Sunday, August 06, 2017

Sit-lie vagrants and homelessness

Image: Joe Lust, 20, of Austin, Tex., Steven Grossman, 21, of Fort Collins, Colo., and Liz Mallion, 22, of Hawaii
Sit-lie practitioners: always dogs

Heather Knight in this morning's SF Chronicle:

Those opposite viewpoints are typical of how we discuss homelessness in San Francisco, and part of the reason it’s been such an intractable issue for so many years. We should either allow the down-on-their-luck residents of tent camps to do whatever they want, including chop up stolen bicycles and cook over open flames, or we should lock them all up in jail.

We should allow huge tents to block sidewalks and bike paths, or we should ban everybody from sitting or lying on sidewalks. (That last one really did, incredibly, pass muster with voters back in 2010, and look how effective it’s been. The sidewalks are entirely clear! Oh wait ...) Missing in this conversation is the complexity of solving an enormous societal problem and the complexity of homeless people themselves.

Like me Knight has been writing about homelessness in San Francisco for years, which makes her false description of the sit-lie issue of 2010 surprising. The sit-lie issue was always only about the vagrants---a subset of the homeless, to be sure---who slept in Golden Gate Park and then camped out during the day on the sidewalks of nearby Haight Street to panhandle for money to buy drugs and alcohol. 

The difference between the sit-lie folks and most of the homeless: the sit-lie vagrants weren't really looking for housing.

The issue was supposedly about a legal technicality, as described in the voters pamphlet:

The San Francisco Police Code includes laws that prohibit certain conduct on public sidewalks. It does not specifically prohibit sitting or lying on sidewalks. The Proposal: Proposition L would amend the Police Code to prohibit sitting or lying on a public sidewalk in San Francisco between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

But the vote on that proposition was really about arriving at a public consensus on what to do about it. Since city voters passed Proposition L overwhelmingly, the police had a mandate to put a stop to it, which has been successful.

Another Heather---Heather MacDonald---described the sit-lie issue with more accuracy before city voters rendered their verdict:

The homelessness industry instantly mobilized against the [sit-lie]Civil Sidewalks law. Its first tactic was to assimilate the gutter punks into the “homelessness” paradigm, so that they could be slotted into the industry’s road-tested narrative about the casualties of a heartless free-market economy. “Homelessness, at its core, is an economic issue,” intoned the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco’s most powerful homelessness advocacy group, in a report criticizing the proposed law. “People are homeless because they cannot afford rent"...

The outcome of the industry’s rebranding campaign—and of the Haight’s competing effort to restore order—will be known this November, when San Franciscans vote on the proposed sit-lie law. That vote will reveal whether San Francisco is ready to join the many other cities that view civilized public space as essential to urban life...

Fortunately, the people of San Francisco rejected the notion of branding the sit-lie vagrants on Haight Street as homeless victims of society and instead saw them as a public nuisance that had to be dealt with.

City progressives have always been delusional about homelessness: See The intellectual failure of SF's left from 2007. 

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At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Homeless in SF? Well the true homeless need places to live. In order: Women with children; families; single women; badly mentally ill; veterans and then single men who are not drug or drink addled. Honestly, all the rest I consider "street people", who in my experience living in soma cause 99% of the problems. They do not respect residential neighborhoods and the people living and working here. Street people will do anything to get their drug of choice. I neither believe their stories or the words of their advocates in the non-profit industry. There are no fewer than five rehab clinics in a 8 square block area from my apartment, yet there are those who do not avail themselves of those resources.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With self-driving cars coming soon, public transit will be obsolete. Places like BART stations can be converted into homeless shelters. Seems like it's already happening; why fight progress?


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