[Hpn] homeless people win a little money and some justice
Tue, 26 Dec 2000 15:12:31 -0700
SAN FRANCISCO'S STREET SHEET ONLINE EDITION
A PUBLICATION OF THE COALITION ON HOMELESSNESS, SAN FRANCISCO
JANUARY, 2001(!) EDITION
table of contents:
by chance martin
WINDS OF CHANGE
by chance martin
Consumers, Survivors and their Allies Shut Down SF Health Commission!
by Scott Clark & Nicholas Gattig
MISSION ROCK VICTORY!
by Adam Arms
HOMELESS YOUTH: YOUNG VOICES DEMANDING TO BE HEARD
by Kim McMillon
An Ode to Yes But (called response anticipation in the trade)
by Dr. Loren Mosher
TWO JACKS: A Salty Tale of the Anchor Outs
by Jeff Chase
JUST A THOUGHT
by Michael Red
******EDICION POPULAR EN ESPANOL**********
³Poverty pimping:² Los directores que se enriquecen de las personas
Una investigación de Raising Our Voices por T.J. Johnston, MaryAnne Greb,
Adrian Varnedoe, Michael Morgan, y Delfine Brody
CONTRIBUTORS AND EDITORIAL STAFF
Adam Arms, David Aquino, Paul Boden, Delphine Brody, Anthony Camel, Miguel
Carrera, Jeff Chase, Scott Clark, Nancy Esteva, Jennifer Friedenbach, fukiya
(the office dog), Angelique Gonzalez, Kathleen Gray, MaryAnne Greb, Jackie
Henderson, Bianca Henry, T.J. Johnston, Darren Lewis, Allison Lum, Mario
McCarthy, Kim McMillon, chance martin (the OTHER office dog), Joyce Miller,
Michael Morgan, Dr. Loren Mosher, Ruth Pleaner, Mara Raider, Rebeka
Rodriguez, Brian Russell, Naomi Szoke, Adam Clay Thompson, James Tracy,
Cecelia Valentine, Adrian Varnedoe, Mariana Viturro, Arnett Watson, Wildman,
John Wilson, L.S. Wilson
by chance martin
"Slaves, Let us not curse life!"
WHEW! What a month and a half this has been!
The reward for yrs truly has earned for all these recent manic efforts to
impinge upon John Q. Public's ever-narrowing aperture of conscious thought
is that my beloved boss man, Paul Boden (more affectionately known as
Bowzer), is making me take a vacation the first week of January.
When he broke this news to me (wisely waiting until after I had a couple of
beers), I immediately bargained, "so I can't be in the office between 9 and
5, right? RIGHT?"
Paul's reply? "you can be in the office whenever you want, you just can't
WORK here that week."
So now I'm supposed to hole up in my room in the crack-infested
project-based Section 8 building where I live with a laptop, a fridge full
of beer and a carton of cigarettes to write the great amerikkkan poverty
novel whenever I get two minutes of peace from all the characters who knock
on my door 24-7
The Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco (COH) was organized in 1987 to
garner the active participation of poor people on both the design and
critique of public policy and non-profit services that result in permanent
solutions to poverty. It is a unique organization in that the driving force
is low-income and homeless people, working in every aspect of the
organization, from the volunteers to the staff and leadership body.
Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415/346.3740 - voice
415/7755639 - fax
looking for matches -- RIGHT?
OK, I admit that I am aware of the fact that when someone doesn't remember
how to take an entire week away from work it means they should (they MUST)
do so immediately. Burn out is one phenomenon that truly is usually attended
by profound lack of insight on the part of the toasted party into his or her
own degree of crispiness. If I walked over to the corner of Turk and Hyde
Streets and asked the third person to happen along what I should do with a
week off, they would doubtlessly come up with a better plan than I could
What I really don't know a whole lot about is how to deal with unstructured
time. If it weren't for this gig at COH, I probably would have figured out
how to kill myself a long time ago. Or landed myself in jail. And while
working here requires a lot of devotion, it's never stays boring for long.
Sounds like an addiction to me.
My problem is that when the pace around here gets really grueling I get
totally locked in, I don't delegate tasks, and I won't admit defeat until
after I go through the inevitable mental melt down.
I actually took 12/24 off. My shadow didn't darken the office door all that
day. I DID come in on xmas day for two hours, but I only scanned the email
and then went back home to my reading, and then I actually visited with a
neighbor (one who isn't always out of matches). We had tea and watched
schmaltzy holiday TV programming. It felt a little like recovery. I might be
able to successfully slack off for a whole week after all.
And while all this is a bit more personal than I usually like to get, it's
by way of letting all you folks know that there is a sometimes vulnerable
creature lurking beneath this facade, and sometimes he needs your help.
The way you can all help me is: THIS IS A CALL FOR POETRY FOR THE NEXT
(02/01) STREET SHEET POETRY EDITION. Themes we are looking for include
poverty, homelessness, social justice, struggle, and revolution. Please send
your verse to me at this email, or to the address listed in this message's
tagline. Deadline is 1/20/01.
No, we won't pay anything, but you get some exposure.
My high point this month was getting to meet Claudia White (a listworker for
the Bay Area Activist list) face-to-face in our offices. She was in town for
a few days and came by to see our modest operation. She kept looking at all
the posters on our office wall and remarking how cool our office was. Then I
left the room and returned to find her sitting at my desk, checking out my
workstation. "There's good energy here," she said with a big smile.
Thanks Claudia. This is my life.
