SF homeless shelter closed

April 1, 2008 9:47:19 AM PDT
San Francisco's only 24 hour drop-in center for the homeless closed its doors Monday night. Mayor Gavin Newsom targeted Buster's Place as a way to help close the budget deficit, but homeless advocates believe that decision will end up costing the city more in the long run.

Tom is relatively new to being homeless.

"I wasn't really making enough to keep up with rent, so here I am," said Tom a homeless man.

He's only been on the streets a few weeks. Now, he's walking about a block from Buster's Place, San Francisco's only 24 hour drop-in center for homeless people, to get a bed for the night at a nearby shelter.

"In many ways it can be embarrassing. In some ways you have to swallow your pride because you're looking for a handout," said Tom.

Tom spent many hours at Buster's near the corner of 13th Street and Mission. It's not fancy, just 90 chairs in a room, but for the 700 homeless people who used it over the past year, it was an escape from the elements.

At 5 o'clock today, it closed for good.

"You can just call me Rob. Rob is good," said Rob, another homeless man.

Rob is one of a handful of homeless people who waited out the final moments of Buster's Place.

"You're going to see them walking in the streets. They're going to be in doorways. Police are going to have to encounter them," said Rob.

Mayor Gavin Newsom put Buster's Place in his mid-year budget cuts to help close a $338 million dollar budget deficit.

The move saves $150,000 dollars.

"Every dollar we save today, is more treatment beds, its more services for homeless people, so it was a critical thing to do," said Dariush Kayhan the Mayor's Homeless Policy Director.

The mayor counts close to 1,200 beds for single adults in the shelter system and believes the resources are there for those who want to use them.

District five Supervisor, Ross Mirkarimi, thinks Newsom's priorities wrong.

"When you consider the long term costs of us having to use police resources or having to use the department of human and health services resources or public health resources to attend to the very people that are subjected to the elements outside, we'd be saving money in the upfront by having a good quality temporary shelters like Buster's Place," said Ross Mirkarimi the Supervisor of District 5.

A 32 bed shelter is opening tomorrow just down the street from Buster's Place. It will also have a 24-7 drop-in center, but with only 40 chairs and it will only be open for men. The mayor's office is hoping the women and men affected by the closing of Buster's place will take advantage of other resources the city offers.


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