Friday, January 17, 2014

LGBT Homeless Shelter in SF Mission District: An Update

(The long-aborning queer homeless shelter on South Van Ness, as seen several years ago. Credit: Rick Gerharter, BAR.)

Three long years ago, this is what Seth Hemmelgarn of the Bay Area Reporter wrote about a shelter I very much want to see opened and occupied by folks who need such a facility:

Plans to open a homeless shelter space in San Francisco designed specifically to be welcoming to LGBTs are in the works, but it's unclear when the site will be ready. Out Supervisor David Campos appeared to jump the gun a bit in a December newsletter when he said, "We helped create the first LGBT friendly homeless shelter in San Francisco."

The shelter is in Campos' district. I'm not sure what he's doing about the facility but Matthew Bajko of the BAR reported yesterday that Campos' misguided and questionable effort to rename San Francisco's airport in honor of Harvey Milk, as if this icon has not been memorialized enough, took up more City Hall time. A committee created by the Board of Supervisors will soon convene to consider the name change and selected two more people for the committee. Why hasn't Campos formed a committee to deal with the eviction epidemic in his district instead of trolling for votes in his Assembly campaign with wrapping himself in Milk's golden glow?

The nonprofit in control of the shelter is Dolores Street Community Services and their executive director Wendy Phillips, who gave me an update in November, has shared the latest news about the project with me today:

During the month of December, Dolores Street’s contractors conducted extensive asbestos abatement work at the site where the shelter will be located. This required relocation for other office tenants of the building so it had to be done over the holiday break period for minimal disruption. The work was completed during the first week of January. 

The next major step of the process is to have our architect’s plans reviewed and approved by the Mayor’s Office of Disability (MOD) and the Department of Building Inspection (DBI). To this end, we have had a couple of preliminary meetings with MOD staff to clearly understand their requirements and expectations for the site so the plans we submit to them will be as close to final as possible. The assumption is that this will result in a quicker review and approval process. 

MOD staff have expressed their support for the project and their commitment to move it along as quickly as possible while also meeting their mandate to ensure accessibility and code compliance. Once MOD signs off on the plans, they will go to DBI for final review and approval. 

After the plans are approved, we’ll move into the contractor selection and construction phase. Through [SF Homeless Czar Bevan Dufty's] contacts, we have been able to leverage the support of Swinerton Builders who are providing pro-bono construction management for the project, so we will be working closely with them on the bidding and contractor selection. 

Unfortunately, at this point, I do not have a timeline on when each of these steps will be completed. I have learned over the past year that it’s best not to estimate deadlines because they inevitably get pushed back by one new unexpected event or another. 

But what I can say is that we are committed to getting it done and getting the shelter opened as soon as humanly possible and are working hard toward that end!

Many thanks to Wendy for keeping us informed about the progress of the shelter. Let's hope 2014 is the year this much-needed facility finally becomes operational.

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