SF Homeless Need Beds, Politics Delays Process

By Jean Elle
|  Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013  |  Updated 7:23 AM PDT
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Homeless men at Mother Brown's homeless center need beds to sleep in, but some neighbors are concerned about opening up new zoning permits. Jean Elle reports.

Homeless men at Mother Brown's homeless center need beds to sleep in, but some neighbors are concerned about opening up new zoning permits. Jean Elle reports.

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You can hear the sound of snoring upstairs at Mother Brown's homeless drop in center in San Francisco's Bayview District.

But the men sleeping here are far from comfortable. They are sleeping upright, sitting in chairs.

At 59, Anthony Hunter says it's a welcome relief from the street but, "you really can't sleep in a chair. By the time you get settled your leaning, other people are leaning on you."

Center director Gwendolyn Westbrook says it's a heartbreaking sight. Many of her clients are senior citizens and she says they need beds. When the building next door on Jennings Street opened up she asked city leaders about helping her expand to add beds. She thought it was a simple request but says, "it turned into a big political thing that I didn't envision. All I was thinking about was letting people lay down and sleep at night."

To expand into a shelter, city leaders must call community meetings. Neighbors are raising concerns about zoning and permits and safety and security. Issues that will have to be addressed if the proposal if approved. The proposed shelter is next to Mother Brown's in an industrial area.

Business owner David Eisenberg says heavy equipment and groups of homeless people just shouldn't mix.

"Placing a homeless shelter in industrial area is not proper violates zoning," he said.

 While the political process plays out, Hunter and dozens of others will spend their nights in a chair coping with the pain they say comes with it.

 "A few times my legs have swollen up sitting in a chair cutting off circulation," Hunter said. "We need beds. We really need beds."

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