Tenderloin Housing Clinic’s Modified Payment Program as a win-win for everyone: welfare recipients paid cheaper rent for permanent housing, hotel operators were guaranteed higher occupancy rates and steady income, and San Francisco could reduce the cost of the emergency housing program.
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Plan to Cut Welfare Housing Costs Gets Trial Run
By Rick DelVecchio
Chronicle Staff Writer
A program that could save city welfare recipients at least $50 a month on housing costs will be tested in the next two weeks at Tenderloin hotels, its sponsor said yesterday.
Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic said he already has “definite commitments” from hotel operators who want to participate in a pilot project that would assist 75 to 100 recipients of city General Assistance funds.
The project is a key feature of a new Agnos administration policy aimed at finding permanent housing for homeless welfare recipients and thus reducing the cost of the city’s $6 million-a-year emergency housing program.
The Social Services Commission voted unanimously yesterday to endorse the policy as a concept without discussing its specifics.
The Tenderloin hotel project is expected to have an immediate effect on welfare recipients who drift in and out of homelessness.
Under the experiment, welfare recipients will pay for their rooms a month in advance. In return for this occupancy guarantee, the hotels will be asked to charge lower rates.
The idea has been floated for years but received city backing after Agnos appointed Julia Lopez general manager of the Social Services Department in June.
The details have yet to be worked out by hotel managers, who must set aside a limited number of rooms. The monthly rates are being negotiated, but Shaw believes the hotels will agree to rents in the $250 to $275 range for single rooms.
The city has agreed to forward to Shaw’s agency the monthly payments of any welfare recipients who participate. Shaw then would write checks to the hotels and hand over the balance to the recipients.
Hank Wilson, who runs the Ambassador Hotel, endorsed the idea.
“To me, the important thing is to give stability to people who have been urban gypsies,” said Wilson, who houses a number of transient welfare recipients. He declined to say what, if any, deal he is prepared to offer on rates.
Gerda Kircher, co-worker of several hotels, said she would male some rooms available to welfare recipients. She also would not discuss the financial terms.
Advocates of the homeless and members of the Social Services Commission generally spoke favorably of the plan. But one commissioner, Marilyn Borovoy, questioned why hotels would agree to lower their rates when the demand for housing is so high.