Poor people scored a huge victory by defeating last November’s Prop N — the so-called Care Not Cash initiative — which was finally voted down six to five at the Board of Supervisors on September 16th. The real victory was over 160 people who showed up at the hearing to demand an end to Care Not Cash. Over the past year and a half thousands of people have volunteered their time and what little resources they have to fight for justice in San Francisco. And some people told us they thought it couldn’t be done.
Currently, there are three proposals that, if passed, would devastate the homeless population in the shelters and on the streets of San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors finally voted on these issues September 16th after numerous delays. Mayoral wannabe Gavin Newsom, through his campaign and his corporate sponsors, continually pressured the other supervisors through to vote his way or the highway. Once, a scheduled hearing on Care Not Cash was even cancelled due to Newsom suddenly being on vacation. When Supervisor Chris Daly questioned his staff, they first produced the answer that he was at a wedding. The Board, anxious to resolve the issue, offered to send sheriff’s deputies to bring Newsom to the hearing. Newsom’s staff then switched alibis, asserting instead that he was on a family vacation in Mexico.
Meanwhile the homeless people who went to Board hearings countless times, often sacrificing their places in long waiting lines for food or shelter to attend, were completely disregarded. It’s quite obvious to everyone who is homeless that, unlike his popular campaign slogan, Newsom really doesn’t care, and he never did. He’s acted like the spoiled, white, rich kid he is and is backed by the most powerful, wealthy, and influential institutions in San Francisco.
A “die-in” was staged at the September 16th meeting by POWER, because any version of Care Not Cash is unacceptable.
Supervisor Tony Hall’s “Care Fund” combined with Newsom’s Care Not Cash was tabled. A group of brave people were bleeding on the floor of the Supervisors upholstered chambers as the crowd chanted “No justice, no peace” ripping off their shirts to reveal bloody hand prints. An announcement was made to the Board that we weren’t satisfied with anything less than Care Not Cash delivered dead on arrival. The crowd chanted “THE BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS,” while Newsom dashed out of the chamber to play victim for the news media assembled in the corridor.
“Tabling [the initiative] is just a sneaky way to bring it back up — everyone except Newsom voted to table the combo. We all know Newsom just can’t stand losing,” Garth Ferguson, a long time organizer with the Coalition and POWER commented. “He’s pushing his machine to pressure Supervisors to un-table his proposal, and is threatening to re-introduce Care Not Cash. He may try to bring it back from the dead in other forms.”
At this writing (9/25/03) the Board of Supervisors hasn’t yet decided whether or not to resurrect this monster.
Supervisors Tom Ammianno, Chris Daly, Matt Gonzalez, Tony Hall, Fiona Ma, Sophie Maxwell did the right thing and voted Care Not Cash down. Jake McGoldrick, Aaron Peskin, Gerardo Sandoval, and Bevan Dufty all voted in favor of Care Not Cash — they are also up for reelection and fear the consequences of going against the status quo of the big money politcs behind mayoral candidate Gavin Newsom.
“I think anyone would agree that a cot on the floor is not a home. It is an emergency place to stay until a home can be found.” Randy McMahan of the Coalition on Homelessness said of Newsom’s initiative. “We would like to see politicians begin working with groups that work directly with homeless and poor people to create better thought-out solutions to housing and homelessness, and adopt much better policies than those currently being debated in City Hall. Deliberately delaying votes on these illconceived ideas in order to use them as major issues in the mayor’s race is no way to responsibly solve the city’s problems, and none of these proposals will solve the problem of homelessness.” “[Homelessness] can happen to anyone.
People don’t realize that they are one step away from losing their home, with the war going on and the economy going bad anything can happen. I stand behind the Coalition and anyone else in solving this homeless problem.
Even a dog has a home to live in,” testified Donna Gates, who came to the hearing to help prevent her check from being cut.
Lest we forget, THANK YOU! Thank you to all the homeless people who fight this fight 24/7 and who are leading the way. Thank you to those brave staff of shelters and homeless service providers who spoke out at hearings, for courageously risking your jobs on behalf of homeless people, and thank you to everyone else who helped fight these downtown giants. A special salute to POWER for their leadership and courage, and all our allies for their constant dedication, support, and resilience.
If we’ve learned nothing else from this struggle, it’s that Newsom’s “homeless reforms” are a lot more about winning the mayor’s race than actually solving homelessness. We might have won this round, but to safeguard our victory we urge everyone to get out and vote NO on Newsom’s anti-panhandling initiative — Prop M — in the November 4th, 2003 election.
Only by uniting our efforts can we truly win!