San Francisco supervisor collects signatures to cut homeless checks

The Associated Press
Monday June 17, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — After his colleagues on the San Francisco’s liberal Board of Supervisors frowned on his plan to cut homeless welfare checks, Gavin Newsom is taking his plan to city residents. 

Newsom wants to put his Care Not Cash measure on the ballot in November. He began asking for signatures Saturday — he’ll need 9,735 names by July 8 to put the measure on the ballot. 

Newsom’s plan, which has been political suicide for his predecessors, would cut the current monthly homeless allowance of up to $395 dollars to $59. 

He wants to cut back the amount of checks, which he said often gets spent on alcohol and drugs. His plan would reallocate the cash allowances toward residential housing, medical services, job training and addiction treatment. 

“We will take nothing away without providing something more, something better,” he said. 

But homeless advocates paint the politician, who’s expected to run next year for mayor, as rich and unsympathetic to the plight of the homeless. The son of a former judge, Newsom owns a winery, a resort and upscale restaurants. 

“He wants to take the money away when people already live in misery,” said Sister Bernie Galvin of Religious Witness for the Homeless. 

Newsom’s plan has taken a beating from fellow supervisors, but Mayor Willie Brown has given the plan his blessing though not an official endorsement. 

Trent Rhorer, chief of the city’s Department of Human Services, said he thinks a change is needed to help handle the city’s homeless. 

“When (a client) is homeless for five years on the streets or in a shelter, how have we improved their lives?” he asked.