw up an outcomes-based contract.

Government pays the intermediary for the success reached.


Investors (private capital and philanthropic) fund upfront program costs through an intermediary.

The intermediary gives principal plus small return back to initial investors.

Intermediary gives money to the bond model’s service provider.




IMPROVING SOCIAL Independent evaluator/validator shares OUTCOMES findings with back-end payor, usually the government.

Service providers work with target population to achieve outcomes.

Independent evaluator/ validator measures outcomes achieved and success rate.

INDEPENDENT EVALUATOR Source: Nonprofit Finance Fund

ual hits certain milestones: being stably housed for three months, six months, nine months and 12 months or more. If someone has a lease but spends time in jail, uses emergency health care or is back on the streets, the success measurement can be paused or restarted, said UCSF’s Raven. The county is separately tracking changes in the use of public services by Project Welcome Home participants and nonparticipants to determine whether the model can lead to better health outcomes. If it hits its success metrics, the county will pay investors back a little over the program’s six-year life span — much more doable than providing the payout at once, Raven said. As program participants are

Welcome Home. “It’s a cycle where we’re never catching up and having enough infrastructure.” Further still, as private-sector funding comes with fewer strings attached, a service provider can adjust how and where money is spent, Chicoine said. “No one was saying, ‘Oh, you could do it for less than that,’” Chicoine said. “This focuses on having appropriately funded nonprofits that have to perform.”

TARGET POPULATION Graphic by Reid Brown // Public Press

weaned off county services, the county can tap into those savings to repay investors. Returns on social impact bonds have generally ranged from 2 percent to 5 percent. Because the county has a limited budget and cannot commit the necessary funding for an untested project, the use of private capital allows for an added benefit to the service provider: greater upfront funding to target high-need populations with enough case management services and housing. “Normally, our contracts are starvation contracts. The government tries to give you the very least to get work done without looking at nonprofits’ outcomes,” said Louis Chicoine, the executive director of Abode Services, the contractor for Project

Over the years, the call for establishing public-private partnerships that bring in investors other than philanthropic foundations has grown stronger in tech-centric San Francisco. Although the city is trying to bring its data systems into the 21st century, there are more challenges that are specific to the social impact bond approach. The contracting process can take over a year as the different sectors decide how to measure success. Because the approach is new and none of the current U.S. projects have completed their terms, there is still no way to compare the success of social impact bonds to previous contracting methods. As a result, stakeholders say it has been a challenge to encourage private capital to take risks in the social realm, although many recognize its necessity because of the vast resources available in those markets. Still, they say that more institutional lenders will grow interested as social impact bonds become established and continue to fund programs using proven preventive strategies, such as housing first, rapid rehousing and eviction prevention. That raises another question: Should private capital remain involved after a pilot project is completed? Reinvestment Fund’s Rachlin said no, not in investor status. The bond is just a way for the government to make a transition to paying for outcomes, and the private sector should be cut out of the outcomes contract if the project is a success. “If I have $100 to spend on a social program and I’m not sure it works, it may be worth it to me to spend $90 on that social program and $10 paying an investor’s return in exchange for risk transference,” he said. “But once I know it works, I want $100 worth of social services.” Others, however, say priorities differ among governments: While some want to get the full bang for their buck through direct contracts with service providers, others may value 100 percent performance-based contracts that require outside investments. The social impact bond is just one approach to focusing on the long term. Krodel said the bottom line is that the path forward, whatever it may be, should focus on “outcomes first, approach second.” “Regardless, it’s about really reorienting lots of different stakeholders into ‘How do we achieve the best outcomes for people in the community?’” Krodel said. The bond “is a piece of that.”

SOCIAL BOND CAPITAL RAISED, BY REGION / MILLIONS OF DOLLARS North America United Kingdom Australia Mainland Europe Rest of world 0




Source: Social Finance // Public Press



S.F. Supes Eye ‘CEO Pay’ Tax To Fund Services


Nicholas Emmett has been housed by Project Welcome Home since late 2015. At right, he meets with Jessica Sparks of Abode Services.

s excessive CEO pay contributing to homelessness? Lawmakers in Portland, Oregon, seem to think so. That’s a major reason they approved a surtax last year on companies with high CEO-to-worker pay ratios and dedicated the revenue to homeless services. “Rising inequality nationally is a major factor in Portland’s housing crisis because huge disparity in income allows highincome people moving to Portland to drive housing costs out of reach of middle-class Portlanders,” the ordinance declared. City Commissioner Steve Novick said the tax was “the closest thing I’d seen to a tax on inequality itself.” Starting in 2018, the city will tax firms with CEO-to-worker pay ratios of 100-to-1 at 10 percent and 250-to-1 at 25 percent. Portland’s Revenue Division estimated the tax could affect 550 companies and bring in $2.5 million to $3.5 million annually. San Francisco could follow in Portland’s footsteps if a measure floated by Supervisors Jane Kim and Hillary Ronen gains support. The two have asked the city attorney’s office to draft legislation based on a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring publicly traded companies to report how their chief executive officer pay compares with that of their workers. “This new rule offers local and state governments, as well as Congress, the opportunity to develop policies that address the growing gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of us,” Kim told fellow supervisors in January. It is unclear how much revenue would be generated by such a tax and whether it would be dedicated to services or housing for the homeless. Kim declined to discuss her proposal with the Public Press.

FAILED TECH TAX COULD BE REVISITED Even with spending already at a quarterbillion dollars, San Francisco needs more money for homelessness, advocates and some politicians say. Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said she has examined the city’s homelessness budget, and “there’s not a lot of waste in there.” “We’ve got to increase our pool if we want to end homelessness,” she added. “You have to invest in more housing — there’s just no way around it — and that’s going to cost some money.” The city must radically increase supportive housing units, where people with low incomes or those living on the streets can get both services and housing, she said. Former Supervisor Eric Mar tried to address this need last year with a push for a tax on technology companies that would have raised an estimated $120 million annually — increasing San Francisco’s current homelessness budget of about $250 million by nearly half. That measure never made it to the ballot, and voters rejected a proposed sales tax to raise $150 million for transportation and homeless services. Undeterred, advocates are strategizing around new proposals, and an aide to Supervisor Aaron Peskin said some type of revenueraising measure would likely hit the ballot in 2018. “As a piece of addressing the homelessness crisis, the need for more revenue is still a pretty clear need,” said Gordon Mar, executive director of the nonprofit group Jobs With Justice San Francisco and the former supervisor’s brother. He echoed his brother’s concerns that the technology industry has worsened inequality in the city. “They really haven’t paid their fair share in taxes,” he said.

AIRBNB IN THE CROSSHAIRS However, tech’s political clout could prevent politicians from backing any measures that specifically target the industry. In 2012, Airbnb investor Ron Conway packed a city hearing to fight efforts to force the company to collect hotel taxes, and Mayor Ed Lee said he intervened to prevent the city’s tax collector from following through with the move. While city supervisors did eventually pass legislation requiring those taxes to be collected, a subsequent ballot proposition to impose further restrictions on the company failed. Airbnb remains a tempting target. In 2016, Los Angeles collected $13 million from taxes on Airbnb rentals and earmarked about $5 million for homelessness services. San Francisco took in $19 million from its tax the same year, according to an Airbnb report. But none of the money was diverted to homelessness. To date, there has been no effort from San Francisco supervisors or Lee — who has had strong backing from Airbnb, Conway and the tech lobby — to pursue a similar set-aside. The key to passing a revenue-raising measure in 2018 could lie as much in the process as the proposal. Friedenbach faulted Lee’s office for failing to build support and aggressively push last year’s sales tax measure. “We’re hoping this time around there will be more serious effort to develop a consensus,” she said. “The mayor would have to take the leadership role in pressuring downtown, the Chamber of Commerce,” and other business groups. Chamber lobbyist Jim Lazarus said his group might be open to new tax measures, but he pointed out that the city’s business tax collections have increased 40 percent in four years. While he attributed part of that growth to the strong economy, he said, “There’s no shortage of tax money coming in from the business community.”



High Vacancy Rates:

Of the city's 404 privately owned single-room occupancy hotels, 30 reported that at least half of their residential rooms were empty. ADDRESS










ST .

