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San Francisco Doesn’t Need a New Jail

California’s prison and jail crisis continues to draw international attention as the state with the highest number of people living in cages has been found guilty of cruel and unusual punishment. The United States Supreme Court has ordered Governor Jerry Brown to reduce California’s prison population by tens of thousands by the end of 2013. Many of those effected come from our poorest communities, including people of color, communities experiencing high levels of unemployment and homelessness, and those already experiencing mental health and addiction challenges.

In response to this ruling, many of California’s prisoners are being transferred to local jurisdictions which research shows are better equipped to respond to rehabilitation needs since they are closer to inmates home communities and support networks. Rehabilitation can really only happen where support and resources exist. Continue reading

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Palo Alto’s Vehicle Habitation Ordinance

Bad Policy – But not a reflection of the whole community

As reported in an earlier issue of STREET SHEET, the Palo Alto City Council, on August 5th, approved an ordinance making it illegal to live in a vehicle. When such legislation is passed, it’s easy to paint an entire community as biased and mean-spirited. This isn’t always the case as the following E-mail exchange between two Palo Alto residents clearly illustrates.

On Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM, Brian Good wrote: 

Back in the 70s a friend of mine lived in a low-rent rooming house in North Palo Alto because that’s what he could afford on his pay as a janitor.  I’m not sure if the house is still standing, but I saw one recently that might have been it offered for sale at $2.4 million.

For 40 years, the City Council has aggressively pursued policies to facilitate kicking low-income people out of rooming houses so that rich people can occupy multi-million dollar homes. The agents who are offering this property are college-educated, and have skills that might allow them to help make the world a better place. Instead, aided by the Palo Alto City Council, they are engaged in the trivial pursuit of providing nicer housing to rich people who already have nice housing.

We’ve all heard about the Greatest Generation, that fought the Nazis and made the USA great. I’m disgusted with my generation, the S**ttiest Generation, with its lazy cynicism and selfishness that has made this crumbling world the way it is. Continue reading

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The City I Cannot Leave

by Nancy Hom

I cannot leave San Francisco;
my roots have spread too wide and deep.
From the fog-capped hills of Twin Peaks
to the grit of Market Street, I have
seeped into every crevice of the city.

I have joined the fools and dreamers
ho love mango walls and red satin shoes.
Naked and tattooed, or in leather and lace,
from Fillmore to Folsom, they kick their feet,
drenched in blues, swaying to sexy sax,
blowing poems into the velvet night.

I have been seduced by the Mission:
its mariachis, murals, and myriad cultures.
Guadalupe and Buddha, Santana and
Sandinistas side by side on Valencia Street.
Balmy alleys bursting with color,
Carnaval sequins sparkling in the sun.

I cannot leave Manilatown where
bonds were forged in common battle
for dignity and a place to call home.
Where Al Robles and Bill Sorro’s spirits
roam the halls of SROs to remind us
to savor the smell of fish and bagoong
and never forget the taste of the sea
from which we came.

I cannot leave Chinatown with its huddles
of Toisan elders in Portsmouth Square
bent over chess, pink plastic bags in hand.
The erhu’s shrill lament on Grant Avenue
of villages left behind. The clack of
mahjong tiles and the clang of dishes
as waiters and gamblers curse
in the backrooms of restaurants.

I am that waiter’s daughter, that gambler’s
niece. I am that dancer, that painter,
that weaver of words. I am the fighter,
the holder of grief, the bearer of songs.
I will be here when the winds whip down
and the sidewalk’s soaked with heavy rains.
I will be here where the mud is deep
and the trees are bent by sudden storm.
The roads are pitted; the climb is high;
but the view is vast in the city I cannot leave.

© Nancy Hom 2012

First published in NamJai: A Tribute to Bay Area API Poets,

The ReWrite 2013

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Sustainability: jobs versus homelessness

Sustainability: jobs versus homelessness.

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Homeless and Poor People Targeted Again

Supervisor Carmen Chu’s Hate Law banning parking of large vehicles (RV’s, Campers, etc.) sailed through the Board of Supervisors with only 4 members, John Avalos, Jane Kim, David Campos and Christina Olague, standing up for the rights of people who have lost so much already.

Read the complete story in the next issue of Street Sheet, October 1st.