PS- this month's song lyrics are ones we all know by heart, which is why
it's important to remind ourselves. I also post song lyrics because I
stopped writing poetry myself after I read Rimbaud and realized he'd said
everything by age 19. Maybe I said that before somewhere.
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Johnny's in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I'm on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he's got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It's somethin' you did
God knows when
But you're doin' it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin' for a new friend
The man in the coon-skin cap
In the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten
Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin' that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone's tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D. A.
Look out kid
Don't matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don't try "No Doz"
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows
Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write braille
Get jailed, jump bail
Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You're gonna get hit
But users, cheaters
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin' for a new fool
Don't follow leaders
Watch the parkin' meters
Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don't steal, don't lift
Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don't wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don't wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don't work
'Cause the vandals took the handles
WINDS OF CHANGE
On a national level, this past year has been a fairly brutal re-education in
all the many reasons why over half of this country¹s potential electorate
stays at home on election day. Many think this is a pretty normal reaction
to the morbid levels of egoism and deceit that elections engender.
Perhaps it¹s seeing all the disregard for all the efforts that go into being
a part of the electoral process that creates all the anarchists, socialists,
Greens, and a growing number of non-aligned, disaffected and betrayed voters
everywhere who want to abolish government as we know it in favor of a more
direct expression of democracy. In light of the recent Bush/GOP/CIA/Supreme
Court Presidential electoral theft (eerily following the same playbook
documented in every rigged election that the U.S. has authored abroad since
the end of World War II) more people every day feel this no longer seems
like such an unreasonable goal. Indeed, it¹s a survival instinct.
Is there anyone left to articulate exactly what difference it makes to any
of the rest of us whether the balance of power lies with corporate-backed
gangsters from the Democratic party or corporate-backed gangsters from the
At the local level, one need look no farther than the recent District Six
Supervisor race to see San Francisco politics at its absolute lowest
possible common denominator of business and real estate soft-money sleaze
driving City Hall gangsterism and the power of the ballot when poor and
disenfranchised people are offered a clear choice between this status quo
and real change.
When community organizer and New College teacher Chris Daly announced that
he was running for the Supervisor¹s seat for District 6, where I both live
and work, I was stunned. My thoughts went along the lines of ³he¹s just a
KID, fer cryin¹ out loud!²
After I managed to process through this admittedly ageist reaction, it began
to become increasingly clear that he was the best possible choice for this
district. Chris and his volunteer staff ran an incredibly clean, POSITIVE,
grassroots campaign, and the campaign staff roster read like a directory of
every activist in town ‹ especially housing activists. Housing is the number
one issue in San Francisco today, and this neighborhood is one of the last
concentrations of low-income housing in the city. Chris has worked hard to
create and preserve safe, decent affordable housing, and helped protect the
rights of low-income tenants and homeless people the seven or so years I¹ve
known him. He is a seasoned grassroots organizer. And I must admit he¹s even
a better dart player than I am.
Chris Dittenhafer, da Mayor¹s sock puppet, would have been a disaster for
poor people and tenants in this neighborhood. The Polk Street Merchants¹
Association and the Council of District Merchants have distinguished
themselves as what can only be termed as hate groups, waging an effective
effort to ever-further criminalize homelessness in San Francisco. They¹ve
even worked to try to close the city¹s largest homeless shelter -
Multi-Service Center North, located at the corner of Polk and Geary -
because of the ³street people² this facility draws. And it¹s business and
real estate interests behind the recent efforts of the Brown administration
to ³redesign² San Francisco¹s homeless outreach programs into a Cite and
The quality-of-life rationale is that visible homelessness is bad for
business and property values, so they mount periodic attacks in the press
and public forums demonizing homeless people. These are the folks yelling at
politicians and editors and columnists and news crews that all homeless
people are crazy and dangerous, that they¹re all drug addicts and
alcoholics, that they are ³choosing² to pursue a ³criminal lifestyle.² As a
result, more and more San Francisco voters are being propagandized into the
belief that homelessness equates criminality.
And all for the almighty dollar.
San Franciscans who live in other neighborhoods are expected by the Brown
machine to see all this shit going on in our neighborhood, and have little
empathy when developers invade to raze an entire block, or two, or four.
They think people will be relieved to see another high-rise tourist hotel go
up (intended for people who don¹t live in SF) because tourism erases the
street life and ³nuisance crimes.² They assume people are oblivious to all
the seniors and disabled and working poor people who are displaced as a
result of the destruction of low-income housing.
This is the backdrop of a grassroots revolution that propelled Chris Daly
into office December 12.
Willie Brown¹s fast-talking party hacks even crafted a last-ditch spin
campaign to brand Chris Daly as a ³radical.² It was a pretty strong hit
piece, but Chris Dittenhafer would¹ve had to have a personality, or even a
personal opinion, surgically implanted before he would have been able to
convince us that he had any conviction on the issues important to us.
If prioritizing human needs above the almighty fucking dollar, and having
the political will and grassroots support to forward that agenda through to
policy makes someone ³radical,² then I truly pity officeholders who aren¹t.
People like Dittenhafer and the Brown machine use the word ³radical² where
we say ³passionate.² The threat of a pro-business and development Brown
puppet representing District 6 rallied over 80% of the vote behind Chris
Daly. Guess you could say that after 5 years of Willie Brown¹s lies our eyes
were wide open.
