Elderly woman leaves her home to the homeless

February 9, 2012

Lelia Boroughs, 84, wasn’t known to many. At least not outside her apartment building in San Francisco’s lower Pacific Heights.

Her neighbors knew her well as an eclectic, kind soul who would offer to pick up their groceries and feed the homeless who squatted on the ledges outside her apartment. 

"She understands how hard it is by herself,” said neighbor Irinia Khokhlova. “It’s not easy to handle in the city… so she was that kind of person.”

Before Boroughs died last September, she told her attorney she had no family to whom to leave her estate. She crafted her will to leave her 525 square foot condo to the city to turn into a homeless shelter.

“The city doesn’t know a whole lot about her,” said Trent Rhorer, director of San Francisco’s Department of Human Services. “She wanted to give her estate to help one of the biggest causes which I guess for her was homeless folks.”

Borough’s will specified the city could also sell the condo if it wasn’t deemed a suitable shelter. This week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to clear the way for the sale.

Rhorer said the condo will net the city’s homeless fund $400,000 to $500,000. He said that money could help up to 150 families get into housing or help families about to lose their homes stay in them.

Even veteran homeless advocates say they weren’t aware of Boroughs’ one-woman homeless advocacy, but they were pleasantly surprised by her donation.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing,” said Jennifer Friedenbach of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness.  “I think in San Francisco, it really shows people do care about other people.”

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