Hundreds Volunteer in SF Homeless Count
February 2, 2007 10:11 PM
Roughly 500 volunteers were dispatched throughout San Francisco Wednesday night for the bi-annual homeless census. The results of the count determine the federal funding allotted to provide those living on the street with essential resources.
Mayor Gavin Newsom spoke briefly during the volunteer training session in an attempt to inspire the participants before they headed out into the cold for the unofficial tabulation.
“We give them dignity, that is an intangible thing,” Newsom said, referring to the thousands of homeless people that were to be counted. “That is a magical thing.”
Newsom maintained a positive outlook on the possibility of ending homelessness.
“The fact is we’re making progress and gaining momentum,” Newsom said. “We’re going to have a big number tonight, but don’t be distressed, be optimistic.”
The final report of the 2005 San Francisco Homeless Count recorded 6,248 people, which is a 28 percent decrease from the 8,640 counted in the 2002 census. The numbers from the count are just a fraction of the overall population, which also includes some who are in jail, emergency shelters and San Francisco General Hospital.
Angela Alioto, chair of the Homeless Ten-Year Plan Council, informed participants that over 2,500 people have been housed within the last two and a half years. While the results of the 2007 census won’t be available for a couple of weeks, Alioto estimates that federal assistance needs to be in the range of $16-$17 million to provide adequate help.
Equipped with a limited number of reflective orange vests, tally sheets and flashlights, groups of two or more were assigned to routes throughout the city, and either walked or drove to their various locations. Those dispatched were instructed not to interact with the homeless. Among the counted were those found sleeping on sidewalks, in back allies and, in some areas, clustered in large groups.
The event brought together an array of volunteers, transcending social status.
Tim Anderson, an employee from salesforce.com, which gives its workers four hours of paid time off per month to contribute to the community, felt the count was an ideal occasion to give back.
“I usually volunteer, through Homeless Project Connect, at the Bill Graham Civic Center, which hosts events every other month. They provide dental services, meals and blankets,” Anderson said. “But I thought the census was a good thing to do.”
Dave Seiler, the leader of a group dispatched to the Tenderloin, spent over 25 years being homeless, living in shelters and on the sidewalks of San Francisco. Seiler served as somewhat of a tour guide for the volunteers who helped him tally, identifying halfway houses, women’s shelters, and places where he used to live.
Reuniting with friends he formerly knew, Seiler embraced people he came across and called them by their first names.
Seiler stays active in the community. He attributes his involvement in various organizations with keeping him sober and sheltered. He works with the Salvation Army and serves as a liaison for the Next Door Shelter.
“I wanted to do something positive by getting out here and counting,” Seiler said. “But I’m happy I don’t live out here anymore.”
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University