By Dennis McMillan
Navigation Center for the Homeless to Open Soon
The San Francisco Bay Times recently toured the new Navigation Center, 1950 Mission and 16th Streets, which Bevan Dufty’s H.O.P.E. office is setting up as a one-stop-shop for homeless people. The outreach team will pick people up off the streets—along with their bags to be put in storage lockers provided with 24-hour access and their own keys. The huge facility offers beds, showers, laundry, lounging areas, dog exercise yard and dog sitting, cafeteria including two hot meals and 24-hour available cold food, medical services, legal services, detox, DMV ID’s issued, transportation to appointments in San Francisco, MUNI tokens, and no police on the premises. People can stay up to 10 days or longer if needed, with the ultimate goal of permanent housing in hotel rooms paid for by the City of San Francisco. Homeless advocates are ecstatic.
LGBT Senior Long-Term Care Facility Bill of Rights Introduced
LGBT seniors are a particularly vulnerable population due to lifelong experiences of marginalization that place them at greater risk of isolation, homelessness, poverty, and premature institutionalization. LGBT seniors face particular challenges in some long-term-care facilities, with horror stories about seniors having to go back in the closet, being separated from a partner, and so forth. To address this challenge, Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation that will make it illegal to discriminate against patients in long-term care facilities based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or HIV status. The legislation, which is a recommendation of the LGBT Aging Task Force, defines specific actions as discrimination. The legislation is to be addressed by the Government Audit and Oversight Committee today.
Castro Cares Outreach and Enforcement Program
Castro Cares, the pilot program aimed at addressing neighborhood quality-of-life issues and homeless outreach, is up and running after several months of preparation. A collaboration involving the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District and the City of San Francisco, SF Police Department, Patrol Special Police and the Department of Public Health, the program includes increased police presence and on-the-street engagement with the local homeless population. Some local activists have accused the program of being hostile to the homeless. Castro Cares, however, has four hours a week of homeless outreach workers dedicated to the Castro/Upper Market, and in three weeks it will have 20 hours a week of homeless outreach services. Castro Cares will be paying for an additional 15 hours of Patrol Special officers, which would increase to 30 hours a week in May.
SFPD Investigates Officers Over Racist, Homophobic Texts
Four members of the San Francisco Police Department are under investigation for allegedly sending racist and homophobic text messages, and all of them have been on the force for more than a decade. The racially charged and homophobic texts came to light in a filing in federal court by prosecutors seeking to keep one of the officers in custody as he appeals his conviction and 40-month sentence on federal corruption charges. San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr said that he could not confirm the officers’ identities under state law, but will seek to fire those responsible for the messages. Mayor Edwin M. Lee issued an additional statement calling for immediate disciplinary action, “nothing less than termination,” for the four San Francisco police officers under investigation.
GLBT History Museum to Remain in Castro at Least Through 2020
The GLBT History Museum, often referred to as San Francisco’s “queer Smithsonian,” will remain in its prime Castro neighborhood location through 2020, thanks to the renewal of its five-year lease by Walgreens under generous terms. The museum’s parent organization, the GLBT Historical Society, will continue to pay a deeply discounted rent for the 1,600-square-foot space the museum occupies at 4127 18th Street. Walgreens holds a long-term lease for that space and for the adjacent space, which is occupied by a Walgreens specialty pharmacy. The GLBT History Museum, the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States, offers dynamic exhibitions and programming that explore the rich history of San Francisco’s LGBT people and their allies. Since opening in its current location in January 2011, the museum has served tens of thousands of visitors from around the world, including many students. Founded in 1985, the GLBT Historical Society celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
Kaiser Reverses HIV Drug Cost Hike
Recently, Kaiser Permanente instituted a policy change to reclassify numerous HIV medications as “specialty drugs,” which dramatically increased the cost to patients and would undermine the strategy to reduce HIV infections. The HIV advocacy community—including Supervisor Scott Wiener, Project Inform and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation— articulated strong concerns. Kaiser quickly reversed the change and returned to its original, affordable co-pay system. The issue, however, is not resolved, since other health plans continue to hike the cost of “specialty drugs” for patients, and the matter is not limited to HIV drugs. The advocacy community will be exploring this issue at a hearing and will be working with advocates and state officials to resolve the issue.
