26 Years of Resistance, Resilience and Re-Building
For decades, the Coalition on Homelessness has developed the leadership skills of homeless San Franciscans to forge true solutions to the housing crisis and beat back mean-spirited attacks against them. This represents highlights of our collective accomplishments.
A ragtag group of community activist and homeless folks, fed up with the lack of a response to homelessness that addressed the root causes, formed the Coalition on Homelessness.
The Coalition pulled together a collaborative of community organizations to make San Francisco the home of one of the most progressive welfare income disregard programs in the country, whereby General Assistance recipients can retain earnings and save funds to move into permanent housing.
The Coalition founded the Street Sheet, now the oldest continuously published street newspaper in North America.
The Coalition created a unique housing and employment project, the Community Housing Partnership, which now provides close to 1,000 units of permanent affordable supportive housing for the City’s poorest residents, and employs homeless people in the construction, maintenance, and support services at those housing locations. This was the first “supportive housing” for homeless people in the city.
The Coalition designed and advocated for the McMillan Center, an innovative 24-hour drop-in facility for substance users, as an innovative strategy to reduce the number of street deaths.
The Uniform Grievance Procedure was developed in collaboration with other organizations and funded by the City to ensure shelter residents have due process rights and are not unfairly evicted from shelters.
Successfully fought against the revival of mis-guided hotline hotel policy, thus protecting cash assistance to destitute adults.
The Coalition advocated for and designed A Woman’s Place, a drop-in center, shelter, and transitional housing program now assisting mentally disabled women, through the convening of the Homeless Women’s Task Force.
The Coalition fought back efforts to criminalize sitting or lying on San Francisco sidewalks in a grassroots electoral campaign.
Fought back another electoral attempt to deduct rent from welfare recipients checks
Succeeded in passing a resolution at the Board of Supervisors to demand and end to the Matrix program, which broadly persecuted homeless people who were forced to live on the streets through ticketing, property confiscation and police sweeps.
Through direct action and media work, the Coalition saved the substance abuse treatment program system for families from collapsing in San Francisco, by getting the City to release over $1.7 million in additional funds to local programs.
Thanks to Coalition pressure, the District Attorney dismissed 39,000 tickets issued by the anti-homeless Matrix program.
Overturned through legal action the Mandatory Direct Rent Program, which would have greatly reduced welfare to homeless single adults.
The Coalition successfully organized welfare recipients to demand that Trader Joe’s accept Food Stamps
The Coalition’s General Assistance Rights Union became an independent organization: People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER). This eventually led to single adult welfare recipients earning a living wage while conducting workfare in exchange for their checks.
Spearheaded campaign for substance abuse treatment on demand, which resulted in over $12 million dollars in new treatment funds, and the development of a grassroots community planning process for funding priorities and contract awards.
Low income mothers organized by the Coalition designed the concept and garnered funding for a community-based 24-hour drop-in treatment center for families with children living in the Tenderloin, called Oshun, after the Yoruba goddess of healing.
The Coalition wrote and successfully campaigned for adoption of a “No Turn Away” policy for families seeking emergency shelter in San Francisco.
Organized for and wrote legislation to create a single standard of care whereby uninsured mentally ill people are afforded equal access to mental health treatment as those who are insured.
Released groundbreaking report entitled “Locked Out” which through hundreds of interviews with mentally ill homeless people found that contrary to popular opinion, homeless mentally ill people were by and large attempting to access mental health treatment, but were either denied access or subjected to a cumbersome process they were unable to navigate.
Together with community partner organizations, formed the “People’s Budget Collaborative” which identified alternative city budget savings and revenues and over the years has staved off tens of millions in cuts to poverty abatement programs. The group was active for more then nine years, and frequently staffed by the Coalition on Homelessness.
The Coalition led the work that created the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center (MNRC)—the first resource center in the Mission District. Everyday, the MNRC provides multiple services to over 100 clients, most of them Latino.
The Coalition identified hundreds of San Francisco Housing Authority vacant units and demanded that homeless families be placed in those units. In a great victory for homeless families, the SFHA agreed to our demands and 300 homeless families filled those units.
