Tuesday, April 01, 2014

SF DPH: Bathhouse for the Homeless to Open in Tenderloin

This is the best news I've received from Barbara Garcia, the director the health department, and Bevan Dufty, the mayor's special assistant on homeless issues, and Neil Giuliano, the executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. You may recall that they backed the controversial idea of wet houses in 2012, as a way to get drunks off the streets and in a safe environment till they sobered up.

Now, they will announce at today's Health Commission meeting at 4 pm at DPH headquarters at 101 Grove Street a terrific development all around. Our wonderful City needs both wet houses and bathhouses, and it's wonderful to see such necessary components for improving urban life are fully backed by these health leaders.

This note from Garcia, Dufty and Giuliano hit my in-box early this morning:

Today we are pleased to announce a joint collaboration between the Department of Public Health, the Mayor's Office of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships & Engagement, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and numerous homeless service groups to operate a public bathhouse facility for homeless persons.

We've signed a lease for a property in the Tenderloin neighborhood and will soon begin redesigning the building to encompass dozens of changing rooms, toilets and urinals, and showers in order to provide hygienic services for homeless individuals. 

Several construction firms have committed lowered-than-normal rehab services and materials, and members of building trade unions who were formerly homeless will do the reconstruction work.

After years of hearing from homeless people that there are not enough showers and public toilets in the City for them to use, and also listening to the complaints and concerns of San Francisco Public Library administrators and patrons about people using the restrooms to bathe, while not forgetting calls for dealing with defecation and urination on the City streets from the general public, business owners and the press, we know this is the right thing to do.

It's a win-win situation for all stakeholders. The homeless will have a safe facility to take care of bodily functions and wash up, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation will provide HIV and STD prevention and treatment services, homeless advocacy groups will provide employment and other counseling, and the DPH will assist navigating homeless people into the public healthcare system.

We are keenly aware that a single bathhouse for the homeless is a solution to the problem of lack of affordable public housing to get individuals off the streets, but it will at minimum give them some place warm, secure and inviting to maintain personal good hygiene.

To paraphrase Harvey Milk, ya gotta give 'em soap!

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