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Ben Carson dodges protesters in brief SF public housing visit

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson paid a visit to San Francisco’s Potrero Terrace housing development Tuesday to tour the new complex.

Ahead of the visit, more than a dozen protesters showed up at the development, located at 1101 Connecticut St., to call on HUD to increase funding and housing opportunities for the city’s homeless residents. Carson’s visit to San Francisco comes on the heels of a report released by the administration of President Donald Trump on Monday, titled “The State of Homelessness in America.”

The report stated that 47 percent of the country’s homeless population is concentrated in California, with San Francisco, Santa Rosa, San Jose and Los Angeles being the cities with the highest amount of homeless people.

The report estimated that by deregulating the housing market, home prices would drop and homelessness in San Francisco could fall by as much as 54 percent.

Sara Shortt, executive director of the Community Housing Partnership, said during the protest:

“This report says nothing new. It’s touts deregulation, it touts criminalization, and it touts blaming homeless people themselves.” 

Shortt said:

“They (the Trump Administration) have done nothing to improve access to mental health care. They are de-funding the cities and then coming out here to cities like San Francisco and blaming the municipalities and blaming the people who live here. We don’t want any more of their blame. We want real solutions.” 

Jonathan Guzman, an organizer with the Western Regional Advocacy Project, said:

“Public housing is needed. It’s the only solution to (homelessness).” 

“If we really want to do something about it, we need to put back the money that was taken from public housing at the beginning.”

Upon his arrival to the housing development, Carson was able to escape the protesters by entering the building via an SUV that entered through the gated garage.

The White House U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson made a brief visit to the Potrero Terrace housing complex in San Francisco, Calif. Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Carson evaded protesters during his visit, which coincided with the president’s fundraising stop in Portola Valley, Calif. the same day.

Joaquin Torres, the city’s Director of Economic and Workforce Development and president of the Housing Authority Commission, attended the meeting with Carson.

Torres said the meeting was brief but Carson was able to speak with some community members who live at the newly renovated complex. The housing development is being renovated in phases, with the 1101 Connecticut St. building, the first area to be renovated, having been completed earlier this year.

The renovation is part of the HOPE SF Project, an initiative approved by the Board of Supervisors back in 2017 to completely rehabilitate the city’s Housing Authority sites.

Torres said of the project:

“It’s an extraordinary example of what happens when the city take leadership over its own investments when it feels that the federal government cannot be there for us.” 

Carson’s visit came on the same day that President Trump made his first visit to the Bay Area since his inauguration. Trump’s visit was brief, stopping only at a fundraising luncheon in Portola Valley before heading to Southern California for another fundraiser later Tuesday.

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