16 1


H 5T











. 80

ST .







56 Mason St.



1507 California St.



706 Polk St.



3308 Mission St.



3061 16th St.



4544 3rd St.



1412 Market St.



1485 Bush St.


10 610 Geary St.


11 579 O’Farrell St.


12 54 4th St.


13 712 Battery St.


14 587 Eddy St.


15 325 Sutter St.


16 481 Minna St.


17 136 6th St.


18 629 Post St.


19 205 9th St.


20 528 Valencia St.


21 615 Broadway


2072 Mission St. 22 20


649 Jones St. 23 64


510 Bush St. 24 51


118 Taylor St. 25 11


20 Mission St. 26 2030


70 Kearny St. 27 706


28 O’Farrell St. 28 280


66 Valencia St. 29 663


50 Bush St. 30 507



ST .








ST .













. ST


149 6th St.

occupied residences





unoccupied residences


. ST






. ST


. ST


H 4T




























24 30








































































6 26 H STT. 22 17TH 20




H ST. 16TH

0 0.25 MILES M MIL



Sources: es: San Francisco Department of Building In Inspection nspection

Graphic by Reid Brown // Public Press


790 VALLEJO ST. (right) Built 1907 Mixed commercial/residential 27 total rooms (residential only) 9 vacant (33%) $550 average monthly rent Assessed values of parcel: $1,440,000 building/s; $2,160,000 land Last sale price (8/11/2016): $3.6 million CHRONICLE HOTEL (far right) 936 Mission St. Built 1915 124 total rooms Declared abandoned in 2012 Assessed values of parcel: $490,898 building/s; $358,314 land Photos by Sharon Wickham // Public Press

Number of housing units for residents




Privately owned singleroom occupancy hotels in S.F.


SROs for which owners have reported occupancies in compliance with city law.

9,640 Occupied rooms

1,827 Vacant rooms


SROs with 1,903 rooms have not complied with city reporting requirements.

Sources: Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Point-in-Time Count, January 2017; Department of Building Inspection, September 2017



0 Each stacked bar represents rooms in a single building

278 hotels in compliance with city reporting requirements. Owners are designating certain rooms for residential use and satisfying other mandates.


Single-room occupancy hotels can offer inexpensive refuges from a red-hot housing market.


HOW TO FILL UP THE SPACES Ideas for Getting More People Into Private SROs By Joe Eskenazi // Public Press


BEL-AIR HOTEL: 344 Jones St. | Built 1913 | 70 total rooms (residential/tourist) | 59 residential | 28 vacant residential (47%) | $74 average monthly rent | Assessed values of parcel: $384,993 building/s; $122,008 land Sources: Department of Building Inspection; Office of the Assessor-Recorder 232 units

Of the 344 SROs …


Hotels with more than 10 rooms are at least half empty.



Hotels with more than 10 rooms are one-third to one-half empty.

Hotels with 269 rooms total are entirely empty.


Nonprofit SROs operate 5,825 residential rooms under the city’s master-lease program.

66 hotels not in compliance. But owners have submitted data on their operations. Status of residential hotel rooms



hrough master leasing of SROs, San Francisco has housed thousands of homeless people — and done so in hotels that are, by and large, a huge improvement over those of a generation ago. But the cost structure of the masterleasing program means the city cannot make things pencil out unless the hotel is big: around 70 units or more. That leaves about 90 percent of the city’s 404 private SROs out of the running. Meanwhile, among privately run singleroom occupancy facilities outside the master-leasing program, around 1 of every 7 rooms has been vacant, according to the most recent data available from the city Department of Building Inspection. Things could be worse — and, arguably, have been worse. But they could be better, too. Potential solutions to these two problems tend to overlap. • Bring small hotels into the mix by lowering overhead. Fixed staffing costs render small hotels economically impractical for long-term master leases the city signs with owners. But what if there were no desk clerks? What if the residents were independent enough that social workers and other counselors were not needed, so the place simply resembled an apartment building? Tenderloin Housing Clinic Executive Director Randy Shaw has promoted doing this in “step-up hotels,” providing a place for people to live when they no longer require intensive oversight. The city, however, puts its money into serving the most hard-core homeless — meaning, by definition, that more able homeless people are not the No. 1 funding priority. Shaw questions this approach. The city has ballyhooed its navigation centers in response to burgeoning tent camps. But these residents, Shaw said, need somewhere to navigate to. Step-up hotels would create trickle-up housing. • Set up a daily clearinghouse for available SROs. An owner of a for-profit SRO bemoaned that “there is no place we can call in and say ‘We have 10 rooms available. Send people in.’” Shaw’s organization does some block rentals but not very many rooms — and, he said, it is difficult to find spaces. A clearinghouse would help, but the city or nonprofits would be bidding against an increasingly crowded and affluent market. The city is not prepared to pay $1,500 a room at this time, and hoteliers might prefer residents not be burdened with homeless people’s baggage. “Many owners are not interested in block leasing due to liability,” confirms Sam Dodge, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s deputy director. • Stop clustering rooms. Former homelessness czar Bevan Dufty has long advocated for a program akin to Pathways to Housing PA in Philadelphia. Christine Simiriglia, the CEO, rents rooms for homeless people and makes an effort to not cluster them. The program pays landlords and ameliorates the impact of problematic tenants. It sends caseworkers and maintenance staff out via public transit and ride-sharing to administer to residents. “I definitely think it could work in San Francisco,” she said. • Establish an “SRO Authority” for master leasing. Dufty posits the idea of creating an SRO Authority to take over the expensive fixed costs of master leasing, such as roving repairs and other services. Providing case management and social workers at the city’s current levels — sometimes one for every 100 SRO residents — has resulted in the city “pissing its money to the wind,” Simiriglia said. • Enact a vacancy tax so apartments and SROs do not sit empty. Supervisor Aaron Peskin is exploring legislation to create a vacancy tax that would compel landlords to put their uninhabited units on the market. It is too early to tell if this concept can pass legal muster, let alone apply to SROs. A similar proposal was declared infeasible by Seattle’s city attorney in August. But if San Francisco found a way to make it work, it could have a big impact. “Having the availability of 8 to 12 percent more SRO units would greatly relieve congestion on the wait list,” said Supervisor Jane Kim. “It would be a game-changer in San Francisco.” • Help SROs pay to fix maintenance problems that disqualify them from contracts with the city. In a 2016 “Health Impact Assessment” of the city’s SROs, owners bemoaned that costs of modernizing and maintaining buildings are soaring but rent-controlled income is stagnant. Focus-group participants said a loan or grant program would help address this challenge. New York City has launched a similar program.

60 hotels not in compliance. Owners have not submitted data.

Unknown Source: San Francisco Department of Building Inspection. Graphic by Noah Arroyo // Public Press


“Gentrification is not against the law.” — SRO owner

SROs Keeping Rooms Vacant VACANT ROOMS from Page 1

reporting requirements may have much to hide. It is probable that well over 2,000 SRO residential rooms are vacant. That an appreciable portion of the city’s private SROs ignored the mandatory reporting requirements is indicative of many things. It reveals how, prior to a law that went into effect in March of this year, the city had limited ability to compel hotels to follow the rules, or to punish those that did not. And it is also a sign of the limits of what we can glean from “submitted information.” These are not widely circulated figures. SOLVING HOMELESSNESS When queried about how many vacant SRO rooms there might be in this city, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Deputy Director Sam Dodge and Tenderloin Housing Clinic Executive Director Randy Shaw both guessed it could be in the hundreds. Former homelessness czar Bevan Dufty estimated at least 2,000. Various private SRO owners we spoke with put the number at 2,000 to 4,000.


