Bruce’s Adventures Through Homelessness

Lex - Posted on 09 April 2013

 I wanted to break a lease that I had had for thirty years for an apartment that had come to be my home. I was paying 200 hundred dollars a month and I was totally out of work due to a back injury. My back was injured doing homecare for residents of SROs. That work was really hard, and felt incredibly important, but over the long term it merged two of my vertebrate together making it near impossible to walk, work, and in effect to pay the rent. I was becoming homeless. I had no money in the bank to pay the rent, and seeing that, these professional looking bureaucrats came out and said, aloofly giggling, “Mr. Allison, for being a good tenant we are going to let you off your lease.” I could see in their eyes that they were looking for higher paying renters.  They would be able to charge 1000 dollars a month;  They laughed at me. I felt like a complete failure. This was the moment I became like the thirteen thousand other people presently homeless in San Francisco, many of whom are elders, just like me.


A week later, I was living on a bus as my new residency at night because it was the cheapest thing I could afford that was warm. It was unknown to me about the shelter system that you may or may not get a bed. From there it came to me that I was homeless. I decided to join a group called homes not jails, and I got unorthodox housing squatting in the marina.


Of the ten thousand homeless in the city and county of San Francisco, counted in the 2010 census, the majority are transgender youth (that had been kicked out of their homes because of their family’s religious beliefs) and elders. Both of these groups are the lowest priority for shelters due to care not cash because they do not make a profit for the shelter industry. Transitional gay youth often do minimum wage jobs or under-the-table-work (including sex work) and so they are not prioritized for a bed in a shelter. Social security gives the average elder $800/month but the average SRO costs $600/month in rent. This poverty scholar has been through the housing ordeal a couple of times. Because rent is so high, people as old as 70 and 80 are sleeping outdoors. Most people who are using the shelter system spend six to eight hours every day trying to find a bed. Most people sleeping on the street are arrested and charged with 647J, a state law against illegal lodging on public or private land.  They can be put in jail for up to three months.


I am presently out of the homeless factory (housed for being a pain in the neck) and am now housed in an apartment. In my house, I’m able to cook three meals a day, and can bring as many guests as I can fit in my apartment. I don’t have to follow SRO rules where they limit you to three guests at any time. I hated that I had to use backdoor techniques and contacts to get housing when other people who have been waiting for years - but knew nobody, and played by all the rules - are still waiting.


Homelessness should not even be an issue, given the number of vacant units in San Francisco. There are 30,000 vacant units that could be used as temporary housing for the homeless. It takes a condo building an average of two years to fill up. The average cost of a condo unit is $1,000,000. The empty units could be used as temporary housing until they are rented or bought. The cost of providing shelters could be used for healthcare, and more low-income housing. That would be $10,000,000 that the city could re-allocate to other social services. My vision for the future is to stop the factory of homelessness.

I want to see permanent housing for all and re-entered rent control. To do this, we may have to get rid of the Ellis Act and Costa-Hawkins and it will bring rent control back to a community that badly needs it.  


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