I've had issues with Bevan Dufty. Oh, lord, I've had issues. He so often voted the wrong way on the Board of Supervisors and was the only major candidate running for mayor who answered No to the affordable housing question at the Guardian mayoral forum.
But I have to say, he's doing quite the creative job as the mayor's homeless coordinator. I've always liked the idea of the "wet house" -- a place where alcoholics can drink in safety. It's basic harm reduction, something that sometimes conflicts with the prevailing wisdom on sobriety but will almost certainly save lives. He's taking the right line on panhandling -- the other day, he told me, he spoke in front of the Interfaith Council and complained about the notion of refusing to give money to panhandlers because they might use it for drugs and alcohol.
"Well," he said, "there are people in this room who generate money for drugs and alcohol. What if that principle applied to your paycheck?"
(I always give money to panhandlers. I also spend part of my paycheck on Bud Light and bourbon. Deal with it.)
And now he's got the puppy plan.
You can laugh at this all you want, and a lot of people will, but I think it's a fabulous idea. It won't solve homelessness, and I know that these little side trips can divert attention from the massive social problem that is housing costs and homelessness in this city, but still:
There are dogs that need to be adopted. There are lonely people who are in SROs who can adopt those dogs. It might keep some of them from panhandling. It will certainly make a number of canine and human creatures a lot more happy.
Remember PAWS? (One of my favorite groups.) These folks figured out in the worst days of the AIDS pandemic that having companion animals around made people's lives better, and they worked to help people with AIDS keep their pets. Now they work with seniors and low-income people, providing support and services.
The dogs don't care if their owners are living in an SRO; they're happy to have a home. The people who might be isolated and stressed living alone and with very little money have a bit of light in their lives. Although a lot of SROs don't take pets (and I get it -- pit bulls on crack and fleas and shit), the Community Housing Partnership is working with Dufty on a pilot program, and if it works he cann push it further.
And that's not the end. Under Sup. Scott Wiener's recent legislation, dog walkers (thousand of 'em) are supposed to have some basic dog-training skills, and there aren't that many places that offer those classes -- but Dufty tells me he thinks maybe some low-income SRO residents can learn to teach dog training classes and make some money that way.
Again: Little stuff. I still want to tax the rich to provide housing as a human right for all. But things are not good on the streets of San Francisco, and every little bit helps.
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