Today, San Francisco began construction on a housing development in Mission Bay, a complex that will house 62 homeless veterans and 59 low-income families.
The weather did not stop housing leaders from gathering under a muddy tent to celebrate.
“Thanks for coming out in the rain,” said Michael Blecker of Swords to Plowshares, the veterans' services organization. “And, of course the folks who will be living here will be out of the rain.”
This project came together under the late Mayor Lee’s administration.
Lee faced criticism over the issue of homelessness, but Jane Kim, the supervisor that represents this neighborhood, gave him credit for specifically targeting two populations: families, which are “the fastest growing demographic in the city’s homeless count today,” and veterans.
“The one arena that the Mayor was incredibly successful in was reducing the number of vets on our street,” said Kim. “We’ve already made a huge dent in those numbers and this project is going to provide a permanent home to our men and women who serve our country.”
To honor that, Mayor Mark Farrell announced that this project will be named after the late Mayor.
“We are dedicating this affordable housing site to our Mayor Edwin Lee,” said Farrell. “When these buildings are completed they will bear his name on them here in San Francisco.”
But, the celebration couldn’t mask the fact that this project is just a drop in the bucket.
There are still about 4,500 people unsheltered citywide.
Only 800 or so supportive housing units become free annually through turnover.
Land prices in a gentrified San Francisco make housing for homeless people expensive to build — each of the units on this site cost nearly $700,000.
The Mission Bay neighborhood in particular is going through tremendous development. The Warriors are coming soon, as is a UCSF research campus and medical center, retail, and over 6,000 units of housing — 30 percent of which are targeted to be affordable.
Another permanent supportive housing site wasn’t received very well by the neighborhood.
As KRON4 reported last May, neighbors organized an opposition campaign to the housing, misconstruing it as a shelter.
“Had I known that they were going to put in a homeless shelter with a psychological element I would have made my investment somewhere else,” said one neighbor.
That project is still slated to begin construction in early 2020.
Meanwhile, the Mission Bay housing complex for veterans and low-income families, will be completed in 2019.
Del Seymore, a client and board member of Swords to Plowshares, hopes the neighbors welcome the new tenants.
“You can’t do anything until you get some sheet rock over your head,” said Seymore. “You can’t get your life together living in a shelter or navigation center. You can temporarily keep the rain off your head for just a minute.”
As a client, Seymore was served by Swords to Plowshares’ substance abuse and housing programs.
“I walked into Swords 27 years ago a broken-down veteran and they’ve helped me transition back to a better life,” he says.
These units will do the same for their residents.