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As you likely know already, San Francisco is a gigantic magnet. A huge horseshoe shaped lead apparatus that literally tears humans out of their communities around the world and sucks them into our wonderful warm and loving embrace. You have to have noticed.

After all, we have such a wonderful safety net here. World class. I mean people are traveling miles and miles just to get here so they can wait in line with 3,000 other people just to get a meal. A shelter bed is a breeze, too, all you have to do is stand in line starting around 8:00 pm and stand there all night until 7 am, where you’ll likely get turned away, and where you then wait in line for still more hours for the chance to get a wristband that entitles you to wait for hours again to see if you won a bed for one night, and then stay in that bed until you have to leave first thing in the morning only to start the whole process over again.

Our warm embrace includes a beautiful place to live as well, we don’t just have a gorgeous bridge, we have rents that exceed a $20 an hour full time workers salary after taxes, and only 40,000 households on the waitlist for affordable housing. A waitlist that hasn’t opened for years.

Now don’t start doubting me, everyone knows it is true. Our police are very friendly to people living outside. Our populace is friendly too. Our voters have only passed about, oh, 9 measures attacking the fundamental rights of impoverished people, and the police only have a dozen or so different laws they can use against folks to try to drive them out of town. Which doesn’t seem to work, because more just keep coming. Still they only give about 11,000 – 19,000 tickets to outdoor campers a year. That’s really not much considering.

And our public assistance! Wow! If you’re housed, you get almost as much as Marin County – a whopping $400 a month. Of course you have to work for it, but that $400 goes a super long way in San Francisco. Especially if you are using it to pay for housing. As a special bonus, if you are not housed, the city puts you up in a shelter and still gives you $2 a day to live on. How generous we are!

Of course, we try very hard to make it uncomfortable for people so they’ll go elsewhere. We absolutely have to have lots of laws against homeless people or even more will come. Even our Mayor says so. Or maybe we can end the arms race and get rid of all the laws in the entire city. Or maybe not, I’m just not sure.

Still it is a great place to come if you’re homeless.

Did you know there is an underground communication system homeless people use? It is called word of mouth. They call out to all the other homeless people, and they come running to San Francisco.

I know what you are thinking, too. It is not just old white men either, it’s black people, Latino people, disabled people, seniors, youth, families, all of them are being sucked out of their communities.

That is why our city can’t do anything more, because more will come.

You see poor people are able to just up and move anytime they want. They can move somewhere else where they don’t know anyone, where they don’t have a job or a place to live and just kind of live off the land so to speak. It’s a wonderful life. Even if you can’t get any sleep, and you’re cold, and desperate, and traumatized, and wet, and scorned by the citizenry, you have a special thing called freedom. Well not free to sit or lie or stand or anything, but still that rugged western individualism sure is cool.

Did you also know that every city in the United States is also a gigantic magnet? All these magnets are working at cross-purposes with each other, sucking people from one place to the other. If you saw an aerial photo of the United States you would see all this lateral movement – it’s the magnets at work.

Little known fact:

According to the San Francisco Mayor’s Homeless Count 2009 (the only time they asked the question, before learning better) only 1.3% of homeless respondents came to San Francisco for services. The overwhelming majority of homeless people were living in San Francisco when they became homeless. Only 12% came from elsewhere – but they came because they grew up here, had family here, had a job here or some other thing going on. They did not, for the most part, come for our fabulous summertime services!


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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