District 5, sit-lie, and the homeless
|Most sit-lie problems are in the Haight|
Calvin Welch has an unconvincing account (Stuck on dumb: A failure of SF homeless policy) of recent history in District 5:
This November will be fifth anniversary of the passage of the deeply controversial, at least in this neighborhood, Sit/Lie law, which made it a jailable offense to sit or lie on a public sidewalk. One month later the Recreation and Parks Commission voted to end some 30 years of operation of the HANC recycling center at Kezar Stadium. Both actions were sold by both the Gavin Newsom administration (chiefly, Recreation and Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg and Chief of Staff Steve Kawa) and the SF Chronicle (chiefly through the ranting of columnist CW Nevius) as effective measures to reduce homelessness in the Haight-Ashbury.
That's not the way I remember it. The sit-lie issue was about street punks occupying Haight Street, to the distress of small businesses, panhandling for drug and booze money during the day and at night sleeping in nearby Golden Gate Park. The street punks were/are a subset of the homeless population, but they're not really looking for housing; they're practicing a way of life.
It was/is mostly a Haight-Ashbury issue with Golden Gate Park nearby. The park has a chronic homeless problem, as a Grand Jury report (Golden Gate Park’s Homeless Population) told us a few years ago.
A report critical of the sit-lie ordinance admitted that neighborhood cops find the law helpful:
On one hand, beat cop officers at Park Station, where the most citations were issued, praise the ordinance and its efficacy at moving individuals along. As many Park Station officers attested, Sit/lie enables beat officers to enforce continual movement and mobility along sidewalks through the ordinance's permeating reputation, as well as through verbal and/or written warnings.
C.W. Nevius can be obnoxious when he's riding one of his hobby horses---his hounding of Mirkarimi was ugly---but he had a point about HANC's recycling center:
Residents have been upset about the facility for some time. The site is noisy and ugly, and seems dated. Recycling is done at the curb of nearly every house these days, so why does the neighborhood need a special site? But most of all, the residents were upset at the fact that the homeless campers in Golden Gate Park were raiding their recycling bins at night, loading up on cans and bottles, and turning them in for cash. It was, some said, a virtual ATM for those struggling with drug and alcohol addictions.
While the recycling center operated, there was a steady caravan of the homeless pushing shopping carts full of recyclables to the center in exchange for cash:
When Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi held a community meeting to discuss issues, the neighbors showed up and spoke up. They weren't angry, and they didn't deny that the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, which has run the site since 1974, has done good work. "It's a great organization whose time has passed," said Inner Sunset resident Jim Rinehart...For starters, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council is a long-standing, vociferous action group with clout. Last year HANC got a grant of $60,000 from the city Department of Environment. (In previous years it has been as much as $135,000.) HANC isn't going to let the place close without a fight.
Welch cites the 2015 homeless count:
The most recent Homeless Count includes some surprising results. For example in 2015, 73% of those counted were never in foster care, 71% of them were San Francisco residents before they became homeless, 61% are on the street because they can't afford San Francisco rent or pay for moving costs, 40% “don’t want government assistance,” 38% report that they are homeless because they lost their job or where evicted, 20% had some college or post-graduate education, and 11% were, in fact, employed.
Actually, the report tells us that these results weren't from polling all the homeless counted in 2015, but instead were from a survey of only 1,027 of 7,539 homeless people (page 27)---and the results of course represent only what the homeless themselves say about their plight, which is not necessarily a verifiable reality. Welch likes the results because it confirms progressive doctrine about homelessness being mostly about economic conditions, that people "can't afford San Francisco rent," not about drugs/alcohol or psychological problems that many of the homeless have.
Actually, the Haight/District 5 homeless problem (310) isn't particularly significant compared to District 6 (3,836), which includes the Tenderloin and downtown (page 24).
The city's homeless population numbers have been remarkably stable over the years: 6,248 in 2005 and 6,686 counted in 2015 (page 18).
According to a Chronicle story last year:
In the past 10 years, 11,362 homeless single adults have been housed. An additional 8,086 people have been sent home to a willing friend or family member through the Homeward Bound program, which pays for bus tickets out of San Francisco and back to their hometowns.
So why hasn't the city's homeless problem been solved by now?
Because San Francisco is not only a destination for tourists and techies; it's also a destination for the homeless, the marginal and soon-to-be homeless.
See also this.