WHEN: Tuesday, April 24, 12.00 p.m.
WHERE: 800 Mission Street, in front of Metreon
WHAT: A walk and rally to stand against a proposed poverty court that will waste funds that could be spent on ending homelessness while criminalizing people for being poor.
Erroneously calling them, “community courts,” Mayor Newsom has proposed new poverty courts that would further criminalize poor and homeless Central City residents for activities such as sleeping in public. This new proposed court system would inappropriately route public funds to divert police officers from responding to real crimes in order to act as untrained triage workers for unfunded social services. The walk will start at the Metreon (12:00 p.m.), go up Mission to 7th Street, stop at the Federal Building (12:35), walk through United Nations Plaza to City Hall (12:50), and continue to the Tenderloin Police Station (1:00), and end in a rally at Boedekker Park (1:15). Recent San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman and Supervisor Chris Daly will both be featured speakers at the event.
Mayor Newsom is facing mounting opposition to his poorly conceived idea to red-line a portion of the poorest neighborhood in San Francisco: the Tenderloin and South of Market. If implemented, any sleeping, sitting, vending, camping, graffiti, or prostitution tickets received in this area would be sent to a special court. The police would march the individual immediately to an overnight stay in jail, or to court, and punishment would be swiftly doled out. In the Mid-Manhattan model, which the Newsom administration has decided to re-create, punishment for sleeping is cleaning the sidewalk in front of the world’s largest corporate headquarters.
The court would focus on status crimes, i.e., those activities that are unavoidable for people who are poor and living on the streets. Though disguised as a more compassionate approach to “quality of life” issues, this court will only deepen the cycle of incarceration and homelessness: No amount of punishment can ever succeed in lifting people out of poverty.
Already, over $6,000,000 in public funds has been spent to issue 34,000 so-called “quality of life” citations under the Newsom administration. According to Juan Prada, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, “It is outrageous that while violent crime is on the rise, the Newsom administration is prioritizing the use of the police and the criminal justice system to further persecute homeless people. Instead of repackaging failed policies that criminalize poor people, the Mayor needs to work on permanent solutions such as affordable housing, increased social services, and community-based crime prevention strategies.”
The City’s recent homeless count, released March 28, showed a 2% increase in homelessness. The Coalition on Homelessness tracked an average of 49 turnaways from shelters a day in February. There is a wait list of over 54,000 households for public housing and subsidized housing at the San Francisco Housing Authority, and lengthy wait lists for residential substance abuse treatment.