money.jpgDozens of people came out in support of a proposed ballot measure discussed today at a Board of Supervisors committee meeting that would make a change to San Francisco’s Care Not Cash program for the city’s homeless population.

Under the program, passed by voters in 2002 and implemented in 2004, homeless recipients of general cash assistance from San Francisco have the $422 they receive reduced to $59 in exchange for an offer of housing.

The proposed ballot measure, submitted by five supervisors last month, would exclude homeless shelters from the definition of housing in the program.

Supervisor Jane Kim, one of the five members of the board who submitted the measure for the ballot, said she was “worried about lots of vacant beds” reserved for the program’s recipients that are going unused while other homeless people are being turned away from the shelters.

Supporters of the measure say there is inequality in the shelters because of the program, which is only available to people who do not receive other forms of cash assistance such as disability or Social Security payments, leaving the majority of homeless people that receive those payments fighting for a fewer number of beds.

But Supervisor Mark Farrell called the proposed change “a huge mistake” that would be “crippling a program that has provided amazing success.”

Trent Rhorer, director of the city’s Human Services Agency, said the program has housed nearly 3,600 people since it was implemented, and said the reports of large vacancies are “simply not supported by the data we’re looking at.”

Rhorer said the result of the change in the law, if enacted, would cause the city to have to immediately pay out $1.4 million to Cash Not Care recipients currently housed in shelter beds, and “the result will be more homeless in San Francisco.”

He said, “I recognize that there is a stress there” on other people seeking the shelter beds, but “the reality is we don’t have enough shelter beds for our homeless population.”

At a media briefing held by the measure’s supporters before today’s meeting, Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of Coalition on Homelessness, said the city has been misleading voters into thinking many of the homeless being helped by the program were receiving housing rather than just a bed in a shelter.

“It surprises me, suddenly shelter is the critical part of the program, contrary to what we’ve been hearing for years,” Friedenbach said.

She said she hopes the measure, if approved, “puts additional pressure on the city to actually provide housing for people, which we believe is what the voters approved.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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