he city’s data were not carried down in tablet form from Mount Sinai. They are better taken broadly than narrowly; via shoddy self-reporting from the hotels or erroneous numbers input by the city — or both — not every cell on the Department of Building Inspection’s vast spreadsheet adds up. But some of the numbers are so big that they cannot help but jump out: Among the 366 private SROs with more than 10 rooms that have reported their residential vacancy rates, in accordance with city law, 23 are one-third to one-half empty and 30 are more than half empty. Of those, nine are totally empty — with 247 units lying fallow within. Owners have told the city many are being renovated or were damaged by fire. Those are the cold, hard statistics. And, at first blush, they do not make intuitive sense. A decade ago, $400 or $500 a month could get you an SRO room. Now the average monthly rent across all hotels is $816, city data show, and almost one-fifth rent their residential rooms for over $1,000 — eclipsing, problematically, what locals receive in disability payments. At about $4,500, the rooms at 465 Grove St. are the priciest in the city. Hotel owners keeping rooms empty are doing so despite a number of people willing to pay alarming rates. And well-heeled real estate professionals are queuing up to spend serious money to get into this game. A combined property at 662 Clay and 700 Kearny streets featuring 143 SRO rooms and nine retail sites (the listing boasts a “huge upside in rents”) went on the market earlier this year for an eye-opening $19 million — nearly double the city’s assessed value for the land and structures. “I’m an investor,” explained an SRO owner, speaking under the condition he not be quoted by name. He had recently bought into Chinatown — something non-Chinese rarely did in the past. “I’m looking at where the opportunity is to own a hotel and run a successful business.” The average tenant in his newly obtained hotel is paying around $550 a month. Future residents will be charged nearly three times that amount. He has no desire for charity cases — and if the city or some nonprofit wants to step in and bridge the gap for homeless or indigent residents, they are looking at a steep subsidy. “Gentrification is not against the law,” he said. The five bucks a gold miner’s blanket cost in 1851 comes out to $154 in today’s money. We have not quite doubled back to those levels of scarcity-driven rapacity — but when young, able-bodied tenants are willing to pay $2,000 (or more) to live in gussied-up SROs, and hardscrabble SRO dwellers are shelling out upward of $1,000 a month, it does not make short-term sense to hold rooms vacant. But, in a prior, less gilded era, family-run hotels would often do just that if the owners felt they had all the tenants they could handle. Some still do this. Roger Patel, who lives in and runs the Bel-Air Hotel at 344 Jones St., nearly signed a pact with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing that would have filled the hotel with city-funded tenants. (The department currently offers hoteliers rental rates of around $650 or $700 — sometimes even $800 — per room per month.) Voice messages left for Patel were not returned, but multiple sources close to the deal say the hotel owner backed out when confronted with the steep up-front costs to get the Bel-Air into shape and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. City records denote that 28 of the hotel’s 59 residential rooms are vacant. “There are more and more demands to upgrade the properties and some of the owners don’t

have the capabilities,” explained a fellow SRO owner. “They’ve owned the buildings a long time. For them, it’s a matter of just leaving it empty.” There may be no more extreme case of this than the Chronicle Hotel at 936 Mission St. The 156-room hotel had only three elderly tenants as of 2011, and by 2012 the Department of Building Inspection classified the hotel as “vacant.” No phone numbers listed for addresses within the building currently connect; calls to numbers listed for the branch of the Patel clan that own this building were not returned. The Public Press spoke with multiple SRO owners who, on background, claim they have made offers on the Chronicle, which they estimate could fetch $20 million or more. But it would require significant renovations, perhaps costing upward of $10 million. The Tenderloin Housing Clinic’s Randy Shaw says that the hotel is so dilapidated and its rooms are so minuscule that it would likely have to be razed. All the bidders we contacted were rebuffed by an owner they claim would not sell at any price. “It makes me feel so bad,” said a spurned buyer. “That’s 150 units that could be put to good use.” And, though not at the Chronicle, the city has put plenty of units to good use. Through a master-leasing program, the city has taken over 44 SROs during the past two decades and contracted nonprofits to run them. Some 4,000 units are filled with residents who could otherwise be homeless. The most amenable owners and the most suitable hotels, however, signed on with the city ago. Today, SRO owners with gaudy vacancy rates are neither anachronistically naive nor bizarrely eccentric. Rather, they may be playing a game the city cannot afford to buy into. Leaving rooms unfilled during a housing feeding frenzy does not make much sense. … Until it does.

Top: At 790 Vallejo St., nine of its 27 rooms were reported vacant. Photo by Sharon Wickham // Public Press Above: Residents share kitchens and bathrooms. Photos by Amy Dai // Chinatown Community Development Center

price. Because the vacant rooms represent future profit, they can help an owner sell a property at top dollar. Or, if the owner buys another property to expand his or her bank of tourist rooms, many future tenants will sign leases at the prevailing rate, helping offset the costs of expansion. Housing activists claim this is the situation underpinning multiple proposals involving largely residential SROs hoping to convert into tourist hotels by transferring hundreds of residential units into new developments. Several of the hotels sport telltale high vacancy rates. One, The Mosser Hotel at 54 4th St., reports that 68 of its 81 residential units are unoccupied. Less dramatically, many SROs have, for years, eluded the conversion ordinance by renting out residential rooms on a weekly basis — which, obviously, catered to tourists — and shuffling around residents approaching the 32-day threshold that establishes tenancy rights in a practice called “musical rooms.” The loophole was finally closed early this year. “Long story short: You have to treat residential units like residential units,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who drafted the rule change. SRO owners’ reactions have been hostile. Several filed lawsuits against the city. Juned Usman Shaikh, the general manager of the Hotel Tropica, 663 Valencia St., wrote to Peskin ominously claiming the new law would result in a prenatal homeless program housed on-site “being stopped immediately.” City data show 22 of the Tropica’s 40 residential rooms are vacant; a call to Shaikh’s cellphone was not returned. Other SRO owners claim the law will force them to begin mandating deposits and start doing background checks — further pricing SRO rooms out of the grasp of the city’s most indigent. It is not yet clear if stamping down weekly rentals and musical rooms will increase the real count of residential units — or have the entirely opposite effect by goading SRO owners into placing higher bars to occupancy and being pickier about whom to rent to. This will all be revealed by the forthcoming data — and hotel owners would figure to now be more forthcoming. Peskin’s new law more than tripled a hotel’s penalty for non-reporting; it is now $1,000 a month. That comes on the heels of penalties of up to $500 a day for hotel owners turning in insufficient data; failing to maintain daily logs is also now a $500-aday penalty. The city can subpoena SROs’ business records, recover inspection costs

am Patel grew up mopping the floors at the Apollo Hotel in the Mission District, which his parents owned and where they all lived. He remembers the day back in the mid-1970s when the letter arrived in the mail. The city was inquiring which of the hotel’s rooms were occupied by tourists or were vacant, and which were rented out to long-term tenants. “My parents thought it was just a survey,” the second-generation SRO owner said with a chuckle. “A few years later it became an ordinance.”

Based upon how hoteliers answered those queries, the resultant Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance of 1979 declared which rooms in their hotels would be residential and which would be for tourists — permanently. Patel’s parents were honest: They wrote back that 100 percent of their rooms were rented out to long-term tenants. Four decades later, the hotel is still 100 percent residential. Had the elder Patels fudged the truth and claimed rooms were vacant or occupied by tourists, they could well have been granted entree into the more lucrative and hasslefree business of running a traditional hotel. Tourists, unlike residents, do not tend to spend the 32 consecutive days in a room required to establish residency rights. They do not lock in rent-controlled rates that may quickly fall below market rate. They do not tend to exhibit the problematic behaviors SRO owners associate with the least desirable tenants. They, in fact, pay a far higher day-to-day rate than full-time occupants and, unlike savvy SRO dwellers, they do not tend to call the building inspectors or their district supervisor when the hot water cuts out or the trash piles up. Tourists are not a constituency. SRO owners looking to open tourist rooms must grapple with this question: What to do with their residential rooms? Owners who convert rooms from residential to tourist use must offer the former residents replacement rooms at the same monthly rates, the city’s conversion ordinance states. This creates incentives to leave residential rooms empty. The grandfathered, rent-controlled tenant will be a consistently weaker source of revenue than the tenant who signs the lease tomorrow at a higher

Photos by Garrick Wong // Public Press

Sources: Department of Building Inspection; Office of the Assessor-Recorder

UNION SQUARE PLAZA HOTEL 432 Geary St., Built 1911 69 total rooms (residential/tourist) 61 residential 22 vacant residential (36%) $1,750 average monthly rent Assessed values of parcel: $2,433,397 building/s; $1,037,760 land

