Recent Comments

    Meeting Your Basic Needs Shouldn’t Be an Obstacle Course

    By Artavia B. Berry, Demaree Miller, and Lee Ribeiro–

    For 25 years, At The Crossroads (ATC) has walked the streets of San Francisco, offering people essential supplies and getting to know people experiencing homelessness and housing instability where they are at. Over time, we build consistent, unconditional, and non-judgmental relationships with clients that serve as a supportive foundation from which clients can build the life they want for themselves.

    We understand that the challenges people face and the goals they set for themselves are complex. We honor each of our client’s individuality, providing space for our people to feel heard and connected and to reach their dreams. Our approach doesn’t enforce an arbitrary timeline onto people. Each year, 90% of the clients who receive counseling from ATC achieve one or more of their goals including improving their housing, addressing their mental health issues, and finding employment.

    Even with ATC’s individualized advocacy, over half of our clients are not accessing social services outside of ATC that are intended to benefit them. One reason is that social services as designed often end up being challenging to navigate and, in some cases, create additional barriers to entry for people rather than providing accessible relief. We have seen firsthand that, even with dedicated support from our team, it can take clients months to years to attain housing. This is, in part, because to qualify for many housing programs, clients have to secure identification documents, make exactly the right amount of income, and fill out challenging applications—all while they remain unhoused. Each of these steps can take months to accomplish, and the path to complete the process is often riddled with roadblocks.

    Take the current Coordinated Entry system used in San Francisco, for example. The program is designed to prioritize getting the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness into housing. However, the service delivery is inconsistent from site to site, and even from person to person. We’ve talked with clients who have gone through the coordinated entry interview—which requires applicants to answer incredibly personal questions—and been told they were not priority status. Then, they may opt to go through the exact same interview again with a different provider and score higher on the priority scale, fast-tracking their housing process. Can you imagine experiencing homelessness and being told you were not a priority for housing? Would you have the stamina to try going through this process again?

    Even if a person is awarded housing through one of these programs, it often comes with specific expectations that can be difficult to meet. In 2020, ATC began a partnership with the Rising Up program, a public/private program launched by the City of San Francisco, and nonprofit partners, which provides a coordinated entry program specifically for youth aged 18–24. The housing strategy employed by the program is “Rapid Rehousing”—a temporary housing model that offers up to three years of rent subsidy coupled with case management. The stipend could last anywhere between 6–36 months, depending on the rental unit and the amount the client is able to contribute to their rent. Clients who are housed through this temporary housing structure are expected to secure enough income to cover the full cost of their market-rate rent (the average monthly rent for a studio in San Francisco is $2,300) by the time their stipend runs out. If they don’t, they will very likely lose their housing.

    In our experience, imposing timelines on people who are newly housed is a problematic approach. What we’ve seen with many individuals we work with is that, when someone does finally attain housing, a lot can come up around past traumas and feelings of increased isolation from not seeing their community as often. If we prioritized providing permanent housing subsidies, it would give people the time they need to adjust to being housed, take care of their mental health, and explore what options they have, without the threat of losing their housing after a set period of time.

    ATC is intent on providing unconditional support to people who are most likely to be overlooked, passed over, or even kicked out of programs. By partnering with programs like Rising Up, we are taking a seat at the table to advocate for our clients’ needs and to influence the program design to address many different people’s needs, not just those most likely to succeed.

    We envision a Bay Area where everyone has what they need to thrive, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, class, survival activities, physical ability, or mental health. By breaking down barriers to getting help and supporting people as they find their own unique paths to stability, At The Crossroads is building a world where no one has to navigate poverty and housing insecurity alone. Does that sound like a Bay Area you want to live in? We invite you to join us.

    For more information: https://bit.ly/atc-updates

    Artavia B. Berry is ATC’s new Executive Director, bringing over 25 years of experience leading nonprofits Berry also serves as Chair of the Hayward Community Services Commission, allocating $2M to nonprofits providing safety nets for the most vulnerable residents. She was drawn to ATC’s compassionate approach to providing services and focus on long-term relationships.

    Demaree Miller is ATC’s Program Director. He has spent the last 11 years
    creating programming and working with various communities in San Francisco. He joined ATC because of the organization’s focus on advocacy and client-led outcomes.

    Lee Ribeiro is ATC’s Communication and Engagement Coordinator. He has
    spent the last eight years working in product marketing and communications across various companies. He joined ATC because of the organization’s unique approach to supporting SF’s most overlooked
    communities.

    Published on August 11, 2022