Chris Daly¹s success wasn¹t very mysterious, or ³radical.² 80% of District 6
voters are renters, and District 6 has the lowest per-capita income in San
Francisco. Volunteers from the Daly campaign phone banked, walked precincts
and knocked on voter¹s doors all over the district. There¹s more people
every day who have become fed up with Willie Brown and his sleazy political
machine selling the ground beneath people¹s very feet to his corporate
cronies to develop for tourists and dot.coms. And lots of them are talking
like they want to fight back.
I sure hope so.
Ralph Nader remarked at a meeting a couple of months ago that ³The
definition of greed is infinity.² He wasn¹t joking, and I think his
statement goes a long way in explaining why, in the midst of this boom
economy, pro-business groups are continually demonizing and persecuting
homeless people in the interests of future gains and enhanced property
The winds of change are stirring in this neighborhood. And last Tuesday,
they rose up to blow down Mayor Brown¹s house of cards.
Consumers, Survivors and their Allies Shut Down SF Health Commission!
Peripherally appropriate to the rushing gravity of the usual holiday season,
the event that took place in City Hall Park on Tuesday, December 12 (also
known, this voting season, as runoff day) was a family-style grand magnitude
of planning, stressing, emoting, and then finally getting on with the
business at hand (rather than the speculations).
It¹s too bad we couldn¹t have combined the spectacle of it all with some
other unique San Francisco engagement, such as the lighting of the Macy¹s
tree, or maybe burning it down. Not that anyone would want to publicly
advocate such strange holiday enjoyments too directly. It¹s only mentioned
as a possibility during any celebration, no matter the nature; perhaps for
allowing more of the available masses to get and/or stay involved. A
metaphorical enticement, but also a reference that induces the general air
of the planning sessions for this action.
The business at hand is the defense of human beings ‹ from the police, and
from the city government, and NOT from themselves, as those two entities
would have you believe.
Big knowledge (or a small sound bite, whatever, so long as you remember it):
Homeless people in the streets of San Francisco sometimes display ³bizarre
behavior.² Obviously, many of these people are suffering from emotional or
mental crises. And just like many of us, they will probably need appropriate
treatment as soon as possible. In fact, most of the homeless people
displaying bizarre behavior think so too. It¹s just the Mayor¹s Office, the
Health Department, and the SFPD who beg to differ.
Mayor Brown and DPH have repeatedly been proposing drastic cuts to San
Francisco¹s mental health system while the SFPD refuses to implement Police
Crisis Intervention, a training program aimed at teaching officers how to
treat mentally ill people with the respect and dignity any human being
deserves. The results of this negligence: In 1999, 50% of those seeking
mental treatment in San Francisco never received it, while mentally ill
people have been continuously brutalized by police officers or simply locked
away in jails and hospitals. Apparently, this is precisely the kind of
treatment that our mayor, the health department, and the cops in charge deem
fit for people whom they must consider subhuman freaks, and thus unworthy of
The way this society treats its less privileged members tells a lot about
it. Especially considering the fact that the funds for treatment are
perfectly available in this town. The city by the bay currently has a
surplus of $21 million in its budget; a sum that Mayor Willie Brown prefers
to save for ³a rainy day².
The SFPD received funding for the Police Crisis Intervention program last
year, but they still haven¹t followed through in implementing such a
program. Part of the funding was actually used for shooting practice. No,
they¹re not particularly subtle about their priorities. As with so many
other things gone awry in local and national politics, the first step to
improve the terrible injustices in mental health services is to keep things
from getting even worse, before constructive measures can be taken. Of
course, public outrage will hardly ever succeed to instill a true sense of
moral conscience in the people responsible for these distorted policies.
However, we can still call them on their shit.
On Tuesday, at 2pm, over 100 activists, citizens, and mental health
consumers and survivors gathered to protest the City¹s treatment of mentally
ill people, raise awareness for these people¹s voiceless suffering, and
ultimately put pressure on the machine that could make a difference if it
cared to. Besides requiring the SFPD to finally implement the Police Crisis
Intervention Training, the speakers also demanded no further expansion of
involuntary outpatient commitment laws, as well as consumer-directed mental
health treatment on demand.
Organized by the Coalition on Homelessness and endorsed by many advocacy and
activist groups, the hour-long event featured guest speakers, musicians, and
a brief skit performed by an amateur Guerrilla Theater acting group. Food,
chant sheets, and undaunted enthusiasm for the cause were complimentary.
Crowning this political protest, however, was the following bum-rush (no pun
intended) of the Health Commission¹s meeting at 101 Grove Street.
The Health Commission is the governing body for San Francisco¹s Health
Department, and makes decisions as to how much money is being allotted for
certain purposes. Busting into this well-groomed, yet utterly ineffective
political puppet show, and shouting the board¹s numerous violations of basic
human rights straight in their faces was not only an empowering First
Amendment exercise, but also a powerful reminder to the Health Commission
that there are watchdogs monitoring their political chicaneries.
For the purpose of exploring the smooth functioning of orchestrated anarchy,
it is always good to know that there are plenty of other organizations
involved. In case any repercussions of the final activities result in one or
more members of the process being held liable, the entirety of the composite
structure, if the planning is properly adhered to as well as thought out,
becomes the responsible agent. In other words all repercussions generally
will apply to each individual involved, evenly and across the board.
Institutionalized democracy should work this well. But the purpose wasn¹t to
rant about bad/good government. This was a protest against impending law
changes and lack of program implementations, and general
severe-shock-to-the-system kind of cuts in the local arena of mental and
physical health. Suffice it to say, for now, that if ³the other Government²
functioned as it was intended to function, there would have been a lot fewer
people getting sick from the beginning.
