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Columbia South Carolina – A Dubious Victory

 

Since the last issue of STREET SHEET, and with the attention of the national media focused squarely on the issue, the city council of Columbia, SC reversed its unanimous approval of legislation that would, for all intents and purposes, have outlawed homelessness in the downtown business district of the state’s capital city. The plan required that that all homeless people be bused to a shelter on the city’s outskirts, and then not be allowed to leave that shelter to return downtown. This was to be achieved by stationing police officers outside the shelter and along the return route to arrest anyone trying to escape their illegal incarceration.

Thanks to the outrage expressed by communities from coast to coast, the huge outpouring of support for Columbia’s homeless community, threats of lawsuits, and the refusal by Columbia’s own Chief of Police to enforce their illegal mandate, the city council, once again by the same unanimous vote, reversed its position.

Now the issue is whether this reversal represents a victory for homeless and poor people or simply an attempt to divert attention.

Columbia Residents protest the Plan to evict Homeless people from downtown by showing up at a downtown store en Masse to "loiter"

Columbia Residents protest the Plan to evict Homeless people from downtown by showing up at a downtown store en masse to “loiter”

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Letter to the Editor (Proposed Recycling Center Closures)

Hi Ken:

I live in the Mission and there is an on-line site dedicated to the neighborhood. It is called Next Door Mission Dolores. Anyway there was a lot of criticism of homeless people, especially those who sell recycled bottle and cans. There was a big push to close Safeway at Market [@Church]. Quite a few residents got on-line on this issue, all negative. I was so upset that I wrote the following on that site: Continue reading


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LGBTQ Connect

connect-flyer5

In San Francisco, housing is the #1 unmet need of the HIV population, and the LGBT community is nearly two and a half times as likely to be homeless as the general population. The National AIDS Strategy has identified housing for people with HIV as a national priority, and, according to HUD, San Francisco ranks last in the nation in meeting the housing needs of people with HIV/AIDS.

  • According to the 2013 San Francisco Biennial Homeless Point In Time Count and Survey, which collected data on sexual orientation for the first time, nearly one-third (29%) of the San Francisco’s homeless identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
  • In July 2013, a report issued by the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force formed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Addressing The Needs of LGBT Older Adults in San Francisco, found that 40% of LGBT older adults were living in poverty, compared to 30% of the general population, that 24% needed housing assistance, and two-thirds (66%) are concerned they will not be able to remain in their homes, yet 42% of housing assistance service users feel unsafe obtaining assistance as an LGBT person.
  • The LGBT Aging Policy Task Force and the federally mandated Ryan White CARE Council have both identified an emerging crisis need for rental subsidies to keep disabled seniors in their homes when their employer-sponsored long-term disability policies expire as they reach retirement age.
  • The HUD-mandated Analysis of Impediments to Access to Fair Housing identified a need for increased access to rental assistance to remove barriers to fair housing for senior and disabled individuals.

This data supports a needs-based increased investment in culturally competent homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing services targeting the LGBT community, today.

San Francisco City Jail
850 Bryant


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San Francisco Doesn’t Need a New Jail

California’s prison and jail crisis continues to draw international attention as the state with the highest number of people living in cages has been found guilty of cruel and unusual punishment. The United States Supreme Court has ordered Governor Jerry Brown to reduce California’s prison population by tens of thousands by the end of 2013. Many of those effected come from our poorest communities, including people of color, communities experiencing high levels of unemployment and homelessness, and those already experiencing mental health and addiction challenges.

In response to this ruling, many of California’s prisoners are being transferred to local jurisdictions which research shows are better equipped to respond to rehabilitation needs since they are closer to inmates home communities and support networks. Rehabilitation can really only happen where support and resources exist. Continue reading

City of Palo Alto


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Palo Alto’s Vehicle Habitation Ordinance

Bad Policy – But not a reflection of the whole community

As reported in an earlier issue of STREET SHEET, the Palo Alto City Council, on August 5th, approved an ordinance making it illegal to live in a vehicle. When such legislation is passed, it’s easy to paint an entire community as biased and mean-spirited. This isn’t always the case as the following E-mail exchange between two Palo Alto residents clearly illustrates.

On Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM, Brian Good wrote: 

Back in the 70s a friend of mine lived in a low-rent rooming house in North Palo Alto because that’s what he could afford on his pay as a janitor.  I’m not sure if the house is still standing, but I saw one recently that might have been it offered for sale at $2.4 million.

For 40 years, the City Council has aggressively pursued policies to facilitate kicking low-income people out of rooming houses so that rich people can occupy multi-million dollar homes. The agents who are offering this property are college-educated, and have skills that might allow them to help make the world a better place. Instead, aided by the Palo Alto City Council, they are engaged in the trivial pursuit of providing nicer housing to rich people who already have nice housing.

We’ve all heard about the Greatest Generation, that fought the Nazis and made the USA great. I’m disgusted with my generation, the S**ttiest Generation, with its lazy cynicism and selfishness that has made this crumbling world the way it is. Continue reading


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For Those Who Cannot Remember the Past

–Columbia, South Carolina, August 20, 2013

In a unanimous decision, frighteningly consistent with that State’s long history of bigotry and prejudice, the Columbia, South Carolina city council approved the “Emergency Homeless Response” plan, an initiative sponsored by, City Councilman, Cameron Runyon, that effectively outlaws homelessness throughout the city’s downtown business district.

Dehumanization of the target is essential for such plans to succeed. Irrational fear makes a good catalyst especially when it’s rooted in stereotypes, propaganda, and lies. The targeted populations are usually but a small percentage of the whole. Scapegoats.

