We went out on outreach this afternoon to check in with folks. Last night two residents of encampments in the Mission were shot to death. There was still blood on the sidewalk this afternoon. Folks living in the encampment were really shaken up about this.
I know Tennessee from outreach, but I’m not sure yet which woman named Lindsay was killed. Tennessee was on Division last winter and got targeted by the sweeps that took place there. More recently I spoke with him over behind Best Buy and the SPCA, but that location has recently been cleared too… hence the reason he was over on 16th.
We spoke with a man who lives next to the encampment where the people were murdered last night. We spoke for a while… or better yet, I listened. He was talking about how people are traumatized and processing the murder of their neighbors. He was talking about how people don’t see the humanity of people forced to live on the street. He spoke for some time about it and I was captivated by how he was talking about it. It was beautiful how he spoke about the importance of caring for our fellow human beings and the importance of seeing the humanity of others. He was talking about how homelessness isn’t a choice and that these days a lot of people are at risk of falling into homelessness and they don’t realize they could be in the situation of those they are shunning. He said some walk by the people living in encampments and all they see is trash, and they are not seeing human beings… not seeing people with families… not seeing people who are suffering.
There was concern about the changes to the Navigation Center. The model recently changed from the exit being housing, to now having a time limit of 30 days (maybe 60 for some). After only 30 days the likely discharge plan will be back to the street. After the City clears and encampment they are going to community meetings and telling people to call the non-emergency police line and report the re-encampment. Where are people to go? One man spoke to me about how traumatizing this is. The lack of stability wears people down…. they begin to lose hope.
We made our way to other encampments and folks were really shaken up there too. These murders are having a big impact on people… they are traumatized. One woman expressed concern over how this is impacting their community… how they continue to get targeted… and she is extremely concerned for the safety of the youth she keeps an eye on down there lately.
Again I will say… homelessness is not a “choice”. The folks living in the encampments are not “service resistant”… there isn’t adequate housing.
Along with outreach today, I was also working on organizing for the Annual Interfaith Memorial for the people who have died on our streets this past year. I mentioned the memorial to some folks in the encampments and they were really glad to hear about it and want to attend. When living in constant crisis a memorial isn’t always easy to come by. I will make sure Tennessee and Lindsay’s names are read at the memorial.