HOTEL TROPICA 663 Valencia St., Built 1910-1915 40 total rooms (residential only) 22 vacant (55%) $1,400 average monthly rent Assessed values of parcel: $1,273,909 buildings/s; $672,241 land


THE MOSSER 54 4th St., Built 1914 168 total rooms (residential/tourist) 81 residential 68 vacant residential (84%) $876 average monthly rent Assessed values of parcel: $5,658,870 building/s; $11,317,744 land

through liens, and — perhaps most crucially — penalize intransigent owners by limiting the number of tourist rooms they can rent out during the peak season. The Department of Building Inspection is focusing more of its attention on SRO shenanigans around vacant rooms or tourists being put up in residential units. But this is a department that eyeballs 12,000 violations a year, and its major focus will always be on habitability issues — no hot water, no electricity, no heat. And, on top of all that, Rosemary Bosque, the city’s chief housing inspector, confirmed there is no tool, no law — no means — to compel private property owners to rent out their rooms rather than leave them vacant. Department officials simply chalked this up as the nature of private property ownership. Peskin has proposed a vacancy tax to compel landlords to put units on the market — but this remains something of a legal Hail Mary. “We have been working on a vacancy tax since 2011,” said Supervisor Jane Kim. “It is incredibly complicated legally to enact it here as opposed to outside the U.S., like in Vancouver. Our office wasn’t able to come up with any practical legislation.”


rs. Zeng emptied a sack of razor clams into an eggshell blue basin and peered out the window toward the nearby homes and apartment towers protruding from the fog. It was another gray summer day, but Zeng was used to it. The elderly woman with salt-and-pepper hair has been watching the fog rolling down Russian Hill for more than 20 years from this single-room occupancy hotel at 790 Vallejo St. Nine of the 27 rooms were reported vacant, city records show. Residents and organizers from the Chinatown Community Development Center dispute that figure: they claim 12 rooms were vacant. One, across from the third-floor kitchen, had been locked long enough that grease has congealed on the door; the carpet is movietheater sticky and shoes make a funny noise. “Our janitor is very lazy,” Zeng complained by way of a translator. Every SRO has its own story, but these elements are not unique to 790 Vallejo. “We are seeing more and more vacant SRO rooms,” said Matthias Mormino, policy analyst for the Chinatown development center. His colleague, organizer Amy Dai, is in those SROs every day. “A lot of people are trying to rent vacant units, but aren’t able to find any,” she said through a translator. “And when I get into the building I see there are vacant units.” In August of last year, the 110-year-old building was sold for $3.6 million. The vacant rooms, claims new co-owner Sam Devdhara, will be refurbished. They will likely have their own bathrooms, replacing communal commodes on each floor. He thinks they could fetch $1,000 a month. Devdhara said he “hopes to improve the place” — he has done this in other SROs — but the rent-controlled residents fear these improvements will not favor them. In 10 years, or maybe less, “there will be some turnover,” he said. “Some of these folks are looking for better and permanent housing.” Zeng does not seem keen on moving. She went across the street to complain to the former owner at one point. But she will not do so again. “He doesn’t care about the people in this building anymore,” she said. “He is rich.”


State Taps Health Care Money to Pay for Housing Services tance for vulnerable Medi-Cal recipients. “We really think that housing is health tanding in his new apartment on the care,” said Maria X. Martinez, who runs top of a two-level building in Oakland, the Whole Person Care pilot program in Daniel Yapo admits his journey from San Francisco. “There’s a small number of homelessness to housing took a lot of homeless folks who are not only very poor, help. they’re very sick, either from living on the Yapo spent years bouncing between temstreets for so long or maybe their illness porary homes and jail, even spending time precipitated their homelessness.” living on a roof in nearby Hayward. Service The program could save taxpayers money providers helped him find a place of his by treating people early so they won’t end own, navigate treatment for mental illness up requiring expensive emergency room and handle the tasks that come care. with independent living. Counties and cities are planning “Whatever problem I had, to use the $1.5 billion of matching whether it be courts, or my funds in a variety of ways — from license, or anything that I had a creating a tool to evaluate the problem with, they assigned somehealth of residents on the street body to help me with that,” Yapo and share that data among sersaid. “They just keep on helping vice providers, to boosting services me!” to help the homeless find and stay SOLVING A program launched around the in housing. In Alameda County, HOMELESSNESS the grant will bring the total supstate last summer aims to help more Medi-Cal recipients like portive housing slots in the county Yapo by using federal health dollars to pay from 2,000 to 3,000. for supportive housing services. It means that newly housed homeless The Whole Person Care program reprepeople like Yapo can get help from local sents a breakthrough in using health care providers such as Abode Services that exmoney for housing services, something the tend beyond traditional medical care. federal government had long been wary of “I feel like they enveloped me and took doing. The five-year pilot program allows care of me,” Yapo said. “They took me to a local governments to pay for support serlot of activities that I might of missed when vices, but not actual rental costs, through a I was a child. Simple things like movies, matching grant from Medicaid. beach, plays, creative writing classes.” State lawmakers hope to take the proThe last one seems to have paid dividends gram a step further and fund rental assisfor Yapo, who eagerly recited a poem he

“If we make an investment in rental assistance and housing for these folks, in the long run that is far cheaper, more effective and more humane.”

By Guy Marzorati // The California Report, KQED


Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco

Daniel Yapo went through the Whole Person Care program. Photo by Guy Marzorati // KQED wrote, titled “Careful What You Wish For,” about his journey out of homelessness. Services related to supportive housing aren’t new, but the idea of paying for them with health care dollars had traditionally been rejected by the federal government. That changed when the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved California’s waiver to create the program in 2015. Other states, including New York and Washington, are taking a similar approach with federal waivers. “Homelessness is considered a social

determinant. It’s not really health related,” said Sharon Rapport, associate director for California policy with the Corporation for Supportive Housing. “But it is health related in that when somebody is homeless, they are going to experience health conditions, even if they were healthy before.” Rapport said that state health officials were unable to persuade the Obama administration to use Medicaid dollars to pay the rent of homeless Medi-Cal recipients. “The federal government was really nervous about doing that,” she said. As a result, participants in Whole Person Care will have to rely on a variety of categorical funding sources to pay rent, from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, to state sources like the Mental Health Services Act. “It’s a doughnut,” said Dr. Kathleen Clanon, who leads the Whole Person Care pilot program in Alameda County, adding that there’s a need to fill the “hole in the middle of our doughnut.” The effort to fill the funding doughnut has been adopted in the state Legislature by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San

Francisco. His Assembly Bill 74 would use general fund money to pay for rental assistance for Whole Person Care recipients. An identical bill passed the Legislature last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. “While the goal of this bill is laudable and the policy could lead to savings in the health care system, codifying a program without an identified funding source raises false expectations,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “This grant program, like any new expenditure, is best left to budget discussions.” The $90 million that Chiu and Assembly Democrats pushed for in this year’s budget was dropped in negotiations. Chiu is hopeful that the plan can be included in a larger legislative deal involving housing that legislators are currently discussing with the governor’s office. “If we make an investment in rental assistance and housing for these folks, in the long run that is far cheaper, more effective and more humane for those individuals than what we are currently doing today,” Chiu said.

