To tell or not to tell... That is the question


root - Posted on 01 January 2000

Homeless Voucher plan shrouded in
bureaucratic secrecy.

by Kaponda

An eerie hush passed through the grandiose structure
as Scott and I walked through the doors of the
building at Dr. Carlton Goodlet Street. We had
planned to seize the area bordering the space inhabited
by the Mayor and, therefore, arrived 15 minutes
earlier than his scheduled press conference.

Shrouded in secrecy the entire week, the homeless
voucher plan had been expected to be announced by
Mayor Willie Brown during his press conference on
Friday, March 24, 2000. Advocates of the homeless
had interpreted these private meetings of City officials
as veiled threats.

The homeless voucher plan (hereinafter, "the plan"),
according to inside information, features elements
similar to the ill-fated initiative set forth by Earl
Rynerson, Proposition E. Instead of welfare
payments, the plan would provide vouchers to
homeless people. It would cause people to scurry
throughout the city to find compassionate landlords
who would accept vouchers instead of lucre.

As we ascended the ritzy stairs to the second floor of
City Hall, Scott and I reviewed one of the many
questions propounded as a reality check for the
Mayor. If Proposition E was soundly and decisively
defeated by the voters of San Francisco, why are you
creating a plan that voters have strongly opposed?
Paul Boden of the Coalition on Homeless mirrored
the sentiments of San Franciscans in his statement,
"San Franciscan voters have recognized what people
tracking housing and treatment trends across
Clinton's America have been saying for years.
Vouchers do not build housing nor can they create
treatment slots."

The inside informant further advised that the proposed plan
would create a state of emergency, as many homeless
welfare recipients would be unable to secure housing or a
place in a shelter. During a daylong symposium on
affordable housing, Lyle Wray, a housing official from
Minnesota was quoted as saying, "It's like the twilight
zone here. By our standards, nothing is affordable in San
Francisco." Mayor Brown also stated at the same
symposium, "....This [San Francisco] is a place where
everyone wants to live and everyone wants to work. It's a
creative challenge to help find enough housing for
everyone."

The only possible rationale, according to inside
information, to institute a voucher policy is that it would be
cost effective, and; therefore, would stack the City's coffer
on the overburdened backs of homeless people. But those
cohorts in this putrid scheme have to understand that a plan
of this magnitude would devastate the very foundation of
this great City. It should be conveyed to the various heads
of agencies that vouchers as a way of paying rent will not
work in any form. They do not work because they are
inherently less valuable than cash. Vouchers do not afford
an individual the opportunity to save money for permanent
housing. Lastly, vouchers will not work because of the
abundance of red tape on both the Department of Human
Services and the prospective property owner.

There were many other questions that needed to be
addressed on this Friday morning. The names of the
participants who helped devise this plan? Also, if those
participants had spoken to the Local Homeless
Coordinating Board, the Coalition on Homelessness, or
shelter clients? Would a voucher guarantee a shelter bed?
From where would the 1,900 additional shelter beds come?
(DHS estimates there are about 3,000 homeless people in
the CAAP programs and there are currently only 1,100
shelter beds for single adults.)

The slender blond appeared caught off guard as Scott and I
inquired concerning the press conference. Ms. Bender,
Mayor Brown's press secretary, located the strategically
placed calendar to make certain that there was no scheduled
press conference. In a pleasant tone, she, again, told us,
"I'm sorry, Mayor Brown does not have a press
conference scheduled this morning."

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