Now that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc., have informed the City that they will not be managing this year’s Pink Saturday, conversation with the Mayor’s Office, the Police Department, MTA, and others is focused on the next steps. They very much want Pink Saturday to continue, likely as an event that begins and ends earlier than before. They believe an earlier start and end time will address a number of the problems the event has experienced in recent years, particularly in light of a possible pro-marriage Supreme Court ruling in late June. Over the next few weeks, they will be working with the Mayor’s Office and other city departments, in consultation with the Sisters, to determine how Pink Saturday will be managed and by whom. They remain optimistic to have a path forward. Stay tuned.
Bill Requires Equal Medical Coverage for Transgender Employees of State Contractors
A new bill introduced by Senator Mark Leno would prohibit state agencies from doing business with companies that fail to offer transgender employees the same health care coverage and benefits they provide all other workers. Senate Bill 703 builds on existing California law that requires gender nondiscrimination in employee benefits. Specifically, it prohibits a state agency from entering into a contract in the amount of $100,000 or more with any company that does not offer equal benefits based on an employee’s gender identity. California law already stipulates that employers cannot deny transgender people health care and other benefits, but a loophole in state law allows companies that contract with the state to refuse equal health coverage. This bill closes that loophole.
Only One Year of Water Left for Drought-Stricken California
As California experiences the fourth year of one of the most severe droughts in its history, a senior NASA scientist has warned that the state has about one year of water left. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior water cycle scientist Jay Famiglietti called for a more “forward-looking process” to deal with the state’s dwindling water supply. Famiglietti, who is also a professor at UC Irvine, said the state had about one year of water in reservoir storage and the backup supply, groundwater, was low. NASA data shows that water storage has been in steady decline in California since at least 2002, before the drought began. A field poll released in February showed that 34% of California voters supported a mandatory rationing policy, though 94% agreed that the drought is “serious.” The majority of respondents, 61%, favored the voluntary reductions the state currently encourages.
Bad News for San Francisco Renters
A rather depressing report from the SF Housing Coalition was released this month, showing that San Francisco is the worst city for renters. San Francisco beat not just its own record, but also the nation’s record. The end result is that San Francisco remains the priciest city for renters, beating New York City. And in case renters were thinking now might be a good time to leave San Francisco for cheaper housing in Oakland, they might want to reconsider that. Oakland was named the fifth most expensive city to rent a one-bedroom apartment with a median price of $1,980 as of February. In fact, the report noted that, over in the East Bay, rents are increasing at an alarmingly fast pace, thanks to the mass exodus of San Franciscans attempting to avoid overpriced Bay Area rent by moving to Oakland.
SF LGBT Pride Parade Registration Now Online
Exhibitor and Parade Contingent Registration is available at registersfpride.org Pride 2015 is Saturday, June 27, and Sunday, June 28, with the theme “Equality without Exception.” Exhibitor and Parade fees for the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade & Celebration are based on a number of criteria: type of business/organization; location; and any add-ons (tents; tables and chairs, etc.) requested by the exhibitor or parade contingent.
Lyon-Martin Merges with HealthRIGHT 360 Family of Programs
Lyon-Martin Heath Services has a long, healthy and vibrant future now that their strategic merger with HealthRIGHT 360 has officially been signed off by all of the appropriate parties and approved by the State of California. Since announcing their plans to merge with HealthRIGHT 360 last year in May, the Lyon-Martin board has continued to meet each month to oversee clinic business while board members from HealthRIGHT joined their board, and three Lyon-Martin board members joined HealthRIGHT’s board—ensuring a smooth, thoughtful transition. Lyon-Martin patients experienced no changes or gaps in services. The merger is a promise of open doors and continued excellent service for their patients.