The Street Sheet was inducted into the Northern California Society of Profession Journalists.
Shelter Monitoring Committee legislation passed and the Committee formed by appointment. This committee tracks conditions in shelters and reports to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor. This work has resulted in exposure and correction of countless problems in the shelter system.
After a two-year long campaign by the Coalition, the San Francisco Housing Authority revamped its process to fill vacant units.
Protected 1,700 uninsured people from losing their psychiatric treatment who would have otherwise lost it.
Coalition work passed legislation that ensures vacant publicly owned surplus city property be turned over for the use of housing for homeless people. This legislation has led to two large affordable housing projects targeting homeless veterans and families.
Organizing work done by the Coalition’s Right to A Roof project led to the creation of the San Francisco Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that will acquire land and preserve affordable housing in San Francisco.
Together with Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (Berkeley), Street Spirit (Oakland), Los Angeles Community Action Network, Sisters of the Road (Portland, OR) and Real Change (Seattle, WA), we collectively founded the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) via Coalition founder Paul Boden.
Homeless families organized by the Coalition on Homelessness campaigned for a local rental housing subsidy and increased eviction prevention funding. We eventually garnered $1.3 million for the subsidy and $700,000 for eviction prevention – protecting hundreds of families from homelessness and enabling hundreds more to exit homelessness.
Released Shelter Shock—a report on human rights violations in the shelter system, revealing that 55% of all shelter clients reported experiencing some form of abuse, and bringing media light and legislative action to these problems.
Following the ground-breaking release of our report Shelter Shock, we drafted legislation to mandate minimum standards in the shelters and now for the first time our shelters have enforceable minimum standards around health, hygiene, and human rights of shelter residents.
Halted the practice by the city of spraying homeless people with high powered hoses in the middle of the night.
The Coalition handled more than 2,800 civil rights cases in collaboration with Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, connecting homeless folks who have received “quality of life” citations to pro-bono legal representation.
Homeless families fought for and won an extension to the local rental subsidy program preventing dozens of families from becoming homeless.
Increased circulation of the Street Sheet to twice a months, allowing for more current news and increased sales for vendors.
Passed legislation to still the runaround associated with accessing shelter, by lengthening shelter stays and reducing wait times for shelter seekers.
Settled a lawsuit that led to greatly improve access and conditions for people with disabilities.
Reached the mark of over $8,000,000 transferred into the hands of destitute vendors selling Street Sheet!.
Homeless families through the Coalition on Homelessness brought attention to the dramatic rise in family homelessness and won a $1.5 million match of private funding for new housing subsidies, and the release of 77 vacant public housing units to homeless families.
Succeeded at gutting legislation that would have criminalized the very act of being homeless in two plazas in the Castro—Jane Warner Plaza and Harvey Milk Plaza.
Won passage of a resolution calling for a working group to re-imagine shelter reservations, to move away from a system that requires individuals to stand in line for up to 17 hours.
Beat back the implementation of Tasers, which are known to increase fatalities at the hands of the police, and instead worked to get the police to subscribe to implementing Crisis Intervention Team to address people in psychiatric crisis.
Succeeded at passing a local stimulus package of $3,000,000 for new jobs in shelters and resource centers, as well as funding for back rental assistance for those who have recently lost their jobs.
Ensured all homeless people in San Francisco would receive preferences for public housing.
Garnered $2,000,000 in new homeless prevention funding, which will stave off displacement for many hundred San Francisco households.
Won 43 subsidies in newly constructed non-profit housing for the poorest San Franciscans.
Garnered an additional $1,000,000 to ensure safe and dignified emergency services for homeless people.
Partially beat back proposal for an arduous residency requirement for family shelter.
Won 132 housing subsidies for homeless families with children, elderly adults, and adults with disabilities
Pushed the Board of Supervisors and Mayor to award $2,000,000 to prevent the displacement of more than 2,000 households
Forced the Department of Environment to develop a plan to address continuing closures of recycling centers—a problem which both eliminates one of sources of income available to poor people, and undermines our city’s zero-waste goals
Worked to make the library a more welcoming space for all people, countering proposed new restrictions and training staff to work better with homeless people, and address problematic behaviors