[Hpn] WELCOME TO MATRIX 2000 - by COH staff

Coalition on Homelessness, SF coh@sfo.com
Sun, 23 Apr 2000 16:58:27 -0700

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In the course of his inhumane efforts to drive homeless and 
low-income people out of San Francisco, Mayor Willie Brown held last 
year's city budget hostage until it included $250,000 for the City 
Attorney to prosecute so-called "quality of life" infractions in 
traffic court. This is yet another attempt by the Mayor to 
criminalize what homeless people have to do in public by initiating 
another round of prosecutions. SOLUTIONS, NOT PERSECUTIONS should be 
our goal.

More often than not, these petty citations are just another tool to 
further de-humanize homeless people. The stepped-up effort to 
prosecute the "crimes" of sleeping in a doorway and sitting on the 
sidewalk leave little doubt that another round of civil rights 
violations and blatant harassment of homeless people has been set in 
motion. Welcome to Matrix 2000, compliments of a misguided and cruel 
attempt by the Mayor to further turn the screws on those who can 
least afford to pay $76 per citation. We spend more money on a 
program that will do nothing more than land homeless people in jail 
instead of the housing that they need.

One of the most blatant violations of this mean-spirited program is 
that even though there will be a City Prosecutor in court, there will 
be no representation provided for the accused - another case of 
justice only for the few.

What a waste of precious resources, especially when there are so many 
meaningful ways that the Mayor could have directed this funding to 
make sustainable positive differences in the lives of homeless people 
living in San Francisco! Without permanent and affordable housing, 
treatment on demand, professional and substantial health care, and 
jobs that pay livable wages, these pointless attempts to treat social 
problems as criminal justice problems will only waste taxpayers' 
money and inflict more misery on those of us who can least afford it.

How unfortunate that our elected officials cannot, or will not, learn 
this important and valuable lesson of life.

Some points to consider:

o In 1999, the SFPD gave out a record total of 23,871 citations for 
sleeping, sitting, drinking and urinating in public. In 1999, a 
record number of 183 homeless people died on the streets of San 

o In 1999, SFPD issued 1,661 tickets for camping and sleeping in the 
park. These tickets were written even though there are currently only 
1,500 emergency shelter beds available in the entire City, for an 
estimated 15,000 homeless residents. Over 90 families are still on a 
waiting list for emergency shelter.

o In 1999, there were 17,651 tickets written for drinking in public 
offenses. There are currently between 1,200 and 1,400 people on 
waiting lists for substance abuse programs.

o In 1999, there were 2,698 tickets for trespassing, which includes 
sleeping in doorways. The monthly welfare grant for single adults 
ranges between $294 to $364, well below the cost of an SRO hotel room 
(average $450 a month) or a studio apartment (average $950 per 
month). Only 3% of homeless people surveyed by the San Francisco Task 
Force in 1989 said they wished to remain on the streets, and didn't 
want permanent housing.


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