The shoreline where Rena Frantz lives borders a field near downtown Antioch. Photo by Deborah Svoboda for KQED

The Suburbs: The New Face Of Bay Area Homelessness Communities are not equipped to address growing poverty By Devin Katayama // The California Report, KQED


illiam Ware sits in a large empty field along the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, shaving his face using a broken mirror. He found himself here after a waterskiing accident in 2009 led to painkiller addiction and a downward spiral ensued. Ware lost his five-bedroom house in Brentwood, the cars and the boat. Losing his family hurt the most, he said. The names of his two kids — Michael and Alyssa — are tattooed on his arms. They no longer talk to him. His wife left him and he has been homeless in Antioch for about two years. “It’s my choice to be out here,” Ware said. “What do I do every day? I go fishing. I golf in this field.” He works odd jobs to get by and proudly notes that he doesn’t get any government assistance. “Out here” is the Bay Area suburb of Antioch in eastern Contra Costa County, where homelessness has spiked in recent years. It tracks a national trend: In suburbs across the United States, poverty has been growing faster than in cities, and communities like Antioch haven’t been prepared to handle what’s often referred to as a shift of “urban” issues to suburban spaces. Some people living on the streets of Antioch migrated there for various reasons. Some were evicted from pricier parts of the Bay Area. Some came to avoid being targeted by police in other areas that don’t tolerate people living on the streets. Some just drifted there, haphazardly. Many homeless people in Antioch are from these same neighboring eastern suburbs. While the number of people sleeping outside across Contra Costa County saw a 26 percent decrease from 2011 to 2016, there has been a 30 percent increase in the county’s eastern flank, which includes Antioch. Officials expect the trend to continue. “Our topography looks very different than it does in more urban cities like San Francisco,” said Lavonna Martin, director of the county’s health, housing and homeless services. The region features sprawling

cities, with a lack of public transportation and fast-growing populations. In a survey last year, Antioch residents said homelessness was a top issue after crime and violence. Between 2000 and 2011, suburban poverty across the country grew at more than twice the rate in cities, according to the Brookings Institution. Rena Frantz, a friend of Ware’s who also lives in the field, said she migrated there — sharing a tent with her current boyfriend — after she had a falling out with her exboyfriend over drugs in Concord, a larger suburb closer to San Francisco. “I was going to move to South Carolina and get clean and leave the state. I ended up not having a way to get out there and I got stuck in Antioch,” she said. What are the reasons for the surge in homelessness? Antioch residents often talk about the lack of jobs and public transportation, but the absence of sufficient social services is a big problem, too. A 2012 study of Contra Costa County found that “for every $8 in social services that a poor person in West County has access to, there is $1 available for a poor person in East County.” This number does not include government services or outside agencies, but it offers a glimpse into the gap that exists. For Frantz, it’s the day-to-day things that make it even harder for her to get back on her feet. “You can’t apply for jobs when you haven’t showered in two weeks,” she said. There was a homelessness service center in Antioch that was open daily and offered showers, laundry, counseling, mail service, phone calls and food. Frantz said most of the homeless people she knows were using these services. But in 2016, the same year that Antioch released data showing a spike in homelessness, the center shut down. The once-bustling multiservice center is quiet now. Before it closed in March 2016, the rooms were loud and crowded. During the last three years of operation, Anka Behavioral Health — the nonprofit that ran the day center — roughly tripled the number of people served there. “A lot of times, people would come in just to talk to staff and let them know what’s going on because they were treated like family here,” said Rebecca Sanders, the program manager. Anka still operates a small 20-bed shelter on-site, but the nonprofit had to shut down its day center because the staff couldn’t

“It’s my choice to be out here. ... I go fishing. I golf in this field,” said William Ware, checking his reflection. Photo by Devin Katayama // KQED



Decrease in West and Central County


Increase in East County Source: Contra Costa County homelessness count

A field near downtown Antioch has a plaque with the names of deceased homeless people. Many homeless people live along the borders of this empty lot. Photo by Devin Katayama // KQED handle the large number of people needing help, Sanders said. Businesses nearby were complaining, too, she said. Plus, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cut funding for multiservice centers a couple of years ago, which meant Anka was losing money. On the final day of the center’s operation, more than 100 people were served. “It was really emotional,” Sanders said. “Everybody was really upset. The clients were really sad.” Some churches in Antioch offer free meals and other assistance, but the city lacks comprehensive homelessness services in these farthest eastern suburbs, Sanders said. Often homeless people go to Concord

for help, she said. The county recently upgraded its two homelessness resource centers in Richmond and Concord, adding staff to help people find housing, but it wasn’t able to open a center in the eastern suburbs. “We have some challenges. There aren’t many providers in east Contra Costa County, where the demand is really high,” Martin said. Larger cities like Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco are historically where nonprofit providers and philanthropic dollars have created a safety net. But in Antioch, there is a lack of basic infrastructure to serve the poorest residents, Martin said. Over the next year, county officials will

try to create a homelessness service center in Antioch, she said. Contra Costa receives federal grants to improve coordination between homelessness services across the county. Some homelessness service providers say it’s helping, while others are coming up with their own solutions. In Antioch, one group is getting city support to build a 50-bed shelter for women and children. Police have also started a new unit that attempts to partner cops with homelessness outreach efforts. But almost everyone acknowledges that the suburbs weren’t prepared for the changes they’re seeing. In the meantime, Frantz and others continue to call the field their home and try to make do. “Every night, we’d go to bed going, ‘God, there are so many people who would love to be where we’re at right now.’ I mean, it sucks because you stink and you’re hungry, but at least where we live, it could be worse,” she said. KQED has served Northern California for more than 50 years and is affiliated with NPR, PBS, KQED Public Television 9, KQED public television and KQED Radio 88.5 FM.




F A I R  W A R N I N G R E P O R T  •  G R I S T




Rape Kits Languish Untested Nationwide Victims’ rights groups estimate that hundreds of thousands of rape kits remain untested at police departments and crime lab storage facilities nationwide and a partial inventory of California by the End the Backlog Initiative has identified some 9,000 untested kits. But the precise number remains a mystery because most states, including California, don’t take proper inventory of rape kits, and rape survivors sometimes struggle to get information about their own cases. Law enforcement might not submit kits for DNA and other analysis for any number of reasons; the case may be solved or cleared, or officers may regard it as a low priority. But another reason is financial: Processing costs an estimated $500 to $1,500 per kit, sometimes more. CALmatters, sfpr.es/cal-rape-kits

Mobile App Gives Felons a Fresh Start Clear My Record is a mobile app that helps people reduce or dismiss nonviolent convictions by submitting crime information to public defenders, streamlining a process that can take months and multiple visits to a county courthouse. Clear My Record was developed by Code for America, a San Francisco nonprofit that works to improve government services through technology. The app launched a year ago in San Francisco and now operates in 11 California counties. Nearly 2,000 Californians have reduced or cleared a criminal record using the platform. Close to 1 in 3 adults in California has an arrest or conviction record, and studies show that those who have a job are far less likely to end up back behind bars. KQED/ California Report, sfpr.es/kqed-felons

An image from the 2015 earthquake-disaster film “San Andreas” shows a monster tsunami about to slam into the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo via Warner Bros.

What Would Really Happen If a Tsunami Hit the Bay Area?

New Lookup to Tell You What’s in Your Water

Revised Quake Maps Could Rattle Development Plans

Blockbuster movie “San Andreas” shows a giant quake-induced tsunami smashing through the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay, swamping any and all things in its path. But what would happen if, in real life, a huge wave did hit the Bay Area? Would that be the end of life as we know it? According to KQED’s Bay Curious podcast, despite the film’s terrifying image of a 250-foot wave about to wash over the Golden Gate, tsunamis do not pose a considerable threat to the Bay Area, and it has to do with the kinds of geologic faults the Bay Area has (and doesn’t have).

Want to know what hazards might be lurking in your local water supply? An updated online database launched by the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, has the answers. The online resource is the EWG’s Tap Water Database. It lists contaminants as well as their levels and likely sources, and any federal drinking water violations by local water utilities. After typing in their ZIP code, consumers get a detailed analysis based on testing from 2010 through 2015. That information surpasses what is available in the federally mandated Consumer Confidence Reports issued by water utilities annually. Those reports, for example, are required to identify only regulated contaminants in drinking water.

The 1971 San Fernando (Sylmar) earthquake killed 64 people, buckled roadways and leveled scores of buildings. Soon after, California passed a law that requires updated mapping of major earthquake fault zones. But due to a lack of funding, the effort ground to a halt not long after it began and resumed only about four years ago. The California Geological Survey’s newly released mapping of the Santa Monica Fault could, if approved after a 90-day public comment period, prohibit new construction on top of active sections of the fault and require extensive geological review for proposed development within 500 feet.

KQED News Fix, sfpr.es/kqed-tsunami

The Environmental Working Group database has data on drinking-water contaminants. Creative Commons image by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

KQED/California Report, sfpr.es/kqed-quake

Fair Warning Report, sfpr.es/fw-lookup-water

Inmates clean sewage flood inside jail. Photo via San Francisco Sheriff’s Department

Aging Hall of Justice Tough on Jail Inmates

Who Will Clean Up Silicon Valley’s E-Waste?