On the subject of involving people (and organizations) in the process, for
our immediate purposes, there were several stages to this process. First,
the Substance Abuse Mental Health (SAMH) workgroup of the Coalition on
Homelessness, in conjunction with some members of other groups and agencies,
worked out the parameters of the planning. This resulted in a series of
weekly meetings, which started way back in late October. Eventually these
weekly sessions brought together all of the significant schemers who
instigated the general havoc that was wreaked upon the Health Commision this
A seven-by-ten foot banner declared our purpose: ³Resist The Criminalization
Of Mental Illness!² The crowd gathered into a mass within a few minutes of
the starting time. The afternoon sunshine did us the service of staying
situated between the occasional clouds (or vice-versa, for the sake of
correct astronomy), and doing quite a theatrical job of backlighting the
aforementioned banner. Many worries from the week before about getting
rained on were finally put to rest, which is always a good sign.
Leading the rally was MC L.S. Wilson, who announced speakers and
performances, starting with Lewis Jordan and Carl, two musicians on
saxophone and drums, followed by the Guerrilla Theater. The rather
unrehearsed but dedicated actors performed a skit about the dilemma many
mentally ill homeless people are facing. Out on the streets, they are
subject to mistreatment by cops who mostly see them as crazy and dangerous
misfits. However, if they turn to hospitals to seek treatment, they will
probably experience an indifferent bureaucracy that either turns them away
or conveniently drugs up homeless people they don¹t want to deal with. A
good example for this terrible Catch-22 is the case of Silano Sivano, a
47-year-old Latino who was shot by police in 1997, after he had been denied
mental health treatment for paranoia at five different programs in San
Francisco. Police claim Mr. Sivano was killed after firing a shotgun
himself, although said gun was reportedly never found. Tragic ³accidents²
like this will happen again and again while the SFPD keeps stalling to
appropriately train its officers, and Willie Brown sits on an obscene budget
surplus, leisurely waiting for that rainy day.
It¹s pouring cats and dogs, Mr. Mayor!!!
More speakers at the rally, like Carol Patterson from the Independent Living
Resource Center and Sally Zinman from the California Network of Mental
Health Clients, spoke on the need for mental health treatment on demand and
the malpractice of forced treatment, manifested in so-called 5150¹s. A 5150
is an incident of a person involuntarily detained for 72 hours for
psychiatric evaluation. The problem is that, due to the involuntary,
emergency-based nature of 5150¹s, such a detention can be completely
counter-therapeutic. Hearing horror stories from people being traumatized or
mistreated during 5150¹s, many homeless people understandably lose trust in
the hospital system and become even more hesitant to ask for help.
The rally¹s program was rounded off by poignant spoken word pieces by
Tiny/Lisa Gray Garcia and Ken Moshesh from Poor Magazine, and a powerful
speech by Leroy Moore from the Disability Advocates for Minorities
Organization. Then, at 3pm, the hands-on part of the protest ensued.
Carrying signs and chanting slogans like ³Treatment, Not Jails², the whole
posse walked across the street and straight into the Health Commission¹s
bi-monthly meeting. Unhindered by the board and the cops, who demurely sat
through 20 minutes of unsparing indictment, speakers from the Coalition On
Homelessness repeated their demands, and administered a hefty moral
ass-whoopin¹ that would have made your mother proud. Great job, folks!
The crowd finally dispersed after a thirty-second silence commemorating the
180-plus homeless people that have died on San Francisco streets last year,
and further merry chanting of newly-worded Christmas carols (³On the first
day of Christmas, my city gave to me... one mayor who doesn¹t give a
damn!²). The Commission¹s meeting was postponed, much to the chagrin of its
members, who ³invested time and effort² in a farce that has long lost its
A follow-up meeting was held on December 20 to map out strategy for future
action. At the base of the activists¹ struggle is the knowledge that behind
every mentally ill homeless person there is a story, a history, and an
individual¹s right for humane treatment and help. Being denied these
fundamental rights is a fate we would wish on nobody on the Health
Commission, and not even on Willie Brown.
The City needs to stop talking about community-based treatment and start to
actually provide it. Any further ignoring of this issue would demonstrate a
callousness unworthy of creatures that so proudly consider themselves
Want to see mental health treatment on demand become a reality? Call Jenny
or L.S. at 415/346.3740 to find out how you can help.
Scott Clark & Nicholas Gattig
MISSION ROCK VICTORY!
S.F. Court Holds City and Shelter Provider Liable for Intentionally
Destroying Homeless People¹s Property During Mayor¹s Chaotic Closure of
Mission Rock Shelter
David beats Goliath in San Francisco Superior Court: on December 12 a group
of 10 homeless people received notice that they had won their suit against
the City and County of San Francisco and Community Awareness and Treatment
Services (CATS) for damages related to property rights violations. The City
and CATS committed these civil rights violations during the Mayor¹s poorly
coordinated shut-down of San Francisco¹s Mission Rock shelter in November,
SHUTTING DOWN ³THE ROCK²
The plaintiffs in this action were homeless San Francisco residents, each of
whom was a victim of the rushed effort to convert the Mission Rock Shelter,
San Francisco¹s largest homeless shelter, into a 5000-space parking lot for
Pacific Bell Park. As the September 1999 deadline for emptying the 600-bed
shelter approached, the City and CATS engaged in a deliberate and reckless
campaign of property destruction. As a result, while people were forced out
of Mission Rock¹s doors, their worldly belongings were thrown into Mission
Mission Rock ‹ which despite its squalid conditions had become essential to
housing San Francisco¹s homeless people since its establishment in early
1998 ‹ posed a major problem for the City as construction of the ballpark
neared completion. In order to please the San Francisco Giants and maximize
profits at the newly-constructed ballpark, the City had to shut down Mission
Rock and turn over the property to the team by September 15, 1999.
