SFT Annual Awards Dinner
After more than 30 years and many millions of tax dollars, San Francisco has not made a dent in the homeless problem. In fact, the lack of housing for thousands of San Franciscans continues to worsen. But this has not deterred some of our compassionate citizens from attempting to rectify the problem. The three honors recipients at San Francisco Tomorrow’s annual awards dinner provide a shining example.
DONIECE SANDOVAL of Lava Mae was awarded the Unsung Hero recognition for her unique approach to helping homeless people bathe.
After pondering the idea for three years, Doniece was ultimately able to obtain collaboration from City Hall and various non-profits to convert transportation buses into mobile showers and toilets. At present, 50,000 showers are being provided per year in the city. The idea has caught on globally as a model to provide comfort and dignity to marginalized populations.
Speaking at the dinner, Doniece acknowledged that her idea will not solve the homeless problem by itself, but said it provides a first step to moving forward and helping people re-integrate with society. Thanking the many incredible partners who helped bring this idea to fruition, she invited the public to witness this ongoing effort to provide not only showers but also haircuts, medical and dental care, and food, at an exhibition that took place on August 27 at the Main Public Library.
AMY FARAH WEISS is one of the newest stars in the firmament of San Francisco politics. She ran for Mayor as an unknown in 2015 with a $15, 000 war chest and garnered 12.1% (23,000 votes) of the total votes cast. Her focus on the homeless situation is in good measure a continuation of her 2015 platform. She believes we should treat displacement and housing affordability as the crisis it truly is.
In her SFT acceptance speech, Amy echoed the words of Saint Francis: “First do what is necessary then do what is possible and soon you will be doing the impossible.” Her unique contribution was the idea to organize en-campers (homeless) together with neighbors and volunteers to provide safe, secure sleep, storage, and access to toilets. To accomplish this, she came up with the “St. Francis Homelessness Challenge,” turning the city’s unused parcels of land into “transitional Eco-villages” with small, modular units to house individuals, communal bathrooms and kitchens, and job training and community service opportunities woven in.
Amy feels that helping the en-camper is a priority. The Mayor, who set aside $100 million for theoretical homeless shelters with the results you see all around you, considers helping the en-campers a distraction.
One thing is for sure: Amy is not about to be distracted from her goal of ending homelessness.
Jack Morrison Lifetime Achievement Award
JENNIFER FRIEDENBACH has spent 22 years as Executive Director for the Coalition on Homelessness, in which capacity she has helped many thousands of clients who found themselves in a homeless situation. She has also helped prevent many others from becoming homeless in the first place.
In her acceptance speech, Jennifer offered several examples of the untenable situations that homeless people find themselves in. She told about a pregnant woman who was in a shelter sleeping on a mat; when this woman gave birth to her child in a hospital setting she was sent back to the shelter to now sleep on the same mat with her newborn. Living in the same room with 55 other women, breathing in bad air and subject to all kinds of diseases, she had virtually no access to toilets or running water for bathing her child.
Jennifer re-emphasized that people who are homeless generally age 25 years as a result, are likely to have unchecked illnesses, and are subject to abusing alcohol and drugs because of their lack of adequate housing, mental health assessment and health care. In the Bayview, many homeless African Americans do not even have sleeping mats, but must sleep on chairs, causing their legs to swell, and then have to leave the shelter at 5 AM.
One of the richest cities in the world still fails to provide sufficient funding to alleviate the many easily resolvable homeless problems, never mind provide permanent housing.
~~ Denise D’Anne
As you likely know, San Francisco Tomorrow held its annual awards dinner on the Solstice, June 21. Awardees included Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness, Doniece Sandoval of Lava Mae, and Amy Farah Weiss of the Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge. Photos are here, and you can now watch videos of the event here: