Dog Bites

Chased Out of the Temple
A tenants organization that regularly thwarts eviction-bearing landlords in the Mission just got its own 30-day notice. St. Peter's Housing Committee, a nonprofit group that offers counseling and advocacy for Spanish-speaking renters in the Mission, received a Jan. 16 letter from St. Peter's Church's the Rev. John Issacs (Father Jack) informing it that it had to find a new home.

The missive, which predated an official eviction notice on Jan. 24, floored Housing Committee Director Gloria Lopez, who says the church failed to offer a written explanation for the eviction. But Lopez says Father Jack had laid down the bottom line before he commenced the note-passing. According to Lopez, the priest brought a potential tenant to tour and inspect the Housing Committee's space in the church before informing the group that its lease was in jeopardy.

"I asked him why," says Lopez, "and he told me, 'I have asked your group to pay market rate in the past and you guys will not. Your activities are not connected to the church the way they used to be in the past.' "

In accordance with their original agreement, the Housing Committee has never paid market rate. The committee moved into the church's 24th Street and Alabama address 11 years ago when another priest offered the space for a monthly $70 donation to the church. The eviction has led Lopez to speculate that her group is being banished from the temple because it angered one of the St. Peter's parishioners, property owner Lourdes Sainez. One of Sainez's properties had been the target of a Housing Committee direct-action effort, she says.

Father Jack, who did not want to comment on the rift, says, "It's been a very long story, and I would not want to offend anyone. God knows the truth of everything."

Unable to find a definite space to relocate, the desperate Housing Committee is currently lobbying the archdiocese for an extension on its February move-out date. So far, the church is sticking to the one-month eviction.

Crashing the Rent Party
The Brown administration has buried the Mandatory Direct Rent Payment Program (MDRPP) -- Frank Jordan's controversial plan to deduct rent money out of General Assistance payments to the homeless -- but the plan might still cost San Francisco a chunk of change.

Last year, Catholic Charities won a $750,000 contract to administer the program, which was designed to pay money directly to SRO hotel owners to house the homeless. In October, homeless advocates filed suit to block the program, and since then Catholic Charities has been operating a voluntary rent-payment program for some 70 homeless people.

At a Social Services Commission meeting last week, Catholic Charities requested payment from the city for the cost of administering the program.

Homeless advocates say Catholic Charities wants $300,000 from the city, while Catholic Charities insists it hasn't totaled a firm dollar amount yet. So far, Catholic Charities has submitted invoices of $130,000 for the MDRPP, says Jim Buick, director of homeless services for the Department of Social Services.

"They haven't put their total request in yet," Buick adds.
"We hired staff and rented space and started up the entire program," explains Bob Nelson, director of public policy for Catholic Charities. "The last I heard we were still trying to figure out what all the costs are," he says. "It's a $750,000 annual program, and we were operating it for six months."

By Jeff Stark, Ellen McGarrahan

 
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