SF homeless services may suffer cuts

April 22, 2009 7:02:15 PM PDT
San Francisco spends more money on homeless programs than just about any other city in the nation. But because of these tough times, it now has to cut back. Here are some of the programs and people that may feel the effects.

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James Leonard is homeless in San Francisco.

On Wednesday afternoon, he protested with others outside City Hall. He is worried about the future of programs they rely on.

Leonard believes helping the homeless should be a top priority, especially during the economic downturn.

"Say we're going to put people first and when all the people in need, or suffering or at risk are taken care of, then we can make cuts to services that are considered extra," said Leonard.

San Francisco spends about $189 million a year helping the homeless. A recent grand jury report said the spending was creating a "homeless industry."

Now with the city facing a $525 million budget deficit, something's got to give.

To deal with the fiscal crisis the mayor is asking virtually all departments to reduce their budgets by 25 percent so as part of its budget slashing the Department of Human Services is cutting nearly $4 million from the homeless.

The department wants to limit shelter hours, reduce services in some supportive housing programs, cut funding for a job training program and close a health drop in center.

The center in the Tenderloin has been targeted before.

"If we aren't restored, there will be literally 200-300 people on the street," said Jabari Allah from the Tenderloin Health Center.

But city officials say despite what demonstrators believe, vital services for the homeless will be retained.

"You will not see an increase in homelessness; you will not see people losing their housing. You will simply see less funding going into a system that in comparison to other cities is very well funded," said Trent Rhorer from the Department of Human Services.

The demonstrators are hoping to persuade the Board of Supervisors and the mayor. A hearing on the cuts was held on Wednesday.

The budget must be in place by July 1st.

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