☆ Billy DeFrank leader supports Doan/Batra call for homelessness audit

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Gabrielle Antolovich, Board President of the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center, approves of the SJ CMs’ calls for clarification of different gov’t responsibilities and precise focus on customized services for people in need. An Opp Now exclusive

When COVID happened a lot of gov’t agencies–including the city, county, and the state– lost a lot of funding. Businesses suffered with the lockdowns, so many people ended up newly unhoused.

As a city, we were unprepared for this. And with funds down and budgets under pressure, there are even fewer resources available for unhoused people.

And from my position at the Billy DeFrank Center, I see it every day

I have had unhoused lesbians coming to me saying they would rather live in their car than go to a shelter where men have sexually harassed them. But there’s no funding for women’s-only shelters.

The LGBTQ shelter we do have only houses a few people, and it’s hard to get in: you need to be referred and qualified to get in. I get why, but it just means that it is not set up to help people who have an emergency and need help right now.

I’m heartened by the Doan/Batra call for an audit of how the city spends money on its homelessness services.

One of the things that I like about what Doan and Batra are calling for: they want everyone dealing with unhoused issues to work together. That’s step #1.

The way we are set up now makes it difficult because the city and county are different governmental entities. They have different parameters, different priorities, different designated funding streams, different ways of doing things. So getting aligned is difficult.  

Step #2 is to get visibility into the issues that really need addressing–and the services that are really working. People say “mental health” when it comes to homelessness, but it’s often really substance abuse issues.

I have 42 years of experience in drug treatment and prevention, and I can tell you that treating substance use is not the same as treating mental health issues. You can’t conflate the two, the individuals are dealing with wholly different sets of issues, and some deal with both. And you can’t staff it with the same people: people who have a heart for mental health are not the same as people who have a heart for substance use. The two don’t often go together.

So I was encouraged by the Doan/Batra call to use the audit to get laser focused on applying the right resources for the right people in the right places, instead of trying to bundle everything together, and hope for the best.

Gabrielle Antolovich, Board President, Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center

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