Monday, January 17, 2011

It's all Randy Shaw's fault

Matt Smith of SF Weekly and Randy Shaw of Beyond Chron and the Tenderloin Housing Coalition have had a bad relationship for years. But there was a time when they were on the same page politically---at the sit-in demonstration against the Hastings College plan to build a parking garage on nearby property on the edge of the Tenderloin. Both Smith and Shaw wanted UC to build housing on the property, but, unlike Shaw, Smith and Supervisor Chris Daly, who was arrested at the demonstration, were part of the city's nascent anti-car movement led by the SF Bicycle Coalition.

It probably doesn't help their relationship that Shaw has never had much interest in the great bike-based anti-car movement in San Francisco. Smith came out of the closet as a bike zealot in 2005, when he wrote about his death-defying daily commute by bike to the SF Weekly's office South of Market. And he took the injunction against the Bicycle Plan real hard in 2006, making a personal attack on me that was stupid even by bike nut standards. Of course he didn't bother talking to me before he wrote the hit-piece, but that's not an unusual modis operandi for Smith; he did the same thing to Randy Shaw several years ago.

In last week's Weekly, Smith has another dumb attack on Shaw:

When Newsom became mayor seven years ago, he was faced with a quandary: He campaigned on a promise to end homelessness, yet had no serious plan to do so. Any steps toward reform promised backlash from leftists. In a political masterstroke, he handed much of his antihomelessness policy to left-wing political broker Randy Shaw, who ran a nonprofit whose main pre-Newsom activity was handling benefit checks for indigent people. The left was politically paralyzed from seriously criticizing the mayor on the issue. But Shaw was no property manager or social service provider, and he made an expensive mess of efforts to house the indigent. Given wings, Lee could scotch the city's politically compromised antihomelessness programs and build a system run by competent professionals like himself (Jan. 12, 2011, SF Weekly).

Homelessness in SF? It's all Randy Shaw's fault! Newsom was elected Mayor of San Francisco primarily because he convinced city voters that he was serious about doing something about the growing homeless squalor on city streets and in city parks, beginning with Care Not Cash, which ended the city's policy of handing out cash to the homeless, a policy that in effect only enabled them to continue to live on city streets. Care Not Cash has in fact been a significant success, as have Newsom's subsequent programs to deal with homelessness---Project Homeless Connect, Homeward Bound, and supportive housing.

Supportive housing is where Randy Shaw and the Tenderloin Housing Coalition come in, since Shaw and that organization have been managing/leasing SRO hotels for the city to house the formerly homeless. In short Shaw has never made homeless policy; he's simply a sub-contractor for the city as it continues to struggle with what is now clearly a permanent problem for every big city in the country.

The city's left has been reluctant to criticize the city's homeless programs because of Randy Shaw? Pure fantasy. City progs have been mindlessly slamming Newsom on homelessness ever since he beat their boy, Matt Gonzalez, in 2003. Newsom offered voters a clear choice: either do something about homelessness, beginning with Care Not Cash, or continue the status quo with Gonzalez, who offered nothing but Marxist verbiage about the "roots" of homelessness but no policy alternatives to Care Not Cash.

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At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had to get the anti-car stick into the fight about homelessness. Well done, Rob. You always manage to get your jabs in even when completely irrelevant.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Writing about Matt Smith, I have to mention both issues, since he's a bike nut who's way off in his interpretation of the Bicycle Plan and what Randy Shaw is doing on homelessness. Since city voters have rejected public power, support JROTC, and reject legalizing prostitution, do city progressives have left but the anti-car issue, which, fortunately for them, they can push without voter approval.

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Semantics...I contend that the issue has nothing to do with "homelessness" but rather those "street people" who will never shelter overnight or do SROs because they are not allowed to do drugs or drink in shelters. Certainly that behavior is not tolerated in a Shaw SRO right? In any case the Progressives and those in the non-profit industry have a vested interest to NOT solve these problems...they would put themselves out of work! Also the City now spends $1 Billion annually for tons of social programs from a budget which is now in recurring deficit. The City can never hope to solve all the social problems of the bay region, state and nation which the progs seem to want to do. Not one prog has discussed a regional cost sharing. San Francisco can NEVER solve the nations problems...and the $1,000,000,000 annually has not made things even a tad better. Ten years of prog control of local politics and things are now seemingly out of control. Go figure. Sorry for the rant.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

On "semantics": street people are among the homeless who are homeless because of substance abuse and/or crippling psychological problems. It's not Shaw's job to "solve" homelessness in SF. He and the THC simply manage SRO hotels that house former homeless people. Like every other big city in the US, all SF can do is manage the homeless problem sensibly and in the most cost-effective way.

The street people/homeless issue is exactly what SF has been struggling with since 2004, when they adopted the supportive housing model of dealing with the problem: whether they have drug and or emotional issues, it's much cheaper to get them off the street quickly and then deal with their problems than, as was done previously, have them cycle in and out of the city jail and hospital emergency rooms. That's what the city was doing before both Care Not Cash and the more effective supportive housing approach.

My favorite city homelesss program is Homeward Bound that gives the homeless a bus ticket back to wherever they came from or wherever they have someone to meet them on the other end. SF has deported thousands of homeless with this program since 2004.

The Million Dollar Murray problem is common. (Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it in the New Yorker.) Coming to grips with this issue is what prompted SF to change its policy way back in 2004.

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe if we stopped giving away nearly free parking and instead used that money, newly created revenue, or the freed up space to house the homeless, we wouldn't be in such dire straights. Instead we subsidize those wealthy enough to afford cars at the cost of all other citizens.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, and then we could give the homeless bikes, too.

At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why give bikes to the homeless? That would deprive them of the fun of stealing them.

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

screw that, let's give them vodka and Rob's address...


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