Preventing Homelessness

Homelessness is one of San Francisco's most pressing social crises, and eviction is one of its primary causes. The shortage of affordable housing further compounds the problem. Despite the market correction after the dot com bubble, San Francisco still has a vacancy rate well below the national average and rents that are dramatically out-of-proportion to wages. These factors combine to make San Francisco one of the most expensive rental markets in the country. The burden of this rental market falls especially hard on the disabled, the elderly, immigrants, ethnic minorities, persons with AIDS, and large families. Many people in these communities are threatened with eviction if their income decreases even a little.

When forced to live without a home, families break down, individuals suffer from deteriorating mental and physical health, children miss out on education, and every family member faces an increased risk of being victimized by crime. These consequences put even more pressure on our already stretched health, education, and social service systems.

A more cost-effective way to address the crisis of homelessness is to prevent individuals and families from losing their homes in the first place.

Though many programs exist to help those already without a home, these programs all face the monumental challenge of re-establishing stability in the lives of people with few or no resources. A more cost-effective way to address the crisis of homelessness is to prevent individuals and families from losing their homes in the first place. This fact illustrates the importance of prevention: limited resources can accomplish more by preventing a problem than by trying to remedy it after the fact.

The EDC puts the principle of prevention to work on the problem of homelessness by providing specialized legal assistance and education about tenants' rights to families and individuals facing eviction. Our services give low and extremely low-income tenants the specialized assistance they need to navigate the vastly complex legal system in order to have a chance to keep their homes. In the same proactive spirit, our rental assistance program lends a hand to tenants who have fallen behind in rent because of crises such as a family health emergency, an injury at work, or the theft of rent money. Despite drastic cutbacks in services to the poor during the last decade, the EDC remains a solid fiber in the safety net that prevents the poorest of the poor from slipping into homelessness. For tenants facing eviction in San Francisco, the EDC is the last hope to prevent the Sheriff's knock at the door.

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