Ending S.F. Homes van service a wrong turn, critics say

Citing a need to cut costs, the Jewish Home is putting the brakes on a shuttle service for about 50 frail and elderly participants in the San Francisco center's longtime day-care program.

Some families warn that the move will hamper their ability to get relatives to and from the home and may ultimately spell the end of the weekday program altogether.

Each day, the center's van service brings about a dozen clients to and from the center on Silver Avenue, where they participate in a variety of activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"I can't believe they'll have three people who have their own transportation," said Gershon Evan, whose 69-year-old wife goes to the home four times weekly on the van. "That will mean it will finish this day-care center."

Evan, 79, said his wife, Rina, suffers from Huntington's chorea, a degenerative brain disorder. She relies on the activities at the home for stimulation, and he relies on it for a needed break in their routine.

"For her, the day-care center is very important. For me, too. I do the cooking now, I do the washing," he said. "It's tough to be seven days a week, 24 hours together."

While Evan said that he could drive his wife back and forth, he knows that the relatives of other participants won't be able to do so.

"I know it's going to fold if nothing's going to be done," he said.

Jewish Home officials planned to meet today with family members to discuss their decision. Administrator Sandra Epstein estimated the yearly cost of the van service at $200,000.

"From our side, it's really trying to balance the pressure we're facing," said Epstein, whose facility also serves about 430 residents.

Epstein said the day-care program had been supported in the past by outside grants but that funding had all but disappeared.

Patients, who have a variety of medical conditions, pay for the day services on a sliding scale. While at the center, they participate in such activities as current events discussions, bingo and music. They also have access to the facility's rehabilitation programs and other services.

Epstein said the Home's board of directors voted about three weeks ago to end the transportation service at the end of March.

"Many of the families have said they will continue to bring their family members or make arrangements," she said.

The move comes as the center braces for expected cuts from the state of California in the Home's $40 million yearly budget, Epstein said.

"We are waiting and watching and totally concerned," she said of the impact of the state's looming financial crisis.

The same might be said for some relatives of the day-care participants.

"How about the people who don't drive?" asked Ruth Basin, whose 83-year-old husband, Joseph, has Alzheimer's disease and goes to the center twice weekly.

"I think it's going to fall apart," she predicted.

Basin said it would take her more than 30 minutes each way to drive her husband to and from the center.

"The idea of him going there is to give me a little time to myself," she noted. She described herself as "really upset about this, not just for myself but for those people who truly depend" on the van service.

After hearing about the plan to end the transportation, Basin contacted other caregivers and plans to start sending her husband to a similar program offered by Catholic Charities.

"I thought it was ironic," she said, noting that the new program would cost $50 a day compared to the $65 she pays at the Jewish Home. What's more, managers at the Catholic center told Basin they'd had other inquiries from Jewish clients recently and asked, "Do we need kosher food?" Basin relayed. "Which I thought was very nice."