Like the rest of the Hall of Justice building in San Francisco, the jail on the top floor is seismically unsafe, and it’s known for wandering rats behind the walls, peeling old paint and rusted-out plumbing. But in 2015, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted against funding a replacement jail, forcing the sheriff to reject $80 million in state cash that would have gone toward building a better facility. Instead, activists and city officials have been working toward reducing the jail population. But tearing down the cycle of mass incarceration isn’t happening overnight, and the inmates already in the system still need a decent place to live.

Approximately 41 million tons of electronicwaste was produced in 2014 and 2015, and 50 million tons is projected for 2017. Unlike ordinary household trash, e-waste contains heavy metals and hazardous chemicals; smartphone component parts often consist of lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants, whose toxicity and lack of biodegradability have long threatened the health of humans, animals and the environment. Circumstances contribute to the production of e-waste. There’s no federal law requiring e-waste to be recycled, and procedures nationwide are often fragmented and cumbersome. In addition, e-waste recycling is largely privatized, placing its control in the hands of profit-driven businesses. Cleanup efforts have largely been inadequate.

KALW/Crosscurrents, sfpr.es/kalw-hall-justice

Capital & Main, sfpr.es/cm-e-wasteland

Diverse Cops Make Difference In Policing Hate Crimes Hate crimes are on the rise nationwide, including in San Francisco, where the city’s diversity also happens to be a hallmark of the San Francisco Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit. It’s one of just a handful of such units across the country, and city officials say its diversity is a key part of its mission. Created in 1990, the unit today has a team of six full-time investigators. Reports of hate crimes have spiked across the country, where in 2016, there were 39 hate crimes reported to the police, up from 32 a year earlier, according to data provided by the Police Department. Between January and May 2017, there were 18 reported hate crimes in San Francisco. New America Media, sfpr.es/nam-cops

Pollution Fears Raised Over Plans at Oakland Port The Oakland Army Base closed down nearly two decades ago, and the city of Oakland and the port eventually settled on a redevelopment plan that envisioned a mix of warehouse complexes and shipping infrastructure that would expand the capacity of the port. But more warehouses and shipping mean more trucks, and that can lead to more pollution. Some residents

oppose a plan that presents further risks to their health — West Oakland already has some of the highest asthma rates in the state. Local activists say their concerns about the redevelopment project continue to fall on deaf ears. Grist, sfpr.es/grist-west-oakland

Activists oppose a redevelopment project at the Port of Oakland. Creative Commons image by Flickr user Bill Abbott

Electronic waste contains heavy metals and harmful chemicals. Creative Commons image by Flickr user Eric Dykstra


New Funds Available To Train Bilingual Teachers in California more. We are pleased that they took a first step, but it’s just the beginning,” she added, n the midst of a statewide teacher referring to the new state funding. shortage, the new California budget Spiegel-Coleman said the issue is twofold. includes $5 million to address a shortThere is a shortage of qualified teachers for fall of bilingual teachers, a shortage a the programs districts would like to implestudy concludes will continue following the ment. And there is also a pool of qualified passage of Proposition 58 and the expected teachers who require some training so they growth of bilingual programs. can confidently return to bilingual classThe new state law, which went into efrooms. fect July 1, lifted an almost 20-year ban The 2017-18 state budget earmarks $5 on bilingual education and gives districts million for the Bilingual Professional Demore flexibility to offer bilingual classes velopment Program available through the to all students. Under the old law English 2019-20 fiscal year. Grants will be given to learners had to be taught in English, unschool districts, charter schools and offices less a parent signed a waiver to enroll their of education that can partner with commuchild in bilingual programs — classrooms nity colleges, public or private universities where students are taught in English and and organizations with expertise in helping another language such as Mandarin or English learners. This is part of $41.3 Spanish. The goal is learning to read, write million allocated in the state budget for and speak in both lanteacher preparation, guages. professional developThe change came ment and recruit“We hope this will push about because of ment. the state to do more. Proposition 58, which The professional voters approved last development We are pleased that they is restricted toprogram year by a vote of 73.5 two percent to 26.5 pergroups of professiontook a first step, but it’s cent. It implements als. One is certified just the beginning.” the California Multibilingual teachers who lingual Education Act have been teaching Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, of 2016 and allows mostly in English for executive director public schools to teach three or more years of Californians Together English learners and and need training to all students through return to a bilingual multiple programs. classroom. The other Californians Together, a coalition of target group is instructional assistants who organizations that advocates for English are fluent in a language other than English learners, surveyed 111 of the state’s 977 and want to teach in multiple languages. school districts. The survey, released in To teach in a bilingual classroom in July, found that 58 percent of districts California, teachers must have a special have plans to expand bilingual education credential known as a bilingual authorizaopportunities, but that 86 percent expect tion that allows the teaching of subjects in a teacher shortage. The report, “Unveiling both English and another language. California’s Growing Bilingual Shortage,” “We were pleasantly surprised to see it includes districts of various sizes in urban in the budget, but it’s not much when you and rural areas. The districts surveyed consider that it is statewide,” said Franrepresent 39 percent of all English learners cisco Rodriguez of the California Federain the state. tion of Teachers, one of the state’s teachers The teacher shortage is “severe” and unions. “The good news is, for one, it’s on needs to be addressed for districts that the radar for the state.” Rodriguez said want to expand their bilingual programs, more money is needed to train and prepare said Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, executive dibilingual teachers. rector of Californians Together. “This is not Patricia Gandara, a research professor to diminish the shortage in other areas, but at UCLA who has written widely about there is a real need in this area (bilingual English learners, said including bilingual education). education in the budget is an important “We hope this will push the state to do statement, because for years it’s been over-


By Ashley Hopkinson // EdSource


California’s 2017-18 budget includes $5 million in new funds to train teachers in bilingual education. Photo by Alison Yin for EdSource looked as a teacher shortage area. “People will nod and say yes, and then it’s never in ink,” she said about addressing the need for more bilingual educators. “It’s great to see it noted as an area where funds should be applied.” California has nearly 1.4 million English learners. About 30 percent of those students were taught in bilingual programs, classrooms where students are taught in both English and their native language before Proposition 227 was approved in 1998. Under Proposition 227, that number dropped below 5 percent, Spiegel-Coleman said. To date, there are 500 dual-language programs across the state and that number is expected to climb, she said. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest school district in the state, will offer classes in 16 new programs in 201718 in Spanish, Mandarin and Armenian, according to district officials. The Fresno Unified School District will also launch new programs this fall, starting with nine classes in kindergarten through high school. Those classes will focus on teaching Spanish and English. Of the district’s more than 15,000 English learners, 85 percent are Spanish speakers. The state funds are aimed at helping districts maintain bilingual teachers once they hire them. The goal for the students enrolled in those classes is biliteracy — the ability to read, write and speak in another language. Gandara said whether a teacher is in

an English-only classroom or bilingual classroom, English learners are better served by teachers who can communicate in a student’s home language and English. “We know the most effective teaching is going to happen when a teacher can say ‘Do you understand this?’ and can explain and adjust their teaching practice.” However, the first step is finding the teachers, which advocates say is another hurdle. Gandara said it’s unclear how many teachers or professionals can be recruited, given that the state already has a shortage of fully certified bilingual teachers and there are teachers who are certified but may be teaching in English because there were not enough bilingual classes to use their skills. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the most recent year for which data has been compiled, 700 bilingual authorizations were issued, according to the Californians Together report. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reported in 2014-15 that it issued 693 new bilingual authorizations, the lowest number in several years. Californians Together, in its report, noted that there are 8,650 teachers with bilingual authorizations across the 111 school districts surveyed. Of that qualified pool of teachers, 6,000 are teaching in Englishonly classrooms, the report states. In a separate survey of 3,000 bilingual teachers, 900 teachers did not have a bilingual authorization, but were willing to teach in a bilingual classroom if they had support.

