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MEDIA ADVISORY: Coping with homelessness



SFSU Office of Public Affairs
(415) 338-1665

Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs


S.F. State experts available to discuss Prop. N aftermath and policy debates

SAN FRANCISCO, January 7, 2003 - As San Francisco's Proposition N, the so-called "care not cash" initiative, gets implemented, members of the San Francisco State University faculty are available to provide expert commentary on its implications. SFSU faculty can inform the continuing debate on how to care for the homeless, and can provide detailed analysis of the city's political climate, the history of homelessness, integrated health and housing policy, community organizing and social services spending priorities. For additional information, call the SFSU Office of Public Affairs at (415) 338-1665.

Roma Guy, health education lecturer
Office: (415) 338-1938; E-mail:

Director of the Bay Area Homelessness Program, Guy is an expert on homelessness, cash benefits versus services (Proposition N), affordable housing and the medical and social aspects of poverty. A member of the San Francisco Health Commission and the city's Local Homeless Coordinating Board, she has authored ballot arguments on issues affecting the homeless and has written about the history of homelessness. Guy can discuss the implications of San Francisco's Proposition N and related policies.

"Proposition N would take money away from people who already had housing," she says, pointing out that the new law has the potential to increase homelessness in San Francisco. "People have to have a place to live. We don't have the resources to provide the care and we don't have the resources to provide the housing."

Guy argues the need for integrated homeless policies that address affordable housing, medical care and substance abuse.

Richard DeLeon, professor of political science
Office: (415) 338-7526; Home: (510) 581-4472; E-mail:

A veteran observer of San Francisco politics, DeLeon can provide analysis of San Francisco political races, progressive candidates, voting patterns and issue coalitions. He is a frequent commentator on local politics and produces ongoing studies of voting patterns and progressive politics. DeLeon can discuss how positions on homelessness affect candidates' election campaigns and how political coalitions on homeless issues are formed.

"The issue of homelessness has been a third rail in San Francisco politics for a long time," he says. Before the 2002 election cycle, DeLeon says, many San Francisco politicians steered clear of the issue because they felt powerless in trying to solve what seemed an intractable problem that divided and polarized the voters. He notes that the homeless crisis of the late 1980s was a major factor causing former mayor Art Agnos to lose his 1991 bid for re-election.

Following the adoption of Prop. N, he says, "there are so many blanks to be filled in" to fund and implement the new policies. He expects the new board of supervisors to make a serious effort do to so early in 2003, but suggests the political trajectory on this issue is still very much in play.

Jim Zelaya-Wagner, health education lecturer
Office: (415) 759-4549; E-mail:

Zelaya-Wagner is a longtime homeless advocate and an expert on substance abuse, harm reduction techniques, cash benefits versus services (Proposition N) and homeless outreach programs. An SFSU lecturer in health education, Zelaya-Wagner is also a psychiatric social worker at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, has been a homeless community organizer, shelter coordinator and a legal advocate for homeless benefits. He currently works with the Substance Abuse Treatment Services program at Laguna Honda Hospital, where he has been a leader in harm-reduction programs for substance abusers.

He says harm-reduction techniques have proven more effective for long-term gains in health and quality of living for the homeless and marginally housed.

Under Prop. N, Zelaya-Wagner warns, "we're going to have some desperate people out there." He is concerned that the new law will increase homelessness and pose serious public health problems. "I do not like Proposition N. I think it was a huge mistake. They don't have the housing they're promising, and they don't have the substance treatment. It is foolish to implement a proposition that takes away the cash without guaranteeing the housing or the treatment."


Student writer Scott Heil assisted in writing this advisory.

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Last modified December 19, 2002, by the Office of Public Affairs