Inconveniently for Mayor Brown, that date fell less than two months prior to
a hotly contested mayoral election in which the voters of San Francisco
viewed homelessness as a central issue. Facing the potential negative
publicity associated with images of a mass exodus from Mission Rock on the
day of the turn over, Mayor Brown, George Smith, Director of the Mayor¹s
Office on Homelessness, David Lee, Director of Mission Rock, and others
acting on behalf of the City endeavored to reduce the population of Mission
Rock at every opportunity in advance of the closure. To this end, the
administrators at Mission Rock began ejecting residents for minor rule
violations, such as missing the curfew, and forced Mission Rock residents to
leave the shelter on short notice and without their property.
Each plaintiff was shut out of Mission Rock without being given an
opportunity to gather and remove all of his or her belongings. Many of the
plaintiffs believed at the time that they would nonetheless be able to
recover their property because the stated and posted property storage policy
at Mission Rock required Shelter officials to identify, tag, and store any
property left at Mission Rock for no less than 72 hours. Many plaintiffs
relied on this policy and believed that their belongings would be stored in
the Mission Rock storage trailer and that they would be able to retrieve
that property as long as they acted within 72 hours.
Each plaintiff made efforts to claim his or her belongings well within the
72 hour limit. Most returned the next day to retrieve their things.
Plaintiffs¹ efforts to recover their belongings resulted in further
misdirection and humiliation at the hands of Mission Rock staff. Mission
Rock¹s posted policy contained misleading and confusing information
regarding when one could retrieve personal belongings. Posted signage stated
³Revival times for personal belongings pulled are: 11:00 a.m. ‹ 11:00 a.m.
daily and 4:30 p.m. ‹ 5:00 p.m.² These almost indecipherable instructions
resulted in confusion regarding when and where one should attempt to recover
confiscated property. Also, despite their efforts, the plaintiffs all
ultimately discovered that the Shelter was systematically disregarding its
written policy and was instead discarding plaintiffs¹ property immediately
upon ejecting residents. In some instances, residents witnessed Shelter
staff picking through the property of ejected residents for valuables before
destroying everything else.
Besides the disrespect endured by plaintiffs, they suffered physical and
economic hardships due to the loss of medicines and other items necessary
for health and treatment, as well as clothing necessary for work or
employment training programs. Plaintiffs also experienced serious physical
discomfort as a result of the loss of undergarments, changes of clothes,
bedding, and warm wardrobe, and suffered the inconvenience of having to
replace identification cards or medical necessities. One plaintiff¹s
wheelchair and artificial leg were taken. Finally, the Shelter¹s unlawful
property disposal practices resulted in many plaintiffs losing
irreplaceable, invaluable sentimental items, such as family pictures and
personal letters. One man lost his mothers ashes.
The management of Mission Rock had a clear motive for destroying property.
The construction schedule for Pac Bell Park demanded that the Shelter¹s
several hundred residents ‹ and their belongings ‹ be removed by early
September. This task would be made simpler if the residents could be forced
to leave gradually, a few each day, rather than if they were all remaining
in September. This is exactly what happened. CATS¹ Program Statistics chart
which shows 271 clients sleeping at Mission Rock Shelter on August 31, 1999,
documents a forced, measured, daily exodus resulting in 35 people remaining
at the shelter two weeks later, on September 12, 1999. Near the end, it was
much easier to destroy the property and turn away former residents at the
gate, than to hold property and allow residents to return to retrieve it.
The plaintiffs relied on Mission Rock¹s management, including the City, to
provide a temporary home for themselves and their belongings. This
circumstance was unfortunate for both the plaintiffs and the City, but the
City chose to pursue this temporary shelter policy rather than providing
additional permanent low-income housing. The City and CATS also chose
expedience over respecting people¹s civil and human rights when closing down
The cases against the City and CATS took over one year to complete. The City
and CATS refused to discuss the matter out of court and were determined to
exhaust all legal and administrative procedures in an effort to let time
whittle away at the number of people bringing claims. In the past year, the
number of actual or potential plaintiffs dropped from over 70 showing
interest at the Coalition office in November and December 1999, to 40
bringing administrative claims in January 2000, to 15 bringing Small Claims
actions in the summer of 2000, to finally 10 winning on appeal in December
2000. At least one potential plaintiff died during the City¹s and CATS¹
stalling strategy. This is a typical tactic of the City¹s when homeless
people stand up for their rights. Stall, stall, stall and people will get
tired of fighting.
But the Mission Rock plaintiffs refused to go away. Fifteen won at their
Small Claims hearing in July and the ten plaintiffs who appeared won the
appeal brought by the City and CATS in San Francisco Superior Court on
October 4th and 5th. The final Superior Court decision was rendered December
7. The ten plaintiffs were each awarded a modest damages award. The
Coalition on Homelessness, which assisted plaintiffs with their small claims
cases and which represented plaintiffs at appeal, was awarded attorney¹s
At the appeal hearing, CATS¹ insurance company¹s lawyer attacked each of the
plaintiffs, accusing them of being unemployed substance abusers who didn¹t
own anything of value and who were just out to make a fast buck. The
plaintiffs, however, presented clear and compelling testimony and evidence
that substantiated their cases and refused to engage in the name-calling and
personal attacks brought on by defense counsel. In the end, the plaintiffs
proved their cases, the City and CATS did not present an ounce of evidence
or testimony to refute them, and the judge found the City and CATS liable
for tossing people¹s property.
³I don¹t care about how much I won,² said Willie G., when told he had won
his case. ³I¹m just glad that we won after fighting for our rights for over
a year. I¹m glad that the judge heard us and found CATS and the City guilty.
Just because they provide shelter doesn¹t give them the right to take our
things or treat us like animals.²
The City and CATS created an avoidable disaster down in China Basin and they
didn¹t want to deal with the consequences. But these plaintiffs stood
strong, dedicated themselves to ensuring justice was done, and ultimately
held CATS and the City accountable.
In addition to seeking damages through the legal process, the group of
plaintiffs is interested in changing shelter policy in San Francisco. The
group aims to expand and reorganize the City¹s shelter grievance process so
as to allow homeless people a voice in shelter policy critique and
implementation. Pushing for a monitoring committee to oversee shelters¹
operations and treatment of residents is one goal.
³I said my piece to the judge,² said Ernest L., ³and I¹m glad I did.² ³We
are people, and we¹re residents of San Francisco. We can¹t roll over and let
shelters treat us as less than human. And we want the City and CATS to know
that we don¹t want what happened to us to happen to the person who sleeps in
the cot after us.²
HOMELESS YOUTH: YOUNG VOICES DEMANDING TO BE HEARD
I don¹t consider myself as homeless! I am houseless, and believe me; it¹s a
bad situation to be in for a teenager. There¹s nothin¹ to do! And it¹s very
embarrassing.² These words, by a fourteen year old living in a San Francisco
shelter, are why YOUNG VOICES - SPEAK OUT ON POVERTY & HOMELESSNESS took
place on Saturday, December 2nd at Mission High School in San Francisco. The
event, which was mc¹d by Black Renaissance host and Bay TV reporter, Janice
Edwards, put a face on the issue of homeless children. Adults and children
stood in an auditorium and spoke from their hearts. Before an audience of
close to 200, Jewnbug, a homeless young woman, added her words to those of
homeless youth, educators, and concerned citizens. Each person spoke
eloquently about a subject that is tearing San Francisco apart-the issue of
homelessness, and the lack of affordable housing.
³Housing is a human right and we shouldn¹t have to fight for our basic
rights,² Jewnbug told the audience. ³Our society leads people to think that
they need material possessions to be successful. In this capitalistic
system, many are putting profits before people.²
Last July, several homeless advocates came together at the Coalition on
Homelessness on Turk Street, and decided to put homeless children first.
With that decision, Jackie Henderson, and Joyce Miller, (Family Rights and
Dignity); Jennifer Ferguson, (Hamilton Family Center); Mira Feess, (St.
Joseph¹s Village); Vicky Huey, (Homeless Children¹s Network); Kim McMillon
(Creative Arts Book Company); Kathleen Gray, John Wilson and Paul Boden,
(Coalition on Homelessness); Tiny, (Poor Magazine); Liza Grisales, (A Home
Away from Homelessness); Krea Gomez, (Homeless Prenatal); and Reverend
William Myers became YOUNG VOICES, a group of community organizers concerned
with the plight of homeless children and families. The goal of YOUNG VOICES
is to collaborate with the National Coalition for the Homeless to implement
a homeless curriculum in San Francisco that will help young people develop
tolerance, understanding, and compassion for children and families in need.
Already this curriculum is in 300 schools throughout the United States.
To understand how YOUNG VOICES came about, we¹d have to start at the
beginning, which was a small book published by Creative Arts Book Company
called Ivy: Tale of a Homeless Girl in San Francisco written by Summer
Brenner. As the publicist for Creative Arts Book Company, I thought, ³What
better way to publicize this book than by working with the San Francisco
Coalition on Homelessness?² Little did I know that what started out as a
publicity campaign for a book would translate into a movement for social
change. With the help of Paul Boden, and the support of Barbara Duffield,
the Director of Education for the National Coalition for the Homeless, YOUNG
VOICES gathered every Wednesday, beginning in July, to argue, plot, and plan
how we could put a face on the issue of homeless children. Young people from
Ms. Newman 8th grade class at St. Vincent de Paul, the Columbia Boys & Girls
Club, and local high school students worked to insure the success of YOUNG
VOICES. Businesses like Borders, McKesson, George Lithograph, Eller Media,
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Family & Children¹s Services, and
CB-Solutions.net, donated everything from billboards to website design to
support YOUNG VOICES.
However, our biggest challenge was bringing the school district, the mayor,
and city officials to the table. We needed the entire support of the City to
make this event happen. While the mayor never really came to the table, his
staff did, and in a big way. Debbie Alvarez, the director of the Mayor¹s
Department of Children, Youth and Their Families agreed to moderate the
event¹s panel discussion. Her first words were, ³I was 12 years old, and it
was 2 in the morning when we escaped our stepfather who had a butcher
knife.² She and her mother and brothers ran to a cousin¹s house where she
slept on the floor for two months. We all sat back in awe that this woman
could have the courage to speak about such a painful chapter in her life.
