.Sausalito’s city manager ‘highly recommended’ vendor accused of sexual assault

The cities of Sausalito and Austin don’t have much in common. Sausalito has a population of 7,200 versus Austin’s 962,000. Sausalito officials report 18 homeless people live in the city, while Austin reports more than 3,000 unhoused people.

Yet Sausalito was discussed repeatedly in two Austin City Council meetings last week, which led up to a vote on whether to approve a more than $4 million no-bid contract with Urban Alchemy, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, to manage a downtown homeless shelter for 13 months.

Council members raised concerns about a June article in the Pacific Sun, which detailed serious allegations against some of the Urban Alchemy employees who were managing Sausalito’s city-sanctioned homeless encampment. More than 10 Sausalito camp residents accused the staff of sexually assaulting young homeless women, as well as using and distributing drugs on the job.

Newspapers from San Francisco to Los Angeles have also reported on numerous issues with Urban Alchemy, including allegations that it’s a “mercenary” organization with questionable business practices.

City council members questioned Adrienne Stirrup, the public health director, about why city staff awarded the contract to Urban Alchemy.

Stirrup said she had contacted Chris Zapata, Sausalito’s city manager, and he had “nothing but good things to say about the organization’s track record.”

Zapata referred to Urban Alchemy as “well-versed” and “highly recommended” for providing “humane care,” Stirrup said. Stirrup also indicated that Zapata had commended the Urban Alchemy staff for building relationships with the homeless encampment residents.

According to Stirrup, Zapata mentioned that Urban Alchemy immediately addressed “an unfortunate singular incident caught on video” when it was brought to their attention, “and there were not any additional concerns on the part of the city.”

It’s unclear which “unfortunate singular incident” Zapata might have been discussing. Perhaps he saw the video where an Urban Alchemy supervisor called a woman at the camp a “bitch” and a “whore.” Or maybe it was the video of another supervisor screaming at a camper, “I’m going to fuck you up.” Then again, it could have been the one showing Urban Alchemy employees rifling through donations intended for the homeless campers.

Assuming Zapata doesn’t believe the sexual assault and drug allegations made by the Sausalito campers, is the city manager unaware of verifiable incidents involving Urban Alchemy employees?

An Urban Alchemy employee “borrowed” $400 from a homeless resident who receives disability payments. The money was repaid only after Sausalito’s attorneys were notified of the “loan” by the president of the Sausalito Homeless Union.

Apparently, Zapata overlooked a Sausalito police report detailing an incident where an Urban Alchemy employee admitted to a police officer that he purposely knocked a homeless man to the pavement for getting in his personal space.

Zapata didn’t respond to the Pacific Sun’s questions by press time.

The Austin City Council ultimately approved the Urban Alchemy contract because the organization currently managing the shelter is exiting next month and no other service provider had submitted a letter of interest within the 24-hour deadline imposed by the city. However, the council instructed city staff to have oversight measures written into the contract to reduce the risk of problems.

Hopefully, the safeguards prove effective, otherwise Zapata might be facing a new set of questions.

Nikki Silverstein
Got a Hero or a Zero? Please send submissions to [email protected] Toss roses, hurl stones with more Heroes and Zeroes at pacificsun.com.

7 COMMENTS

  1. If the residents of Sausalito knew how much money is being spent on the homeless (they do now, thanks to this article) instead of actually housing them, I suspect they would be outraged. Especially about the bucks spent to hire Urban Alchemy, an outfit that has been accused of negligence, sexual assault among other things, and with virtually no oversight. A travesty!

  2. News Flash: The residents of Sausalito are well aware of the costs associated with the homeless at Marinship Park. If the homeless population at Marinship Park had the capacity to police themselves, organizations like Urban Alchemy wouldn’t be needed. What rules are the homeless willing to live by? From my observations, not many.
    Maybe it’s time they move along and take their never ending problems with them.

  3. Curtis Havel and the RBRA should have the weight of all of this on their shoulders from crushing boats and in turn creating tent city.

  4. Meg,
    Your comments assume the never ending problems will magically disappear when a home is entered into the equation. Damage on housing is dramatically more expensive to repair than damage on tent. Again, what rules are the homeless of Marinship Park willing to live by?

    Phil,
    Richardson Bay is a 72 hour Anchorage. The inhabitants of the boats could move their boats but choose not to. So, what rules are the Anchor Outs willing to live by on land or sea? Are they willing to register their boats and get insurance? Are they willing to take financial responsibility in the event their boat becomes untethered from it’s mooring and causes damage to other boats and property? Can you document any instance where an Anchor Out took full responsibility for their boat sinking in Richardson Bay? Shifting the blame or focus to Curtis Havel, RBRA or the BCDC won’t change the fact that the Anchor Out always walks away from any responsibility.

    Nikki Silverstein should examine the perspectives mentioned above and write an article that is little more balanced.

  5. The city manager of Sausalito recommended a criminal outfit to another major city, guaranteeing the homeless population there will be subject to the same abuse. This is outrageous!

  6. the craziest part about Urban Alchemy is they’re literally all police!

    I explained a good amount of this information in my blog (TheCountOfMonteCrypto.blogspot.com) which details the innerworkings of the GEO Re-Entry Services San Francisco location and how nearly 100% of the “inmates” at GEO Re-Entry Services get jobs where you need a clearance from homeland security to work at those locations. The locations include loitering around the federal building, city hall and other state buildings.
    Now ask yourself this…. If BIG if these individuals were actually prosecuted out of the federal building (like I actually was) and were given 10,15,30 years in prison. Why on Gods beautiful green earth would the same judges, law enforcement and prosecutors allow those same individuals to essentially stand guard out in front of there job all day? I mean its really quite simple but most of the public just doesn’t put two and two together!

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