Victims of a Failed System

Coordinated Entry is known to most folks experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. It is a system designed to coordinate and manage the limited resources available to unhoused people in San Francisco, and to prioritize who has access to housing subsidies and who does not. The evaluation is very strict and asks a range of questions about the health, income, and current living situation of those who enroll. 

There are people with jobs who work full time, even extra hours and can’t afford to live in the city. The low minimum wage and high cost of living makes it impossible for a family to afford a house in San Francisco. For the past three months, Carlos Wadkins and Jessica Hernandez, two organizers with the Coalition on Homelessness, have been doing outreach to families who live in their RVs near  San Francisco State University and organizing assemblies with the community, listening to their stories and offering support in facing those daily problems.

For many of these families, Coordinated Entry did not offer them the security they needed to get out of homelessness. Residents I spoke with repeatedly told me how their RVs felt safer and more permanent than the hope of resources offered through the system. We all know how expensive it is to live in the City, but it is also not fair to have to move from the place where we feel at home just because it is difficult to pay for it.

Marlon says “I bought my RV because nobody can kick me out of my RV. However, if I take one of those subsidies nobody will assure me that I won’t be kicked out after two years and become homeless again. At least my RV is mine and my kids won’t have the chance to end up in a tent in a dangerous neighborhood. Also many subsidies are outside of the city. I want to live here in San Francisco. I have my life, my job. Everything is in San Francisco.”

On the other hand, Jose Luis shared that he and his family have been through the CE process to get a subsidy through the city but he mentions that he was doing extra hours at work because of that they denied the subsidy for him and his family but because he was above the limit to be considered low income. Other folks pointed out that shelters are not the best environment. They prefer to live far from those places where the violence and drug abuse is close to them. Folks in the rvs they just want to have a place where they can park without thinking about the street cleaning or any kind of harassment

The families got organized and they have been talking together about solutions. The problem goes beyond whether or not there are subsidies; the problem is that the City ensures that aid is strictly limited. Several families pointed out that if they take a subsidy, they cannot work overtime because that will increase their salary and lose them their subsidy. Several families worried that if they were to sell their RV and opt for a subsidy instead, that they could end up in a shelter or on the street if the subsidy was then taken away. One family told us that at least they could feel secure that they own their RV, and that no one could take it away. They see it as a choice to live in a place where their children do not see as much violence.

So the city is condemning us not to be able to choose a better life. The city is showing people that if they take a subsidy, they cannot have two jobs, and they cannot choose to have savings. We know that an income for a family of four is approximately 3,500 dollars. In many cases, only one person works within the family, but if the person works overtime, their salary increases they and could lose their subsidy. Is this fair?