She made it real, and showed that homelessness comes in all colors, shapes
and sizes. Also, that a home, and your safety can be taken away at a
Alvarez moderated a panel that included Myron Howard-Johnson, and Mari,
members of the Youth Commission; Supervisor Tom Ammiano; Sandy Close, the
Director of Pacific News Services; George Smith, Director, Mayor¹s Office on
Homelessness; Toby Eastman, Homeless Children¹s Network; Jewnbug, and
homeless advocates. The theme of that panel was long-term solutions to
homelessness. One panelist questioned how the City could build million
dollar complexes, and yet be unable to create housing for homeless families.
Sandy Close suggested utilizing closed Catholic churches as possible housing
alternatives for homeless teens. Ammiano stated, ³There is a lack of
coordination out of the Mayor¹s Office. The local Homeless Board needs to be
empowered to do something, and then we will see results.²
What brought an immediacy to our work was the fact that the school district
recently loss $450,000 over a three year period in federal McKinney grant
funds for homeless children. Many reasons have been given for the loss, from
the grant being poorly written to the competitiveness of the grant funding
When YOUNG VOICES, asked the new Superintendent of Schools, Arlene Ackerman
what she intended to do about the problem, she stepped up to the plate.
Ackerman took money from the general fund to help handle the crisis, and
pledged support for YOUNG VOICES. She attended the conference, and spoke of
the importance of listening to what homeless youth had to say. Ackerman
also told the audience that she ³wants to do more than the district has done
in the past,² including putting together a model program to educate children
The need for that support was well-stated by Tiny, the editor of POOR
Magazine. Tiny was homeless with her mother beginning at the age of twelve.
³One of the reasons that I didn¹t go to school is all of our documents and
belongings that were required to get into school were thrown out in a hefty
bag by the marshals when we were evicted. The other thing is that the shame
which pervades the experience of kids about being poor and/or homeless. In a
lot of ways, the lies that I had to tell got too great.²
One of the most important things that came out of this event was that it¹s
time to stop the lies. The City of San Francisco has a huge problem.
Currently, there are about 2,800 homeless children in San Francisco every
day. Of those children almost 50% are ages 0-5. And yet, many of the public
officials and people that can make a difference are not responding fast
enough to this issue.
For many reasons, it¹s hard to count the exact number of homeless children.
Homelessness tends to be temporary. The number of homeless people is always
changing as some people find housing while new people become homeless. Based
on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Urban Institute estimates that 1.35
million children in America are homeless during a year¹s time, representing
39% of the overall homeless population.
In a City as beautiful and rich as San Francisco, each one of us has a duty
to make a difference in the lives of homeless youth. From big city
developers, corporations to socialites, everyone should ask themselves,
³What can I do to help homeless families find housing in San Francisco?² Do
we really want to lose our diversity, our humanity? Families that have lived
here for generations are having to leave because the rents are too high.
When will it stop? When are we going to say that no child or family should
An Ode to Yes But (called response anticipation in the trade)
Has a pill ever taught anyone to play the violin? Do prescription drugs, by
themselves, provide someone a place to live? Is the display of disturbed and
disturbing behavior a crime? Is being without a place to live a crime? Are
either diseases, as traditionally defined? That is, are there identifiable
pathologic somatic lesions, causal agents and blood or other types of tests
that can reliably diagnose ³mental illness² and homelessness? The answer to
all these questions is a resounding NO. Why then is disturbed and disturbing
behavior-especially when accompanied by homelessness- something that can be
forcibly treated by incarceration in hospitals (some would say
psycho-prisons) and drugged against the person¹s will?
Yes but Dr. Mosher, don¹t you know that ³mental illnesses² are brain
diseases that compromise functioning so that the person can¹t make his/her
own decisions? Yes but Dr. Mosher, don¹t you know that mental illness and
substance abuse cause homelessness?
Only infectious diseases have traditionally been isolated and treated to
protect society from their spread. Persons who have committed crimes may be
coerced into prison through well defined-and widely accepted- legal
The power and authority of two systems-the medical and legal-is being
applied to societal problems to create social diseases that allow individual
human rights to be violated by incarceration and forced drugging. Somehow
we¹ve gotten confused-public health and legal procedures are being applied
to these metaphorical diseases as if they were real. If well funded (mostly
by the drug companies) groups have their way it will soon be legal to send
the mind police into our homes (or on the street) to inject us, against our
will, with brain damaging tranquilizers. In case you missed it-this is
³medical treatment² for our own good! My contrarian view is that it is meant
to keep us out of our minds so we will remain out of sight. Eventually, if
all goes well, we will be mindless and no longer troublesome.
Yes but Dr. Mosher, don¹t you know that our new drugs are like ³silver
bullets² that fix the problem without adverse consequences? After all, they
need them, don¹t they?
So-called ³mental illnesses², substance abuse and homelessness are complex
social problems. They are ones that our affluent society seems unwilling to
grapple with in a thoughtful, logical and humane manner. Psychiatric
coercion, the solution we seem to have espoused, will only make the problems
more expensive (in dehumanization and dollar terms) without solving them. At
its core I believe this exercise of power is chosen so as to avoid
addressing the enormous gap between the haves and have-nots in our society.
Unfortunately, today¹s drug dominated psychiatry is a willing participant in
this great game of denial. After all, there are lots of profits to be made.
As a physician and psychiatrist I propose two remedies: make housing and
health care rights. Then, everyone who wants a place to live would have one
and those who voluntarily seek some form of medical treatment can get it.
Simple and non-utopian in concept (check out Scandinavia).
