Friday, May 06, 2016

Homeless Folks Not At SF Mayor's Homeless Meetings?

A recent public records request to Mayor Ed Lee regarding the Coalition on Homelessness produced several emails showing the group's executive director, Jennifer Friedenbach, is the gatekeeper for community representation at monthly meetings with Lee's chief of staff, Steve Kawa.

There is no evidence that any actual homeless persons are invited to nor attend these monthly City Hall sessions determining homeless policies and that Friedenbach controls high-level access to the mayor and his aides.

A February email from a mayoral aide listed the attendees and no person is identified as homeless. Names include Friedenbach and only City workers.

Friedenbach was emailed by two other mayoral aides regarding the February meeting, showing she's lucky to get replies from three of Lee's staffers. Such communication not all members of the general public enjoy.

An April email to Friedenbach gives her a heads up on City employees who will be at the regular meetings with Kawa and nothing is said about any homeless folks sitting at the table inside the mayor's office.

Another email last month, this one from Friedenbach to mayoral staff, nudges them to engage on an upcoming meeting with nothing said about getting homeless folks in the room.

I've emailed Friedenbach and others at the coalition, asking if any homeless people get to consult with Kawa every month, and their editor of the Street Sheet
replied only to say they received my note. While the SF Chronicle, a paper long at odds with homeless people and their advocates, regularly communicates with Friedenbach who is frequently quoted, I don't enjoy such courtesy. Such is accountability advocacy in San Francisco.

Mayoral adviser on homelessness, Sam Dodge, wrote this response to my question asking him to confirm people without housing were in attendance at the meetings:

"I don't believe so. Some formerly homeless staff people of the COH, but I could be wrong. Jennifer would know."

Says a lot about where we are in dealing with homeless individuals on the streets. They don't have a seat at the City Hall table when Kawa, Dodge and Friedenbach meet and determine actions and priorities.

Dodge should be able to state clearly, "Yes, we have homeless folks at the table. No need for me to pass the buck to anyone else."

As I've said in the past, Friedenbach, the leader of Homeless Inc and positioned as a progressive organizer, can meet with whomever she chooses at City Hall, but she has a duty to regularly report back to the public about her engagement with Kawa.

Would be wise of her to also start getting homeless folks into those Kawa chats.

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