Like most people, we do not understand why our nation, state, and especially city have chosen such a backward turn socially. With the implementation of Prop N on May 3, 2004, we demonstrated why we are the most technologically advanced nation in the world, yet still living in the Bronze Age socially. Back then, human beings didn’t have any social conscience, it was everyone for themselves. Today in the City of St. Francis, we pride ourselves on our compassionate liberalism.
The situation with San Francisco homelessness is dire enough without Prop N, Prop M., and 647(j).
Close to 400 people demonstrated in protest of Care Not Cash implementation on May 3. The crowd consisted of seniors, working poor, immigrants, people with disabilities, houseless clients of welfare, and other residents of San Francisco who are not represented by their elected officials. The SHOUT Project of the Coalition on Homelessness organized this action with the help of community-allied organizations, but the houseless and poor community organizers in SHOUT rose above everyone’s issues and issued forth–cooperation, consideration, and caring.
And they did it all without any cash.
The Autonomous Collective organized its constituents in support of homeless people and took over the mayor’s office inside of City Hall. Eleven people were arrested in the civil disobedience. It was clear that business would not continue uninterrupted. A man and a woman protesting were injured by the cops, who choked them while picking them up, and made sexually explicit and inappropriate comments. They should be ashamed.
For readers who are unfamiliar, here’s a quick recap. Prop N is Gavin Newsom’s Care Not Cash legislation. It was written two years ago as a way to force houseless human beings to live on $59 per month. It uses shelters as housing. In the process, it prevents seniors, immigrants, disabled, and working poor from accessing emergency services in San Francisco, because it prioritizes welfare recipients for shelter placement in order to take their money to pay for the few who will be housed in master-leased SRO hotels. It forces people to submit to finger imaging to receive a shelter bed, which is absolutely intended as a tracking method. General Assistance clients also give up their benefits if they refuse to live in a shelter.
Prop M is Mayor Newsom’s anti-panhandling legislation, which basically makes asking for help an arrest-able offense (if done twice). Newsom, in his liberalized view of himself, wants to focus on health services and not jail to divert people into services. But we know there are not enough services. In order for his new outreach team to put people into services, they would have to bump people already receiving them or who are already on waiting lists for services such as shelter, treatment, and health care. Which is ridiculous, unless we use our brains to extrapolate a working model of how these two initiatives work together in context with the misapplication of CPC 647(j).
The largest gang in the city–the SFPD–has been deliberately threatening to arrest and prosecute people for sitting, eating, or sleeping in public spaces. Major corporations such as Viacom have inappropriately used 647(j) in or near bus stops as a tool to keep homeless people away from bus stops by falsely offering $1000 as a reward. This is an illegal use of the law, and for some reason is only being done to houseless residents of the city. Each 647(j) trial is costing San Francisco $11,000, so where is the logic in that? We could be using all these resources to provide housing and compassionate solutions to homelessness instead of running around chasing our tails.
We have effectively become a city where it is now illegal to be poor. In a nation that was, for all intents and purposes, created by individuals who were imprisoned for being poor or in debt, we have become our own jailers. Writing laws that trap people in poverty is against every belief that brought our nation into being.
How do you solve the problem of poverty by criminalizing those who suffer the condition? How do you prevent people from asking for help when you write laws that take away their money and ability to make choices for themselves?
As engraved on our historical landmark, the Statue of Liberty, which symbolizes many things for many people, “Give us your poor…”