Criminalization of Their Mere Existence



Today has been a very wet and chilly day… I was drenched and walking around in wet shoes due to crosswalks being flooded.

I just called 311 and asked about getting an El Nino emergency shelter bed and they referred me to the Interfaith Winter Shelter… but it was after 8 PM when I called and they are limited to 100 beds so it’s probably already filled to capacity… especially in the rain. I asked if this was the City’s emergency resource during El Nino and she said there was a different El Nino protocol, but she’s not aware of that being open tonight. I asked what that protocol was and where the shelters were located, but she didn’t have that information. So far the emergency response has been 75 mats (total) on the floor of two of the City shelters for a couple nights… and this has just been within the last couple weeks or so.

So anyways… a friend of mine who lives over in the Castro posted about some sweeps taking place tonight… in the rain… in the cold… while shelter is very hard to come by. This is what he wrote about it…

“2 homeless people in a van are being harassed by SFPD in front of my house right now, and SFPD just chased 3 people in a dry tent off the sidewalk that they were NOT BLOCKING. WHERE IS THE COMPASSION? OUT OF A TENT AND INTO THE RAIN ON THREAT OF DPW TAKING THEIR TENT. DPW SHOULD DAMN WELL NOT BE SEIZING PRIVATE PROPERTY.”

“i want to scream about this from the mountaintops every time it happens. Say it loud and keep saying it until we win. I get SO FUCKING UPSET every time this happens. The cops know who i am and seem surprised that someone in a house with a tent next do it is NOT the person who called in the complaint. but WHY WOULD I? What kind of monster drives someone in a tent out into the rain?”

Thanks for having compassion Jim.

Stupid Bowl is around the corner and so sweeps are even more common than usual. I was thinking about something last night. The encampments under the freeways are experiencing sweeps on a daily basis and the City is putting up fences… and I constantly hear how these folks “don’t want help.”

The reality is that most of these folks are there because they are waiting in hope of getting into the Navigation Center. The Navigation Center is a cool program. It’s limited in that finding permanent housing to transition people to is a challenge… and it only has the capacity for 75 people, but it’s an excellent model.

But the least they could do with these folks who are waiting to get access to help, and during storms without emergency El Nino shelters, is not continue to increase the criminalization of their mere existence.


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