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About Us & Our Mission

Faces of Homelessness: The Vines Family

By Teresa Friend, HAP

For ten years, Edward Vines, 36, has had sole custody of four of his children. He’s a strict dad, but it’s paid off. His two daughters, Taniya, 16, and Taneya, 14, are both straight “A” students at SR Martin College
Preparatory School in San Francisco. His sons, Pierre, 11, and Dierre, 10, are both honor roll students at Spring Valley School. The family is a close and loving one, and their dad is their mainstay. He works part-time,
coaches youth basketball and baseball, and the family attends church together every Sunday.

A few years ago, Vines kept the family together during a period of homelessness resulting from the renovation of their building in Oakland. The Vines family then moved to federally-subsidized housing on Treasure
Island, where they lived happily for three years. In December 2005, a series of events resulted in the family becoming homeless again. Vines’ brother was killed in a drive-by shooting. He held a memorial barbecue, where friends and family came to pay their respects and to contribute towards the funeral expenses. Vines went out to the store and police stopped and searched him, and found cash on him. He was arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs.

Under federal Section 8 guidelines, an arrest for drug-related activity can be a basis for termination of a housing subsidy. The San Francisco Housing Authority terminated the family’s housing subsidy, resulting in
a monthly rent increase of over $1,700, which Vines could not afford. The management company of the Treasure Island property, began eviction procedures for non-payment of rent.

Meanwhile, Vines has entered the Back on Track diversion program, which will result in all criminal charges being dropped. After tireless advocacy by Judi Iranyi, LCSW, a volunteer social worker at the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP), the San Francisco Housing Authority agreed to reinstate Vines’ subsidy, and to pay the management company back rent that had accrued.

Unfortunately, that did not end the family’s problems. The management company would not agree to drop the eviction proceedings. Vines made an agreement to vacate the apartment, in return for owing nothing and having some time to try to find replacement housing. Vines was on the waiting list for public housing in San Francisco, and his name came up to be screened for a brand new three-bedroom apartment.

To the family’s misfortune, the property was managed by the same company, which would not rent to him. Meanwhile, Vines and Iranyi searched relentlessly for replacement housing, to no avail. On September 21, time ran out for the Vines family. They vacated their unit at Treasure Island, with nowhere to go. The family is now split up, with the children sleeping on various relatives’ couches. Vines sees all of his children every day, driving them all to school. Vines is caught in a Catch-22, one that is not unique to his family. As a low-income working single parent, he cannot afford housing without a subsidy. In order to retain his priority on the waiting list for public or subsidized housing, his family must be homeless.

“Mr. Vines’ situation is Kafkaesque,” says Iranyi. “No matter where we turn, someone puts up a new obstacle to keeping this family together and housed.”

Learn about the Homeless Advocacy Project.