Since its launch in 1961, the Grants for the Arts/ San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund (GFTA) has allocated over $145 million to local San Francisco non-profit art programs and cultural organizations. This revenue is made possible through a portion of the 14 percent room tax on hotel and motel bills throughout San Francisco.
The GFTA was originally set up to ensure that San Francisco residents had access to a diverse array of arts and culture experiences, and that underserved families had access to safe, stable housing. However, throughout the years, this purpose has slowly shifted, as specific allocations for necessary services, such as the housing and arts, have been repealed. This severe loss of funding has had an obvious negative impact on both the arts as well as low-income housing.
According to the 2015 report “The Roadmap, a five-year Plan to End the Crisis of Family Homelessness in San Francisco” published by the Coalition on Homelessness in 2015, child homelessness in San Francisco has not been so prevalent since the Great Depression. In 2015, an estimated 3,222 children were homeless. This number is enough to fill up 70 classrooms and the numbers continue to grow: Since 2007, there has been a 94 percent increase of homeless families.
Research on the impact of homelessness on children show that children in homeless families are sick four times as often as their peers. These same studies also conclude that homeless children are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral problems, as homelessness often leads to chronic stress and traumas from the frequent moves, inconsistent relationships, and lack of places to play. Furthermore, homeless children have an 83 percent chance of exposure to violent events and are five times more likely than their peers to become homeless themselves as adults.
It goes without saying that homelessness also has tremendous negative impact on children’s education: Nationally, over 50 percent of homeless children are held back a grade, and 22 percent for multiple grades. Homelessness is also the single highest known risk factor for dropping out of school, in fact; homeless children have an alarming 87 percent increased chance of doing so.
Proposition S is a major chance to turn around these disturbing and unacceptable conditions and revert the tax to what its original purpose was for. A YES on S will establish the Ending Family Homelessness Fund, which would be funded by 6.3 percent of the money generated from the hotel base tax, and would generate an estimated $17 million annually. This money would be used to provide subsidies and case management programs to help homeless families find housing. Furthermore, it would offer stabilizing services to low-income families that are at-risk of becoming homeless, and, finally, it would go towards restoring and developing new housing for homeless families.
Additionally, Prop S would not increase any taxes. A YES on S would only allocate an already established hotel tax into community art programs and a fund to end family homelessness, thereby sustaining San Francisco’s cultural and social ecosystem—just as original tax had intended to do.
Sounds alright to you? Be sure to vote YES on S on November 8th!