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    San Francisco’s First Ever City-wide Mayoral Candidate Town Hall on Seniors and People with Disabilities

    The worldwide senior population is now at its highest level in human history, according to the United Nations Population Division. The number of people aged 60 years and over has tripled since 1950, surpassing 700 million in 2006. That is obviously good news tied, in part, to longevity-related factors such as medical care and lifestyle.

    Numbers are also up in terms of the world’s population of disabled individuals, with the World Health Organization reporting that over a billion people, or around 15% of the planet’s population, have some form of disability. Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, are not exceptions to these global trends. In fact, seniors and people with disabilities account for 25% of the population of San Francisco. It is also sadly the case that, according to the California Economic Security Index, a staggering 56% of residents 60 years or older lack basic economic security because of increasing costs of living here.

    To address such challenging problems targeting some of our most vulnerable residents, The Dignity Fund Coalition (DFC) was formed in 2016. DFC is comprised of more than 30 community organizations that serve and advocate for our city’s seniors and people with disabilities. Coalition members work every day to help ensure that San Francisco retains its vibrant social fabric with the continued participation and contributions of these valued individuals.

    As part of such efforts, DFC is the proud organizer of the forthcoming Mayoral Candidates Town Hall at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco on April 26. The free event, taking place from 10:30–12 pm, will be the first-ever San Francisco city-wide Town Hall to address issues of importance to seniors and people with disabilities. The confirmed participants are Angela Alioto, London Breed, Jane Kim and Mark Leno.

    DFC wants to know that the candidates for mayor will address the needs of seniors, people with disabilities, and their hands-on care providers. We do too, and hope that you will attend the important Town Hall. While the event is free as mentioned, you are encouraged to register. Please note that the Herbst Theatre has a strict no food or drink policy, but bottled water is allowed. To register and learn more, please go to:

    The Dignity Fund – Advocacy in Action

    By Marie Jobling and Fiona Hinze

    For over a decade, California policy leaders have called attention to the graying of California and the needs of an expanding and significantly more diverse senior population. What’s more, in the over 25 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, innovative support and services have emerged to ensure greater participation of our community members with disabilities.

    In San Francisco, government leaders and a strong network of community organizations have long recognized the importance of establishing services and supports for those most in need. The rapid growth in the number of older adults and adults with disabilities, coupled with the escalating cost of living in our city, is creating a true challenge. Through the San Francisco Long Term Coordinating Council, leaders have been working to create a baseline of support to meet the current need of our neighbors who are older or with disabilities—most of whom are barely making ends meet now. But our vision also includes building a stronger network of services and supports on that foundation, to assure everyone’s right to aging with dignity in their own homes and communities.

    A small group of advocates examined the success of San Francisco’s Children’s Fund in bringing sorely needed attention and resources to children and youth over the past 25 years, and saw the necessity of raising awareness and increasing stable funding for seniors and adults with disabilities as our numbers continue to grow. The goal was to create a measure to address the needs of older adults and persons with disabilities, including veterans, persons aging with HIV and other chronic conditions, and caregivers.

    The first step to assess the feasibility of a similar ballot measure was a professional political poll. The first leaders of our coalition undertook the initial fundraising for the poll, bringing in $38,000 from the first circle of Dignity Fund Coalition members. The results of the poll showed strong support for a ballot measure to set aside funds in the budget for these services.

    Armed with the poll data, the group began meetings with then Mayor Ed Lee (1952–2017) and his staff as well as members of the Board of Supervisors to determine the scope of the legislation and level of funding. After many discussions, the language for a charter amendment called the Dignity Fund (Proposition I) was placed on the November 8, 2016, ballot with support from all but 2 of the 11 Board of Supervisors members.

