Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Randy Shaw and Care Not Cash

In complementing Mayor Newsom on Care Not Cash in BeyondChron, Randy Shaw is unique among city progressives, probably because he's had first-hand experience with the success of the program through the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. On the other hand, the pseudo-radicals at the Bay Guardian and Fog City treat the mayor with contempt, as if he was George W. Bush's surrogate in SF, even though he's clearly a liberal Democrat.

Shaw provides a narrative on how Care Not Cash came about, including the successful movement preserving SROs as housing for poor people and resisting their being turned into tourist hotels. This set the stage for Care Not Cash, which led to the SROs being leased to house the homeless with the $13 million the city used to hand out to the homeless every month even as they continued to live on the streets:

During the debate[last year] around the housing set-aside, the $13.5 million annually injected into nonprofit run housing through CNC was largely ignored. The chief reason was that such housing is leased, not owned by nonprofits, and to some minds is not “permanently affordable.” But to those living in leased housing through CNC, the fact that a nonprofit does not own the building is irrelevant. And anyone who thinks that SRO owners will transform their buildings into upscale accommodations at the expiration of their longterm leases is delusional; virtually all of the CNC SRO’s will remain forever affordable.

Shaw gives both Mayor Brown and Mayor Agnos credit for helping to save the SROs and thus setting the table for their use under Newsom's Care Not Cash, which cut the monthly payments to the homeless in exchange for housing and services.

Mayor Brown began funding nonprofits to lease SRO’s at subsidized rents in response to this imbalance, but this approach was limited by available funds. Brown was not willing to get into a public fight over using welfare grants to fund housing for the very poor. So we had a classic, Wire-like scenario of a program that gave welfare checks in amounts too small for recipients to avoid homelessness, and hence needed of a major overhaul. The political left knew that dramatically increased grants were politically impossible, and instead focused on preserving the status quo. Gavin Newsom, who had few allies on the left, then did what no politician on The Wire ever did: he took on a controversial issue head on.

Yes, to Newsom's eternal credit he took on the homeless issue when he was still a supervisor, while, as Shaw points out, the city's progressives essentially supported the status quo on homelessness. But he's much too kind to city progs, since, while the homeless crisis grew worse on our streets, the Bay Guardian left supported Food Not Bombs and the pie-throwers of the Biotic Baking Brigade. During the 2003 mayoral campaign, the left vilified Newsom as waging war on the poor with Care Not Cash, while his opponent, Matt Gonzalez, talked airily about the "root causes" of homelessness. The do-nothing approach by city progressives implied that the growing number of homeless people on our streets and in our parks was just something we have to live with under capitalism. Fortunately, city voters rejected the left's approach, passing Care Not Cash in 2002 and electing Newsom mayor in 2003.

Labels: , , ,