money.jpgSan Francisco city officials today lauded a $1.5 million private grant to provide housing for homeless families while also holding a hearing at City Hall this morning to discuss the recent rise in family homelessness.

The grant, given to the city by Marc and Lynne Benioff of, is targeting dozens of families who have children in public schools and who the city hopes to provide housing for before the holidays.

Mayor Ed Lee thanked the Benioffs in a statement, saying “partnerships like this are going to keep the city moving forward.”

The announcement of the grant came on the same day that the Board of Supervisors was holding a committee hearing on the topic of family homelessness.

The hearing at the board’s City Operations and Neighborhood Services committee was called for by Supervisor John Avalos, who called the problem “a crisis, not just for the families in crisis, but for all of our systems of care.”

Avalos said there are 253 families currently on the waiting list for long-term shelter and the city “is not providing the adequate response” to the problem.

He praised the grant from the Benioffs, which will allow the city to refer 51 families to permanent housing as soon as Tuesday, according to Trent Rhorer, executive director of the city’s Department of Human Services.

Rhorer said the $1.5 million grant is being matched by city funds that will help either move families into vacant public housing units or provide rent subsidies.

“The biggest barrier to housing is income, particularly with the high costs of a city like San Francisco,” he said.

Dariush Kayhan, deputy director of the mayor’s office of housing, said indeed that the issue for most families is not substance abuse or mental health but “simply a housing problem” in the city because of “a dearth of affordable housing and a lack of income.”

Jennifer Friedenbach from the Coalition on Homelessness, which had held a rally outside City Hall two weeks ago on the issue of homeless families, said the large grant and the public hearing are “a very serious response by the city,” which Friedenbach said should be “embracing this very fundamental right to housing.”

Dozens of people spoke at the meeting, including many who brought up their young children to talk about the travails of trying to provide permanent housing for their family.

Avalos closed the hearing by thanking the families for sharing their “very personal stories.”

He said, “They made me feel very uncomfortable … but we need to hear those things” to understand the depth of the problem.

Lee said that the private grant from the Benioffs was an example of his Season of Giving holiday initiative, which seeks to highlight the community-based organizations that serve city residents.

For a list of local nonprofits to give donations to, visit or call 311.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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