“In terms of the professional development, these teachers have been in Englishonly classes for 10, some 15, years and a lot has changed in terms of pedagogy, curriculum, instructional materials in that time,” Spiegel-Coleman said. “Teachers need to be a part of professional development so they can become current and they expressed the need for it.” While schools are free to create more programs, it is not mandatory. The law only requires that districts discuss plans for new programs with community members and parents and offer such programs “to the extent possible.” Specifically, if more than 20 parents or guardians from any one grade level or 30 parents or guardians from an entire school make a request, the school site is required to at least explore the possibility of creating a program. Districts can also draw funds from other sources to train more teachers for bilingual classrooms. The Local Control Funding Formula gives schools with high numbers of English-learner students more funding. Both Spiegel-Coleman and Gandara said districts should make use of those funds to address the need for professional development to prepare more bilingual teachers for the classroom. EdSource is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy and media organization whose mission is to clarify complex educational issues in California and to promote thoughtful decisions about public school improvement.

Mobile Classroom Brings Education to the Hardest-to-Reach Students By Carolyn Jones // EdSource


iaira Breaux spent much of her childhood in foster care, served time in the juvenile justice system and had to fight for sole custody of her three sons. But nothing, she said, nothing was tougher than learning high school algebra. “I could not do it. My mind could just not process it. I was so irritated, I tried to quit,” said the 26-year-old Oakland resident. “Learning how to graph slopes was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” With the help of her teachers at the Five Keys Charter School, Breaux eventually mastered algebra and earned her high school equivalency diploma. In September, she’s headed to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco with hopes of becoming a photography teacher. She credits Five Keys with changing the course of her life. “I was a broken person,” she said. “I had no confidence. If it wasn’t for Five Keys, I’d probably be crying somewhere, clubbing, getting drunk, I don’t know what. I wouldn’t be the confident woman I am now. They stuck by me. They were always in my corner.” Five Keys is a San Francisco-based charter organization that helps students earn their high school diplomas or pass the general education development (GED) exam after they’ve dropped out of traditional high schools. Many of the students are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. Five Keys added a new feature to its network of 70 classrooms in the Bay Area and Los Angeles: a mobile classroom in San Francisco, intended to serve students who can’t make it to regular classrooms because they can’t afford the transportation or, in some cases, fear crossing into enemy gang territory. The Five Keys mobile classroom is a refurbished bus from San Francisco’s Municipal Railway transit system that has been outfitted with laptops, desks, chairs and sofas, a small library, Wi-Fi and posters of the periodic table of elements and genres of literature. It can accommodate 15 students at a time, and will make four stops a week in neighborhoods with higher-than-average crime and poverty rates, such as BayviewHunters Point and the Sunnydale public housing project. The mobile classroom was funded mostly

Five Keys Charter School’s mobile classroom, a refurbished Muni bus, will visit high-poverty neighborhoods in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Five Keys Charter School. Tiaira Breaux graduated from Five Keys and is headed to art college. Photo by Carolyn Jones // EdSource through a $100,000 Google Impact Challenge grant. Google awards 25 such grants annually, based in part on a public voting process, to Bay Area nonprofits that demonstrate a strong positive effect on life in the Bay Area. Five Keys hopes eventually to add more buses to serve Oakland and Los Angeles, said Five Keys Executive Director Steve Good. “The need is there,” he said. “With this bus, we can take education directly to our hardest-hit communities. Our hope is that it will be filled with students every place it goes.” At least 90,000 adults over age 25 — or about 10 percent of the population — in

San Francisco do not have high school diplomas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Statewide, about 19 percent of California residents 25 and over do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Among inmates, the figures are even higher: 70 percent of those in jail or prison do not have high school diplomas, Good said. Five Keys was founded in 2003 through the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to educate inmates in the county jail. In 2007, the nonprofit expanded beyond the jail to educate anyone in the community who wanted to earn their high school diploma or pass the equivalency test. It later expanded beyond San Francisco, offering classes

throughout the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Working closely with other nonprofits and government agencies, such as probation and social services, Five Keys provides classrooms and teachers in housing projects, community centers, churches, homeless shelters, the YMCA and other sites. Students can enroll at any time, typically attending class for a few hours once or twice a week and completing independentstudy packets on their own. The standards match the state’s requirements for traditional high schools, and the school is fully accredited. But teachers have tweaked the curriculum to be more appealing to its student population — adults who’ve felt disconnected from traditional schools. For example, for students who need remedial reading material the teachers use books written in simple language for an older audience, instead of Dr. Seuss or easy-reader books. For a lesson in world history, civics and economics, teachers might focus on immigration. In addition, a topic for an English essay might be on how different countries use restorative justice. At First Place for Youth, an Oaklandbased nonprofit that helps California foster youth find jobs and housing and enroll in school, Five Keys has helped 20 young people earn their high school diplomas or the equivalent since it opened classrooms at its Oakland and Los Angeles facilities two years ago, said First Place for Youth education director Erica Stowers. Some of the graduates have gone on to community college, gotten higher-paying jobs, earned nursing certificates or otherwise advanced their careers, she said. “These students sometimes haven’t done well in traditional schools. But Five Keys creates an atmosphere where the kids can learn at their own pace, with lots of support, removing barriers they might face otherwise,” Stowers said. “They really go above and beyond.” Enrollment in Five Keys is voluntary, although some students attend as a requirement of probation or public assistance, and Five Keys offers incentives such as pizza, Starbucks cards, bus tokens and free backpacks. About 3,000 students are enrolled statewide, with 2,400 actively attending classes, Good said. Since 2003, about 2,000 students have graduated. But the real success stories might be graduates like Breaux, who said the school

provided her with more than just a high school diploma. “The teachers stuck with me and really cared,” she said. “I’d never had that before. I’d text my teacher at 10 p.m. and ask for help with a math problem, and she got right back to me and stayed with me until I got it. The teachers never gave up on me, even though I’m sure I drove them crazy.” Breaux started getting into some trouble as a kid in Stockton and stopped attending school almost entirely after eighth grade. She had been arrested several times for fighting and shoplifting. By age 23, she had three sons and had to fight for sole custody of her kids after she and her husband divorced. After Breaux relocated to Oakland, her mother encouraged her to try Five Keys. “My goal was to show my kids that no matter what your circumstances are, you can always try again,” she said. “Never give up.” After three attempts, she finally passed the GED in January 2016. She got a job at the Oakland-based environmental group Clean Water Action, and won a scholarship to art college. “At Five Keys, we all came from different backgrounds, but left it at the door when we got to the classroom,” she said. “We were all friends, supporting each other. Your hardships, your heartaches, they were always there for you. It really is like a family.”





Using solutions-focused journalism to aid the dispossessed

Brainstorming the Future By Michael Stoll // Public Press


One reader’s vision: repurpose shipping containers for stacked housing that features gardens. Photo illustration courtesy of Richard Tsai

Community Voices

We asked readers for their ideas on how to address homelessness in the city. What would you do? AFFORDABLE HOUSING Require developers to build more low-cost housing. Eliminate opt-out fee developers can pay to not include belowmarket-rate housing and require them to build about twice as many low-cost units — the current requirement is 18 percent of a rental property’s apartments. “They either build with the 40 percent or they get denied by the Planning Department, end of story.” — Maurice Rivers, San Francisco Discourage people from treating their real estate like vacation homes. Pass laws that penalize owners who leave properties vacant, or reward people who rent out their properties or use them as primary residences. This would maximize the available housing supply, helping to control costs in the face of high demand. “In a wealthy country such as ours, housing that is safe and clean for all Americans is a right.” — Cynthia Cravens, Richmond District, San Francisco

LIFE ON THE STREETS MADE EASIER House people on small plots of donated, privately owned land. Not much space is needed — just enough for singleresident box homes and a portable toilet. Tenants would sign leases and follow rules of conduct. — Amy Farah Weiss, San Francisco (Weiss is the founder and director of the nonprofit Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge, which is building these homes and beginning to work with participating landowners.) “There is a lot of focus on, and money earmarked for, affordable housing. What remains a huge gap is addressing transitional housing for unhoused neighbors who are leaving navigation centers so that they don’t end up back in tents on the sidewalks.” — Lisa Haut, Mission District, San Francisco

City Hall should designate space for homeless people in appropriate nonresidential areas. Basic amenities and services would be provided within those zones: fresh water, bathrooms and showers, waste disposal, charging stations for electronic devices, safe injection stations, medical and mental health services, and substance abuse treatment. “The billions needed to house homeless people in San Francisco is not on the horizon. There will be homeless on the streets for some time.” — Marc Salomon, North Mission, San Francisco Create a large, public, communal bathroom and locker space where homeless people can shower and store belongings for free. — Mary Lavalais, South San Francisco “You cannot look for a job if you do not feel clean.” — Alice Estrup, Whitewater, Wisconsin Encourage members of the public to become part-time caretakers for homeless individuals, giving them transportation, small sums of money as needed, friendship, mentoring and other assistance. Caretakers would not be required to house homeless people. “It doesn’t solve the problem but makes a big difference in their day-to-day existence.” — Karen Schulkin, Ingleside Terrace, San Francisco

INNOVATIVE DESIGN Repurpose shipping containers. These could be stacked and feature gardens and other aesthetic elements that beautify the surrounding urban environment. — Richard Tsai, Potrero Hill, San Francisco (Tsai is the founder and owner of Field of Vision, the design studio that originated this idea, seen above.)

