SF closes down major homeless facilty

April 1, 2008 7:18:08 PM PDT
In San Francisco, public interest lawyers have filed legal action to re-open a 24-hour homeless facility shut down by the city. The attorneys are using a unique approach to convince the judge of the merits of their case.

Busters Place on Mission and 13th Street closed for good Monday night. It's a victim of the city's budget cuts. The disability rights advocates quickly filed a temporary restraining order, asking the court to re-open it or find a comparable replacement.

"Busters Place was one of the few good ideas in the terrible San Francisco homeless system," says Lawyer Sid Wolinsky.

Wolinsky chose the federal courts to file his legal action because he says the city violated the Americans With Disability Act.

"We often don't realize that homelessness is a disability problem. Over half of the people who are members of San Francisco's homeless population have severe mental disabilities," says Wolinski.

Wolinsky says Busters Place was a safe haven for those with mental health issues. They could come here anytime without filling out forms, waiting in line, or making reservations.

"My foot has a blister on it the about size of a softball," says a homeless man by the name of Rob.

Rob was at Busters Place last night, just before it closed for good. He agrees with Wolinsky.

"These people here, they have issues, mental health issues, I'd imagine. Being homeless itself contributes to that."

Dar Kayhan is the Mayor's point man for the homeless. He says the savings from closing Busters Place means a better homeless program in the future.

"Saving over $150,000 dollars over these three months could translate to $600,000 dollars on an annual basis. That means more housing. That means more services."

To make up for the closure of Busters Place, the city opened a shelter across the street.

The clean and spacious 24-hour drop-in has 40 seats and something Busters Place did not have -- 32 beds. But, it's only for men.

A women's 24-hour drop-in center is across town in the Tenderloin. The city will argue there is enough shelter space.

"Busters place is not the only 24-hour facility for homeless people of this kind in the city. There are others," says San Francisco City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey.

The hearing on the restraining order will be heard in federal court tomorrow afternoon.