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A New San Francisco Financial Frontier

By: carol harvey

Shortly after Sept. 17, 2011, when Occupy Wall Street launched in Manhattan, Brian McKeown, a small-business owner and entrepreneur, joined San Francisco occupiers at 101 Market St. at the doorstep of San Francisco’s Federal Reserve Bank. Shortly thereafter, he occupied Bradley Manning Plaza – officially Justin Herman Plaza – for two months where he began devising a plan to right the economic wrongs and social inequities wrought by the 1 percent. Continue reading

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Police and CHP Sweep Homeless Camp Near Cal Train Station

Early last week, the Coalition on Homelessness learned of the planned sweep of a homeless camp near the Cal Train station at 4th and King.

Tucked beneath an overpass on the 280 Freeway just east of the Sixth Street ramps, the residents of this community of around 40 people have lived peacefully alongside their housed neighbors for years. The camp consisted of approximately 15 tents, several mobile structures, and a few cars and other vehicles. The encampment was located near Cal Train’s northern terminus and the inbound terminus of the N-Judah line only two blocks from AT&T Park; tens of thousands of visitors and commuters have passed by or over daily without giving it much thought. That’s exactly how the folks living there wanted it. Continue reading

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Stop the Destruction: Park Merced

By the Park Merced Action Coalition

On Monday, July 11, at 11am, San Francisco residents, San Francisco Tomorrow, Parkmerced Action Coalition, their attorney Stuart Flashman and members of the Board of Supervisors rallied on the steps of City Hall to call attention to the Board of Supervisors’ approval of a plan to demolish their rent-controlled community. They released the following statement:

Learning from history, social fabric and neighborhoods can evolve organically for the betterment of San Francisco rather than calling for wholesale demolition with short-sighted economic benefits—particularly when true infill development alternatives would be both feasible and profitable.

In order to stop the destruction of one of San Francisco’s few multi-ethnic, multi-generational, and family neighborhoods, San Francisco Tomorrow (SFT) and the Park Merced Action Coalition (PMAC) have filed a lawsuit against the City for its June 9th approval of the Parkmerced Development Project.

The Final Environment Impact Report (FEIR) for the Parkmerced Project is inaccurate and inadequate.  If allowed to continue as approved, the project will destroy 1,538 units of affordable, rent-controlled housing, adversely affect the environment and well being of those living, working, and playing in the region.  In addition, the suit points to the project’s inconsistency with priority policies enacted by San Francisco voters in Proposition M as well as other inconsistencies with the City’s general plan and violation of the City’s Sunshine Ordinance.

The lawsuit calls for the court to set aside the project approvals until the Park Merced Project complies with the California Environmental Quality Act and the City’s general plan policies.


· Demolition of 1,538 seismically sound rent-controlled townhouses and their surrounding gardens.

· Not addressing livability issues associated with the 20- 30 year demolition and construction project, including: noise, air quality, and loss of open space.  The Project’s findings DO NOT MEET legal air quality standards.

· Failing to assess the seismic impact of the existing towers, nor providing for their retrofits and upgrades.  Additionally, no provisions exist for loss of open space and other unavoidable adverse impacts for tower residents.

· Slaughter of migrating birds by the Project’s shoreline windmills, and a general refusal to look at alternatives that could avoid the Project’s many impacts.

· The faulty reference to development as a “transit village”, since no third party assurances or funding sources are identified for transit and related work.  The addition of 6,342 parking places also contradicts the concept of a transit village.

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Study Shows High Death Disparity Among Homeless

By Healthy Living News

A new study shows that homeless individuals, especially those suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, have a death rate significantly higher and a life expectancy that is significantly shorter than those with homes. The study, recently published in the journal The Lancet, collected data on people in homeless shelters using Denmark’s nationwide homeless registry. The data consisted of 32,711 homeless people, aged 16 years and up, who where homeless between 1999 and 2009.

To determine the rate of death and life expectancy, researchers separated the homeless registry data into several groups. These included those with psychiatric disorders, those with a history of substance abuse, those with a dual diagnosis of both, and those who had no such diagnosis.

Researchers then compared their rate of death, or mortality, to that of the general population. They discovered that for those homeless, the rate of death was 6.7 times higher for women and 5.6 times higher for men. The group with substance abuse disorders had the highest mortality of any of the homeless groups, followed by those with a dual diagnosis. Information on the causes of death, when available, showed that suicide and violence accounted for more than a quarter of them.

”There was a larger disparity in life expectancy between the homeless shelter population and the general population than previous studies have found,” said study author, Dr. Sandra Nielsen.

