On June 18th the Budget Justice Coalition, a collaboration of more than 40 community-based and labor organizations serving impoverished and poor communities in San Francisco, rallied on the steps of City Hall to to demonstrate that the city’s budget should increase resources to address the unmet needs of the city’s most disenfranchised populations. The Board of Supervisors hosted a public hearing to hear from the people of San Francisco before voting on the final budget on June 27th.
The Homeless Emergency Services Providers Association (HESPA) ask was on the agenda, requesting 14.9 million dollars out of San Francisco’s 11 billion dollar budget, that will provide services to the cities most vulnerable people. The HESPA ask included money towards childcare, housing, food security, arts & culture, transgender justice, youth services, tenant rights, and shelter. Concern over ongoing police violence and the criminalization of poverty has brought many to the steps of city hall today to voice their support for this plan to invest more in people and less in policing. Joe Wilson, Executive Director at Hospitality House SF, reminded the public why so many people gather to fight for a fair budget.
“A budget is a moral document. It’s about values, it is about choices that we make everyday. Choices have consequences, consequences have faces and names. You are speaking not only for yourself, but for others who are not here.This government belongs to us. These supervisors work for us. This budget must speak to our needs, our priorities, what our communities need every single day.”
So many people showed up to the budget hearing to express their concerns about the mayor’s original budget proposal, that there wasn’t enough room to fit everyone that wants to speak and people were only allotted a single minute to voice their opinion on the budget and what they feel it should include. Many seem agitated about the allowed time to speak, since one minute is not much time to discuss the needs of the San Francisco communities that are so critical to the budget.
“Whether or not these programs and subsidies are funded is often a matter of life or death for people who are unhoused.” Sam Lew, San Francisco native and Policy Director for Coalition on Homelessness, reminded the supervisors. “Without this critical funding people’s lives are cut short. The housing subsidies and services that people receive are really transformative in providing stability, a roof over someone’s head, and improvement in mental and physical health.”
As the meeting progressed, San Franciscans shared their stories and needs, asking for funding for the arts, culture, education, youth, and transgender people. Most of the speakers just wanted their money to be put towards services that will benefit their lives, and many expressed concerns over the increasing police budget.
“I believe that the city supervisors and the mayor should cut the police budget drastically to fund housing, homeless youth services and homeless services, education, health care, and food services to our most vulnerable communities in our city,” said a formerly homeless advocate from Larkin Street Youth who was born in the city. “Since their inception the police have never ever been intended to protect or serve our community… …Even today the police have no legal obligation to protect anybody from any crime. They are simply there to enforce laws, and sweeps and bullets will not solve our problems.”
For three hours San Franciscans poured their hearts into public comments, asking for important services to be funded. Participants in the hearing can now see if the supervisors truly heard their message, and how their comments affected the final outcome.
WHAT WE WON
- $100K to support 40 shelter and drop-in clients clearing barriers to get into housing
- Nearly $6 million in housing subsidies for seniors, people with disabilities, families and youth
- Funding for a dignified 24-shelter in the Bayview as well as an emergency shelter for families
- $600K for Pit Stop expansion, providing restrooms to people on the street
- $160K for outreach to LGBTQ homeless youth
- $500K for emergency housing for transitional age youth
- RIGHT TO COUNSEL: $1.9 million for 15 attorneys to serve 570 clients fighting eviction
- Almost $1 million for mental health care services that otherwise would have been cut, serving families, single adults and youth
- Prevented $140K in cuts to employment services for homeless people