Setting standards - Page 3

San Francisco's homeless shelters, overdue for basic necessities, may be about to change

Many say it's an overinflated estimate based on assumptions that need more vetting.

"We were all stunned by the budget analyst's report," said Quintin Mecke, secretary of the Shelter Monitoring Committee and head of its subsidiary work group on the legislation. "When you look at some of the assumptions, they're just not true." For example, the HSA interpreted security to mean staffing all the shelters with full-time guards, when other mitigations like locks and staff training could be implemented instead.

Mecke and the work group believe that although there will be hard costs associated with the legislation, many are onetime and others are simply the price of complying with what's supposed to exist already. Ammiano's aide Zach Tuller said, "We expect the cost to come in under half a million because HSA claims so many of the services are already being provided. We're looking to prevent slippage."

Dave Curto, head of contract compliance for the HSA, said the department agreed with some of the legislation and was still talking through specifics. He confirmed that policies do exist and shelters are provided with training manuals to enforce them.

"I think they are happening," he said of the HSA policies. "That's why we're a little confused."

A list of those policies is included in the budget analyst's report, which Mecke said sent a conflicting message. "It creates the impression that things in the shelter system are other than what we found," he told a recent meeting of the standard of care work group, which is redrafting some of the legislation in preparation for a February hearing of the Budget and Finance Committee. "We want to be very clear at the Board of Supervisors that they don't come away with the impression that these things exist, because they don't."

Ammiano said this is a necessary first step toward making the shelters more humane, at a time when many assume they already are.

"I think one of the most annoying things that I read was C.W. Nevius [in the San Francisco Chronicle] taking this rather orchestrated Disneyland tour with Trent Rhorer and saying how wonderful the shelters were and then blaming the homeless for not wanting to be in them," Ammiano said. "But obviously C.W. Nevius and Trent Rhorer have something to wipe their ass with."