Build “capsule hotels,” where tenants have just enough space to comfortably sit and lie down. Tourists could also pay to rent these. “Not quite like the infamous ones from Hong Kong, but the idea should be explored.” — Two Rock, Lower Bottoms, Oakland Give homeless people tiny houses. These can be relatively inexpensive to build, and fit on a sidewalk or street corner. — Ana Kirola, San Francisco

SERVICES AND HOUSING Open more navigation centers — facilities that generally offer multiple services and temporary shelter — in neighborhoods that do not already have them, such as the Outer Richmond, Marina, Excelsior, Outer Mission and Bayview. Those neighborhoods have “noticeable homeless populations in them.” — Maurice Rivers, San Francisco House people in vacant buildings throughout San Francisco. People would face low barriers to entry, and stay until transitioned into permanent homes. “No delays; one-week expedited transition.” — Jackie Woods, Ingleside, San Francisco Declare homelessness a “public health emergency” in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. The order would need to come from Gov. Jerry Brown. Government workers would relocate homeless people to state-run facilities offering intensive medical, detox and social services. Staff would also provide job counseling and help people find permanent homes. — Richard Blaine, Noe Valley, San Francisco

Add your ideas for solutions to homelessness at sfpr.es/comm-voices

tarting this fall, the Public Press is reporting on new and creative solutions to homelessness. And because we know we don’t have all the answers, we’re engaging the community to gather fresh ideas and inspire action. In January 2018, the Public Press will host a daylong conference, Solving Homelessness: A Community Workshop, in collaboration with other Bay Area news organizations to explore novel approaches through live events, social media and shoe-leather reporting. For details: sfpublicpress.org/homelessness/workshop2018. Reporting in this issue shifts the framing of homelessness to institutions, not just individuals; regional SOLVING context, not just HOMELESSNESS neighborhood woes; and possible futures, not just our present predicament. Most politicians, social service workers, businesspeople, activists and neighbors working on the issue are well-meaning, but they often disagree about solutions. Bay Area residents are brimming with creative ideas not yet deployed on the streets or on the agenda of local legislators.

HOW WE GOT HERE In January 2016, Renaissance Journalism, a locally based organization focused on improving the depth of reporting, convened a meeting to discuss “news deserts,” communities whose voices and concerns are often neglected in local journalism. In a workshop focused on the scarcity of affordable housing, I asked: “What would it take to solve homelessness in one year?” The group ran with the idea, organizing a June briefing for journalists on how to deepen their reporting. See: “How Media Coverage on Homelessness Falls Short (And What Reporters Can Do About It)” — sfpr.es/covering-homelessness. That month, the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED organized a week of coordinated publishing, the SF Homeless Project, involving more than 70 news organizations. It was repeated last December and again in June. Though little of it involved long-term investigations or true collaboration, it was an example of journalists being agenda-setters and drawing the public’s attention. San Francisco State University journalism professor Laura Moorhead, who has studied the project’s output, questioned its efficacy. She said reporters should offer constructive structural critiques, not just exhortations to politicians to fix the problem by doing something — anything. Along those same lines, Anita Varma, a doctoral candidate at Stanford, found in a soon-to-be published study that many SF Homeless Project-related pieces told tales of people “down on their luck,” rather than portraying them as victims of systemic failure. While empathy is a great first step, Varma concluded that “compassion as an end in itself does little to prompt social change.” Instead, she writes, what is needed is to frame stories in ways that inspire collective action.

NEXT STEPS For the January conference, diversity of perspectives will be key. We are inviting specialists in law, economics, art, architecture, technology, medical services, mental health, case management, job training, community organizing and other disciplines. Crucially, we need to engage those who have firsthand experience being homeless. Renaissance Journalism is our lead sponsor for this event; we are seeking

Want to help San Francisco and the Bay Area imagine new approaches to helping homeless people? Join neighbors, city officials, artists, nonprofit service providers, activists, legal experts, public health workers and people experiencing homelessness for a unique opportunity to use design thinking to find creative, effective solutions that can help get more people off the streets and into stable housing.

As we did in a 2014 project called “Creative Solutions to the Housing Crisis,” this package of stories explores ideas about how to do things differently, even if they are only on the cusp of mainstream consideration. REPORTING: Joe Eskenazi, Rishika Dugyala, Sarah Asch, Liz Enochs, Andrew Stelzer EDITING: Michael Winter, Noah Arroyo COPY EDITING: Sherman Turntine, Michele Anderson, Richard Knee GRAPHICS: Reid Brown PHOTOGRAPHY: Garrick Wong, Sharon Wickham, Andrea Peer PRINT DESIGN: HyunJu Chappell // Magna Citizen Studio ONLINE: John Angelico RADIO: Andrew Stelzer You can find our cover story and updates at: SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG/ HOMELESSNESS/SOLUTIONS Tune in to KALW (91.7 FM) for related coverage: KALW.ORG/ PROGRAMS/CROSSCURRENTS Also see our spring edition cover story: SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG/ HOMELESSNESS/NAVIGATION This project was made possible by donations from Public Press members and the San Francisco Foundation.

additional supporters. It dovetails with a new project by Renaissance Journalism, called the Bay Area Media Collaborative, which was established with funding from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Readers have told us they want to hear about ways they can help solve problems. Our intention is not to veer into advocacy, but rather to independently investigate potential benefits, drawbacks and unintended consequences of new ideas. This is the approach we took for a June 2014 cover package, “Creative Solutions to San Francisco’s Housing Crisis,” and a conference we called Hack the Housing Crisis. (See sfpublicpress.org/housingsolutions.) As Mayor Ed Lee rightly pointed out, “there is no silver bullet” solution to homelessness. Many small, often expensive, fixes are needed. In May, Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit that pools philanthropy, announced it planned to raise $100 million for an “initiative to reduce chronic homelessness by half” — creating new housing, boosting the public sector and reforming mental health, child care and criminal justice services. The move is an ambitious one, and other entities will hopefully scale up their own efforts in kind. As that happens, it will be incumbent upon news organizations to continue broadening the debates about proposed solutions, rather than merely critiquing the troubling status quo.

san francisco public press

COMING SOON: A Day to Share Your Ideas

A humanitarian crisis has persisted on our streets for years and seems to have worsened as housing prices and rents have skyrocketed. Across the Bay Area, high-profile government and nonprofit initiatives have sought more effective ways of serving the homeless. But is it enough?

44 page st., suite 504 • san francisco, ca 94102

Solving Homelessness: A Community Workshop


This symposium and workshop will take place in January 2018 in San Francisco. To receive updates, sign up for our newsletter: sfpublicpress.org/newsletter If you have questions or suggestions for speakers or other participants, please contact Daphne Magnawa at outreach@sfpublicpress.org Co-sponsored by Renaissance Journalism (renjournalism.org) Media partners: KALW Radio (kalw.org) and Shareable (shareable.net) More info: sfpublicpress.org/homelessness/workshop2018

Profile for San Francisco Public Press

Issue 23  

Issue 23