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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Big setback for homeless shelter in the Bayview

Hi, folks, been out of town for a few days but I'm back, and I want to share this report I just got from former Guardian staffer Yael Chanoff about a delay in plans for a homeless shelter in the Bayview:

Plans for a homeless shelter in the Bayview may be on hold.

The proposed shelter would be an extension of the United Council of Human Services, also known as Mother Brown’s. The organization currently provides meals and services to a couple hundred homeless people per day. 

At night, the staff sets out plastic chairs throughout the building, where dozens of people-- sometimes 100 or more-- sit down to sleep every night.

“They have nowhere else to go,” says Gwendolyn Westbrook, executive director of the United Council of Human Services.

There is no shelter with permanent beds in the area. Providence Baptist Church on McKinnon creates a similar nightly temporary shelter, laying out mats on their gym floor.

But for years, Westbrook has wanted to create a permanent shelter. When the building next door to Mother Browns became available earlier this year, she jumped on the chance to turn it into a shelter. The landlord agreed to the plan, and since, Westbrook has been in touch with the city’s Human Services Administration about how to make the shelter happen.

But yesterday, after HSA met with Sup. Cohen to discuss the proposal, it seems to be stalled.
“As of right now there will not be an expansion of Mother Browns,” Cohen said.

Cohen said that she wanted to perform a needs assessment in the area, mapping out what resources are available to the homeless and what needs exist in the neighborhood.

“I don’t doubt that there’s a need,” Cohen said. “But does it warrant a full-on shelter?”

The HSA released the results of their biannual homelessness survey in June. District 10 was found to be home to 26.3 percent of the city’s homeless, the second highest percentage by district. The highest percentage was 44 percent in District 6, which includes much of downtown and South of Market.

Cohen also cited potential code violations at Mother Brown’s as reasons for not supporting the expansion. She listed planning, DBI, and fire safety as the types of code violations present at the current building. 

Yet Westbrook says that in the past two weeks, there was a fire safety inspection, a building inspection and a health inspection performed at Mother Browns. "They didn't give us any citations," Westbrook said, surprised to hear about the alleged code violations.
 
Cohen also said that "meeting with residents and listening to their concerns and fears," contributed to her decision not to support the shelter.
David Eisenberg, who owns food-testing company MicroTracers across the street, led opposition to the homeless shelter.

Eisenberg said his main concern about the shelter was that the block is a designated industrial zone. “Our forklift could be running in close proximity to a large number of people,” Eisenberg said.
Mother Browns, and MicroTracers across the street, is on the border of an industrial and a residential zone. Residential homes already exist across the street from Mother Browns and MicroTracers.

“The project isn’t dead, because the need is too great,” Cohen said. Yet its unclear what the path forward may be for the proposed shelter.

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