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HEY, HEY WHAT DO YOU SAY?

SELF-HELP CENTER IS ALIVE TODAY!

Last issue, we ended in a cliffhanger more dramatic than anything you’ll find on television. Would Central City Hospitality House Self Help Center, and dozens of other vital resources to the homeless community shut their doors for good? Would the politics of scarcity once again make the day-to-day struggle our folks face even more difficult?

No, we won one.

A planned “funeral procession and action” turned into a celebration as about 125 Tenderloin residents listened to Supervisor Chris Daly break down the details of a budget deal he brokered which saved this venerable, and valuable drop-in center and many like it. As a direct result massive community organizing and alliance building, the progressive wing of the Board of Supervisors finally went on the offensive against Mayor Brown.

What you probably won‚t read in the Chronicle: Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office On Homelessness‚ George Smith’s job was held hostage in order to squeeze money out of Hizzoner Brown’s rather tight fist.

This victory came about because community organizations and organized labor put differences aside and fought, mobilized their bases and laid the foundation of what could mean real progressive politics in this city — if we don’t let ourselves become divided again.

Even within victory, there were set-backs. Asubsequent press conference co-sponsored by Supervisor Daly made it clear that the Mayor wasn’t the only one who had to give in. Unions were praised for their willingness to “give back” contract gains in order to balance the budget. We’re not just talking about the higher paid employees here, but many of the grunt workers as well.

This is to be expected at a time in history when we are fighting over crumbs, for the survival of neighborhood survival programs, instead of the type of massive change that it would be necessary to start to end homelessness altogether. We won’t dwell on it — just point out that a community-labor alliance made some important gains last month, and it’s conceivable that as this alliance grows, we could be unstoppable.

LEARNING FROM SAN JOSE?

Let’s face it — sometimes we San Franciscans can live in a self-congratulatory bubble. However, San Francisco’s legendary progressivism quickly loses some of its luster when claims of enlightenment and tolerance are held up under a light-bulb. We have a large Gay Pride day, yet working-class queers can’t afford to move here anymore. We have a Black mayor, and the Black population in this city is now a mere 7%, while Blacks make 48% of the shelter population. There are still about 500 units of vacant Housing Authority apartments while homeless families, most of whom headed by women, sleep in shelters. It may assist us, to look at what activists in other cities have done.

In San Jose, a labor community alliance has been built called Housing For All. The group is pushing for rent control, inclusionary zoning, more money to build affordable housing. Thus in a city only an hour and a half away from ours, with no reputation for a “progressive” outlook on life, very progressive things are happening. The fledgling group has already won inclusionary requirements — which mean that for-profit developers must include below market units in any development. Yes, it is a modest gain, but the alliances built could certainly set the ground for more ambitious campaigns.

Back in San Francisco, it is going to take a lot to keep the sides together. In the past labor and community organizations get along just fine until a difference arises over some inappropriate development where union jobs are included. But with corporate San Francisco going full throttle to hoist Gavin Newsom into the mayor’s office and roll back modest political gains such as rent control, we going to have to take a stand together.”

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Author: Street Sheet Editor

The STREET SHEET is the oldest continuously published street news paper in the United States. Organizationally, it is the public education and outreach tool of the Coalition on Homelessness. Every month, the STREET SHEET reaches 32,000 readers through over 200 homeless or low-income vendors. Our vendors are charged nothing for the papers they receive, and keep all money they earn through STREET SHEET distribution.

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