From September to November 1988 the Modified Payment Program housed 90 welfare recipients, with THC paying their pre-negotiated rent directly to hotel operators.
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Program Makes Room for Homeless
By Dexter Waugh
The Examiner Staff
Only two months ago, Leroy Britton was one of the hundreds of San Francisco’s homeless people. Today, he has a regular place to live, thanks to a new program.
“I didn’t have a place to go, period, until I heard about this program,” said Britton, 48, who was laid off his word-processing job last spring and went on welfare a few months later.
“I’d live here, there, anywhere,” he said.
Britton was like many of the 7,000 people in The City who receive $163 on the first and 15th of each month in General Assistance welfare payments, for a total of $326, and find that isn’t enough to secure regular housing.
Some hotel owners give welfare recipients the heave-ho near the end of each month, until the next payment comes in. Often, these people wind up in The City’s homeless shelter program, said Randy Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.
Lower hotel room rates
To help alleviate the problem, Shaw convinced Julia Lopez, the new general manager of The City’s Department of Social Services, that his clinic could negotiate lower hotel room rates. He said his group would operate a test program to show the plan could work.
Starting with no publicity and a handful of recipients in the middle of September, the program has grown to include 90 people who have rent deducted from their welfare checks and paid directly to hotel operators. Shaw has negotiated reduced rents of $250 to $275 a month — about $50 below market rate — with about 10 hotels.
Shaw said for now the program could accommodate more people who were having trouble finding stable housing, as long as they were on General Assistance.
Many of the people who come into Shaw’s office on Hyde Street tell him they regularly lost their hotel rooms and were frequent users of The City’s “hotline hotel” homeless shelter system.
The new program provides steady and guaranteed revenue to the hotel operators, said Shaw. “In hotels where we place 20 people, that’s $5,000 a month,” he said.
Peter Patel, manager of the Columbia Hotel at 411 O’Farrell St., said, “The landlord doesn’t have to look for tenants, and the tenants don’t have to look for a place, so it’s pretty nice.”
About 18 people in the program are living in the 120-room Columbia, at reduced rents, Patel said. “It’s a little bit cheaper, but we are all right,” he said.
Shaw’s office has hired a formerly homeless person, Lorett Vergara, to administer the program, and is absorbing the cost of her salary. Shaw hopes the program can expand and be included in The City’s social services budget next year.
So does Lopez. “It’s a good investment,” she said. “The more folks who are able to secure affordable rooms and stabilize their lives, the better off we all are.”
“So far I’d say it’s (the program) been real successful.”
Britton said he had had a word processing job for five years. He’s looking for work while living at the Columbia. “It would be nice if we could cook or keep food in our rooms,” he said. “Other than that, no problem with the hotel at all. Good room, good heat.”