    Building on its efforts to get a measure approved by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, the Dignity Fund Coalition turned its attention to the voting public. After the measure won its place on the ballot as Proposition I, the Dignity Fund Coalition members fanned out across the city to win the support of community organizations, neighborhood associations, democratic clubs, labor groups and more—and even got a lovable mascot named Dignity Dog! The Coalition organized a Dignity Day event, which attracted hundreds of supporters, elected officials, and media; and garnered an impressive list of over 110 organizational endorsements in the months preceding the election.

    On election night, Proposition I won handily in all Supervisorial Districts and in all but a handful of precincts across the city, with a final voter approval rate of 66.3%.

    The need to increase funding for services to seniors and adults with disabilities had broad agreement. The decision to take a measure to the ballot to achieve that goal was not so easy. Most coalition members had little experience with this kind of political involvement and previous discussions about crafting a measure similar to the successful San Francisco Children’s Fund usually ended up with folks giving up before they even got started. 

    Fortunately, we had strong guidance and advice from veterans of the movement that put the Children’s Fund on the ballot. It took a lot of effort to get the early leaders in the Dignity Fund Coalition ready to do what it would take to win. The first step was to raise money for a political poll that would help assess the level of support, test various campaign messages, highlight areas of the city with the broadest support, and most importantly, show that we were serious. The early Coalition members helped to raise the $38,000 needed to conduct the poll. Tulchin Research undertook the poll on behalf of the Coalition and within a few weeks, we learned that our chances for success at the ballot box were very high. 

    The measure that created the Dignity Fund moved $38 million of existing services dollars into a special budget fund that was protected from future cuts. It also detailed a level of increased funding, starting with $6 million dollars the first year and adding $3 million additional each year for the next ten years, at which point the amount is increased on a percentage basis for the remaining 10 years covered by the legislation. The Department of Aging and Adult Services was charged with carrying out the mandate to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and to begin the process of allocating funds.

    The Dignity Fund Coalition leaders participated in the Oversight and Advisory group for the legislation. The Dignity Fund Coalition continues to meet monthly to monitor implementation and to preserve the intention of the fund. And we remain vigilant, as the two members of the Board of Supervisors who did not support the Dignity Fund set-aside are working to put a measure on the November 2018 ballot to weaken this and other set-asides for community services.

    Information about the implementation of the Fund can be found at

    Marie Jobling and Fiona Hinze are the Co-Chairs of the Dignity Fund Coalition.


    About The Dignity Fund

    The Dignity Fund, passed by San Francisco voters as Proposition I in 2016, guarantees funding to enhance supportive services to help older adults (60+ years old) and adults with disabilities (18–59 years old) age with dignity in their own homes and communities. The Fund is administered by the Department of Aging and Adult Services and has two primary functions:

    1. It stabilizes funding for current services and support for older adults, veterans, adults with disabilities and caregivers.
    2. The Fund also provides additional set-aside dollars each year to address the unmet and emerging needs of the aforementioned communities.

    For San Francisco, the Fund serves as a down payment on true reinvestment in a social compact for our community. Timely implementation, oversight and protection of it are then fundamental first steps in ensuring that San Francisco’s seniors and adults with disabilities have the opportunity to remain safely and securely at home, making substantial contributions to the city’s life and culture.

    Needs Assessment of the Dignity Fund

    On April 4 of this year, a draft comprehensive needs assessment of the Dignity Fund was presented to the San Francisco Aging and Adult Services Commission for review. The needs assessment recognizes:

    • the density of our urban area, including the highest percentage of seniors and adults with disabilities of any urban area in California;
    • the cost of living and increased economic disparities that threaten the stability and well-being of hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans and the neighborhoods in which they live;
    • 56% of San Francisco residents age 60 or older lack basic economic security;
    • approximately 50% of San Francisco seniors and almost 70% of San Francisco adults with disabilities live on less than $35,000 per year;
    • over 40% live alone without adequate support networks, in part because their families have been forced to seek more affordable housing elsewhere or they have no children.

    Learn More

    The Dignity Fund

    Full Text of Dignity Fund Charter Amendment

    San Francisco Dignity Fund Coalition