Marian Shelter closing, but not without fight

Pub date August 19, 2008
SectionPolitics Blog

Marian Residence for Women has been called a “model for shelter and transitional services for women,” yet it’s closing for good on August 31, adding another 60 beds to the 400+ that have been lost from the San Francisco’s homeless shelter system since Mayor Gavin Newsom took office.

That fact was reiterated once again during an August 7, 2008 City Operations and Neighborhood Services committee hearing on the closure, a mostly somber affair except when Quintin Mecke, chair of the city’s Shelter Monitoring Committee, praised the shelter’s model service, eliciting cheers and applause from the crowd of onlookers – many of whom were current or former Marian residents. “It really is a catastrophic loss,” he added. Mecke and the committee are tasked with monitoring health and safety in the city-funded shelters. Marian receives no city money.

The 60-bed shelter and transitional housing facility is owned by St. Anthony Foundation and, as we previously reported, the nonprofit is short on cash and shuttering the facility. To generate revenue it’s hoping to lease the building – and as testimony at the hearing showed, it’s the city who will be renting the space and converting it to a medical respite facility, thus serving a different, yet equally desperate homeless population.

Currently, medical respite – which provides bed and care for homeless patients too ill for the streets but not critical enough for the hospital – is conducted at two different locations in the city, though the Dept. of Public Health and Mayor Newsom have long desired a single, comprehensive facility.

Joyce Crum of the city’s Human Services Agency said they were working with St. Anthony Foundation to ensure that all of the women staying at Marian would have a place to go. In an effort to ramp up the waning services for women, HSA has also identified a building with 56 units that they plan to lease and devote entirely to housing homeless women. Mayor Gavin Newsom’s homeless policy director, Dariush Kayhan, said the mayor had set aside $500,000 for the project.

That’s a far cry from the $1.3 million St. Anthony spends every year to run Marian Residence. While some might say that’s what it takes to run a model shelter, Kayhan said, “It seems that it’s an unsuitable program design.”