Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

LGBT-focused shelter backers
look for fall opening


Mason Jeffrys hopes shelter opens this fall.
Photo: Courtesy Mason Jeffrys
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Plans for a San Francisco shelter geared toward homeless LGBTs are moving toward completion, and although it's hard to predict exactly when the site will be ready, backers are saying it could open this fall.

Mason Jeffrys, acting executive director of Dolores Street Community Services, which already operates a shelter at the 1050 South Van Ness site, said designs for the 24-bed space would go to Mayor Ed Lee's Office on Disability this week.

Once that office approves the plans, they will go through the Planning Department and Department of Building Inspection for permits.

Gay Supervisor David Campos, a key backer of the shelter, said in an interview Monday that the objective is to open the shelter space this fall, and he's "cautiously optimistic" that goal will be reached.

"We've had a number of meetings in my office with various players to make sure we're moving things as quickly as we can," said Campos.

According to estimates from Swinerton Builders, the project managers working pro bono with Dolores Street on the project, construction will take four to five months to complete. However, as Sandra Kim, Swinerton's proposal manager noted, construction can't begin until the permits have been issued. Getting those approvals could take several weeks, if not months.

Jeffrys said based on Swinerton's estimates, "We're looking at maybe September or October" for the opening, but that depends "on how long it takes to get through planning."

In an email, William Strawn, a spokesman for the Department of Building Inspection, said once other agencies are satisfied with the plans, "it looks as though DBI would be ready to issue the permit." A spokeswoman for the Planning Department wasn't available for comment.

Changes have recently been made to the plans to make the site more accessible for people with disabilities. Plans had called for the LGBT-focused space to be on the second floor of the site, "but we couldn't afford to put in an elevator," so the beds will be on the first floor, which is now used for classrooms, said Jeffrys, who is gay.

Designs also had to be adjusted to include a second fire-exit path. Jeffrys indicated the increase in total construction cost would be minimal.

Advocates and city officials have been working on the project since a March 2010 Board of Supervisors hearing in which several LGBTs told of harassment they had experienced at the city's shelters. Several hoped-for opening dates have come and gone as efforts to raise money, develop workable plans, and get permits has dragged on.

Campos, who's running against Board of Supervisors President David Chiu for the 17th District Assembly seat being vacated by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), acknowledged the frustration of people who've been waiting years for the site to open.

"We certainly share the frustration, and every obstacle that has come our way, we have tried to overcome as quickly as possible," he said. "... The hope was always to open the shelter as soon as possible."

The total cost of construction, which is expected to be up to $750,000, is being covered through sources including donations and grant funding. Jeffrys said the needed money has been raised.

A Dolores Street official has estimated the city's Human Services Agency has added $150,000 a year for the operation of the LGBT shelter space once it's opened to Dolores Street's existing shelter budget.

Jeffrys said that more than half the staff working at the current shelter are LGBT. The shelter has about 15 full-time staff. Additional workers are brought in as needed. Dolores Street plans on hiring additional staff, he said.



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