The study also revealed that homelessness can cut short lives for those who are still young. For those homeless, age 15-24 years, their estimated life expectancy was, respectively, 21 and 17 years lower than men and women in the general population.

Regardless of age, however, Dr. Nielsen said that the death disparity confirms that homeless people living in shelters constitute a high-risk, marginalized population whose physical and mental health needs require more attention.

In an accompanying commentary in The Lancet, Professor John Geddes and Dr. Seena Fazel of Oxford University wrote that more work needs to be done to end death disparities among the homeless. That includes improved integrated psychiatric and substance abuse treatment to better address the problem.

Another concern regarding the study was its country of origin. Denmark provides free health care and a substantial social-service and housing support infrastructure. These should be helping alleviate death disparities among the homeless.

The Lancet commentary also pointed out potential cross-border differences in data. 
”International comparison of studies of homelessness,” it noted…”is made harder by the different social and housing systems between developing and more developed countries, and between small well-organized and highly socially integrated Nordic countries and larger more heterogeneous countries such as the USA.”

The commentary added that the situation is likely to be worse in countries with less well-organized welfare systems.

And fixing the death disparity problem for the homeless is now even a more daunting challenge. The crash in housing markets and the recent recession has increased homelessness in the U.S. and Europe, all while social services are being cut due to severe government financial restrictions.

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Pain + Suffering= $$$ For Wells Fargo

Pain + Suffering= $$$ For Wells Fargo
Protests Launch National Prison Industry Divestment Campaign
By Lydia Heather Blumberg

On July 1st, protesters in community and labor groups nationwide will take to the streets in protest of the private prison industry’s business model of lobbying for harsher incarceration policies for drug users, immigrants, and other marginalized populations who are often scapegoated as being the origin of our nation’s problems. These policies have devastated state and federal budgets worldwide, forcing a slash and burn of the social safety nets that the poor and middle classes depend upon for survival. Protesters will call on Wells Fargo Bank to divest its holdings in GEO Group (one of the two largest private prison companies in the US that runs immigrant detention centers and Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp for the federal government) and CCA, Corrections Corporation of America. In addition, protesters will demand that Wells Fargo put a moratorium on foreclosures and stop the criminal lending practices targeting communities of color, as well as pay its fair share of local, state, and federal taxes.

Immigrant detention centers cost taxpayers over $10 billion a year while making big money for hedge fund managers and shareholders like Wells Fargo. Prison stock held by Wells Fargo alone is currently valued at over $88 million. The private prison industry and its investors have a long and shameful record of targeting and incarcerating communities of color by lobbying for legislation to enact “three strikes” laws, criminalize undocumented immigrants (through laws like SB1070 in Arizona and a similar bill in Georgia, home of the largest private prison in the nation), and increase sentencing standards for even the most minor drug offenses. Political candidates financed by these groups often run on a “tough on crime” platform. With CCA and GEO Group making $200 a night per immigrant detained, it all adds up to a profit of over $5 billion a year made just by these two companies–at the expense of taxpayers (and the destruction of the lives of thousands of families of those incarcerated.)

Even San Francisco has fallen prey to the financial manipulation of Wells Fargo and its policies of backing political campaigns that increase incarceration. Last August, The Bay Citizen reported that one of the largest contributions to the so-called “Civil Sidewalks” campaign was made by former Wells Fargo CEO and board chairman, Richard M. Kovacevich. The Civil Sidewalks campaign, backed by banks and big business, put Prop L on last year’s San Francisco ballot, which criminalized people for the simple act of sitting on a sidewalk.

The July 1st action is just one event in a long-term campaign for national prison industry divestment. The protest, sponsored by Communities United Against Violence, among other organizations, will feature a rally and street theater beginning at 11am in front of the Wells Fargo Bank at 464 California Street. Several similar-themed direct actions have happened over the past few months, including a protest in May at a Wells Fargo shareholders’ meeting and a Communities Rising rally on June 17th in front of City Hall. The rally on June 17 was sponsored by CURB (Californians United for a Responsible Budget) and the SF Drug Users’ Union to commemorate 40 years of Drug War failure, calling for an end to the failed War on Drugs and national divestment from the Prison Industrial Complex in order to fund education and health care.

Can’t make it to a rally? Slactivists far and wide can make their voices heard by moving their money from Wells Fargo accounts to local credit unions which invest in our communities. Want to learn more? Surf to immigrantsforsale.org and justicepolicy.org.