“The homeless have gotten to the point where they enter my property. They come inside and panhandle or ask to use the bathroom. When they’re told no, they get upset… Continue reading


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Proposed Park Closures in San Francisco

THE CONTINUING STORY OF SUPERVISOR WIENER’S EFFORTS TO KEEP HOMELESS PEOPLE OUT OF PUBLIC SPACES

By Colleen Rivecca
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator
Homeless Youth Alliance

On July 23, 2013, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced an ordinance to amend the San Francisco Park Code to establish uniform park closure hours in all of San Francisco’s 220 parks.  The ordinance would close the parks from12:00 midnight until 5:00 am.  Exceptions to the law are made for Balboa, Golden Gate, Lincoln, and McClaren parks, where people are allowed to use a vehicle on park roadways or to walk on paved sidewalks adjacent to those roadways for purposes of crossing the park.  People violating the law could be found guilty of either a misdemeanor or an infraction, according to the discretion of the District Attorney.  An infraction can be punished by a fine of $100 to $500, and a misdemeanor can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 6 months in county jail.

Supervisor Wiener has stated that he believes that uniform park closure hours are necessary in order to combat park vandalism, illegal dumping, and metal theft.  Homeless people and the people who work to provide them with services and support are concerned that the ordinance will do little to combat vandalism and theft, but will be very effective at criminalizing homeless people Continue reading


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LGBTQ Shelter Approved

San Francisco, a city known worldwide as a bastion for LGBTQ individuals, is taking a long-overdue step to address the closely intertwined relationships between homeless and queer rights. On August 15th, the San Francisco Planning Commission gave the final approvals necessary for Dolores Street Community Services (DSCS) to begin construction of an LGBTQ shelter. Surprisingly, this shelter is the first of its kind for the City, even though advocates have maintained for years that LGBTQ residents are ostracized in many public settings, including the shelter system.

 

The specialized shelter, which will cater to people of all gender identities and sexual preferences, is past due for the LGBTQ homeless community. In 2010, the idea for the shelter first gained momentum after Supervisor David Campos, who is gay, held a hearing at City Hall at the urging of many homeless providers and LGBTQ advocates well aware of the issues faced by queer and transgendered homeless residents. At the hearing, dozens of LGBTQ residents spoke of the negative experiences they encounter daily, demonstrating a systemic problem which necessitated an apposite response by the City. In fact, The Coalition on Homelessness performed a survey several years ago with the results showing “over 70% of transgender residents…experienced some form of abuse, either sexual, physical, verbal or harassment at the city’s shelters because of their gender identity.” The San Francisco Human Rights Commission has also documented violence against LGBTQ shelter residents since 2000. Following the hearing, DSCS, in conjunction with numerous other homeless service providers and LGBTQ advocates, began planning the creation of the shelter.

 

Technicalities and Funding

 

Upon attempting to get the necessary permits for the construction, DSCS was hit with bad news that would delay the project for several years. DSCS currently operates a 57-bed shelter for men, typically targeting the Spanish-speaking and Mission populations, on the same site of the proposed LGBTQ shelter, and planned to create an extension onto the second floor for an additional 24 beds as well as improve the existing facilities. However, DSCS quickly learned that not only was a permit for the planned extension denied but they never even had the proper permits for the existing shelter, which has operated for years. Wendy Phillips, the Executive Director of DSCS, clarified their predicament, stating that they did not lack permits altogether but had the wrong ones issued years back.

 

Throughout the last several years, the permits as well as funding have resulted in a much needed project being delayed time and time again. The overall cost for the construction is around $550,000, but DSCS came up about $100,000 short through their own grant writing and fundraising. Fortunately, Bevan Dufty, of the Mayor’s office of Housing Opportunities Partnership and Engagement, or the office of HOPE, took up the cause and was able to find alternative funding streams. Dufty, a gay man and former City Supervisor who dedicated a lot of his efforts to ending homelessness in San Francisco, has been a supporter of the project from the beginning and acquired a $30,000 grant from the Haas Jr. Fund and “a city community development block grant” to cover the monetary shortfall, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

 

When approaching the Planning Commission two weeks ago, DSCS sought to have the current shelter legalized and get a requirement for “rear-yard space and the 14 bicycle parking spaces” for such development waived, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Ms. Phillips wasn’t alone in urging the Planning Commission to permit the shelter’s extension, though, and many LGBTQ and homeless residents came to speak in favor of the plans. Fortunately, the Planning Commission listened to the overwhelming support of the project and unanimously voted to approve the permits, 7-0.

 

One Big Step, a Mile to Go

 

The Planning Commission’s approval will definitely help, however San Francisco needs to take a deeper look at LGBTQ issues and their inherent overlap with homelessness to develop a larger solution. Shamefully, San Francisco has the smallest percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS who have permanent, stable, and safe housing in the entire United States—only 9.1% . This surely is a tragedy for a city that has some of the best research into HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, but cannot provide the basic needs for those suffering from the virus. Furthermore, the 2013 Point-In-Time Homeless Count revealed that 29% of the homeless in San Francisco identify as LGBTQ—a percentage believed by many to be an underestimate—reflecting a similar national trend where up to 40% of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. The Transgender Law Center also conducted a study showing one in five transgender individuals became homeless after coming out as transgendered. All these point to a social injustice that goes beyond inadequate safe spaces for homeless LGBTQ residents. Rightfully, Supervisor Campos told the Bay Area Reporter: “This is not a panacea. It’s not an answer to the entire problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

 

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