Randy Shaw's Power Plays

Sixteen years ago, Randy Shaw started a housing clinic with $50 and a good idea: educating tenants. Now he's got more than $900,000 a year to spend -- and clout to match.

Shaw says people knew it was just his personal endorsement: "It's very common."

But of course, lawsuits and political work aren't the only calling cards the Tenderloin Housing Clinic has. A large part of the clinic's public standing, and the thing that it is perhaps most widely known for, is its MPP contract.

The MPP was Shaw's idea -- a program administered by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic that serves as a go-between among the city, the owners of residential hotels, and the hotel residents. Under MPP, the THC negotiates a lower-than-market rental rate for residential hotel rooms with hotel owners. People sign up with the THC for the MPP, and their checks are sent to the THC office, which then pays their rent directly to the hotel owners. The poor get housing, the hotels get tenants, and the THC gets a cut of the action to cover administrative costs. But not every low-income person residing in the hotels under the MPP program believes it does much to improve his living conditions.

Shaw is known as an expert on homelessness and housing issues because of his involvement with conditions in residential hotels. In 1982, when the THC was still tiny, Shaw led a wintertime crusade to get more heat into the SROs. Philosophically, the MPP is descended from that activist tradition. The program accounts for almost half of the THC's expenditures and gives Shaw a platform to talk from on hotel issues.

The way the MPP works, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic can refuse to send welfare recipients to hotels that receive a "poor" rating from the Department of Public Health or the Department of Building Inspection. The idea is to force hotel owners and managers to keep their hotels in better condition or to risk losing a valuable source of income for their rooms.

Shaw says the MPP has vastly improved the quality of the hotels. "You should have seen the hotels in the '80s," he says.

But sometimes -- as in the case of the Baldwin House, for example, where Wayne Hobby and Antoinetta Stadlman live -- that isn't the case. As recently as 1994, the Baldwin House was a success story for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a hotel considered so safe and sound that the clinic's application for a federal housing grant showcased it. The Baldwin House had services for its tenants in the lobby, including job counseling and treatment programs, and, Stadlman says, "it was the best hotel the Tenderloin Housing Clinic had."

But then things went downhill, and the MPP and the THC were powerless to stop the slide. These days, Stadlman says, "sometimes when you go out there's blood smeared all over the hallways from knife fights." For the last year and a half, the Baldwin House has been off the MPP, but conditions haven't improved.

Shaw says it's not his fault -- that the Tenderloin Housing Clinic is doing what it can, but that there's a limit to what is possible.

Shaw says the MPP doesn't provide enough of a stick to prod hotel owners into improving hotel conditions: "Obviously not. ... That's why we needed the Department of Building Inspection, that's why we put Prop. G. on the ballot," he says. "That situation's being addressed."

But some of the people in the hotels want him to do more.
"Randy says if we get too hard on these hotels they're going to shut down and there's not going to be anyplace to put people," says Tom Mangold, who lives in the Columbia Hotel and works as an ombudsman for the THC. "I say bullshit, because we have to live in these conditions."

And longtime housing advocate Calvin Welch, a strong Shaw supporter, says that the complaints of people in the hotels do have some merit.

"The [complaints] involving the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, I, too, have heard those complaints and I am not going to tell you that they are baseless. I think there are some very legitimate concerns," Welch says. "I think the basic reason for this is the declining level of support. I mean, nonprofits can only exist through public funding."

The financial statements of the THC, however, seem to contradict Welch's statement -- the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, at least, does not exist only through public funding. Between 1990 and 1993, according to the financial information the Tenderloin Housing Clinic files with the IRS, government grants provided $1.9 million for the THC. During that same time period its lawsuit revenues totaled another $1.1 million.

But if the clinic has been assiduous in obtaining public funding and lawsuit revenues, it has not taken the same amount of care filling out its required reports, according to letters on file at the California Department of Justice.

In 1993 and in 1994, the THC received letters from the Attorney General's Office about "possible reporting errors" on its 990 forms and on the CT-2 forms nonprofits must file with the state.

The letters are routine, generated when computer checks of the 990 and CT-2 forms flag something that seems unusual, says Larry Campbell, registrar of the Office of Charitable Trusts in the Department of Justice.

The computer check is "in no way an audit," Campbell emphasizes. But, he adds, the letters don't go out all that often. "Ten percent or less of all reports we receive are getting these," Campbell says. "This organization was in the top 10 percent of organizations seeming inconsistent."

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@SFCitizen Three stories in five months, one of which was a double quote. Plus one linkbait. Not seeing why you needed to pull us in.


@ScottLucas86 He runs the largest corrupt non-profit in the 415- that's not a story in itself? Your quote factory functions as part of SFGov


@SFCitizen I like your work. I'd tell if I thought you were right. But I think you and I disagree on whether quoting = supporting.

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