Yes but Dr. Mosher, don¹t you know that we can¹t afford housing and health
care as rights?
Yes but-Etc., etc., etc.
Dr. Loren Mosher
Free event *** San Francisco *** Friday, January 5, 2001 *** 7 pm
A Free Evening of Mad Pride!
The Movement for Human Rights & Alternatives in the "Mental Health System"
Loren Mosher, MD, Director
Soteria Associates -- San Diego, California
David Oaks, Director
Support Coalition International -- Eugene, Oregon
Psychiatrist Loren Mosher will address, "Biopsychiatric Ideology as
an Impediment to Recovery."
The currently fashionable myths explaining the "causes" of madness
are a powerful foe to the development of hope for those designated as
"mentally ill." If madness is construed as a genetically determined,
biochemically mediated, "brain disease" where is the place for
self-help, empowerment, and recovery in this scenario? Loren, a
30-plus year veteran of these ideological wars, will facilitate a
discussion focused on developing a strategy to deal with this
Psychiatric survivor David Oaks will address, "Resist the Rise of
For three decades, thousands of people labeled with psychiatric
disabilities have led an international social change movement to
challenge the "mental health system." Today, corporate psychiatry is
promoting more and more forced psychiatry, including involuntary
psychiatric drugging of people living in their own homes using court
orders. Once again, the California legislature will be a center of
the struggle to turn back this chemical crusade. Join the resistance!
Friday, January 5, 2001 *** 7 pm
ILWU Local 6 Union Hall
255 - 9th St. -- San Francisco, California
(Between Fulsom and Howard, three blocks south of Civic Center BART stop.)
Psychiatrist Loren Mosher pioneered the Soteria Project, a successful
non-drug, non-hospital residential alternative for persons newly
labeled as "psychotic." Dr. Mosher is former director of the National
Institute of Mental Health's Center for Studies of Schizophrenia. He
co-authored the popular book, "Community Mental Health," which
provides practical guidelines for community-based, non-coercive,
user-centered, recovery-oriented mental health systems. Soteria
Associates provides problem resolution oriented consultation to
individuals, families, programs and mental health systems. Dr. Mosher
recently gained national publicity when his public letter of
resignation from the American Psychiatric Association was covered in
David Oaks experienced involuntary psychiatric drugging while locked
up in psychiatric institutions in the 1970's. He has spent the last
quarter century resisting corporate psychiatry. David directs Support
Coalition International, which unites 100 groups in this movement. He
edits Dendron News.
Support Coalition International
454 Willamette, Suite 216
PO Box 11284
Eugene, OR 97440-3484 USA
web: http://www.MindFreedom.org e-mail: office@MindFreedom.org
phone: (541) 345-9106 toll free: 1-877-MAD-PRIDE
Co-sponsored by: Coalition on Homelessness
All are welcome to this free, wheelchair-accessible event. Bring a
friend! Please post.
TWO JACKS: A Salty Tale of the Anchor Outs
I came to the Bay looking for the two Jacks, Kerouac and London. Being
safely dead, it¹s not them I found, but the Aces, Kings, Queens and Jokers
otherwise known as anchor outs.
Welcome to Boomtown 2000, where journalism and history cannot explain the
changes on the waterfront. Me, my boat and Skipper the dog had to experience
it for ourselves. The old salt Brogan, a Massachusetts lobster fisherman
living on one of the few wood boats in Richmond City Marina, barks about how
modern yachting has become ³damn nonsense and regress, the final victory of
³Did you just say Œplastic¹?² I asked him.
His look said my fiberglass fantastic 28 year-old sailboat and me were part
of the problem.
Various journeys have taken me away from that East Bay dumping ground known
as the Richmond docks, where I rescued my 30-foot sloop Aliya, to a place I
have dreamed about all my life. The cold gray fall rains tell us men and
women bobbing on boats in Squatter¹s Bay that nature will give us enough
challenges to survival. I am, for instance, only writing this having been
finally chained to the writing table by my skifflessness.
The dinghy serves as landing craft, nautical SUV, and without it we must
depend on the kindness of friends, enemies and strangers for a row into
shore. The water is the ticket to the last free ride, still running despite
premature reports of its death. There are however, as always, threats to the
continued survival of the few ways of life not centering around what Brogan
calls ³money centered, chicken scratchin¹ culture of the caaahhhr.²
³Did you just say Œcar¹?² He glared beyond me, as we both watched the
inmates from the local prison hose a small schnauzer off its paws with high
pressure water they were using to clean the concrete Richmond docks.
The Bay is funny how it knocks you on your ass that way. This is my second
tour of duty here, this time luckily from the bayside. The first trip ended
when I said goodbye to my true love and all our shared dreams in the heart
of the Tenderloin, the belly of the landlubber beast. Our Volkswagen bus
blew up as I tried to deliver packages from the airport, and my boss told me
in front of the dead vehicle, ³maybe you just ain¹t set up for San Fran,
But that was ten years ago, and now I have a second chance. Though Ralph
Nader and some of my co-workers at the Denver Voice might think buying a
boat is the ultimate sell out, the obnoxiously rich and pathetically poor
live together on Squatter¹s Bay in relative peace. There are decrepit craft,
funky houseboats, circumnavigating ketches, and a gleaming white pleasure
craft the size of a destroyer riding the same waves. Our paradise, just a
long walk from the Tenderloin nightmare, is a different world. We are
transients, but there are no homeless people. Pelicans, seals, ducks and
people move through the water without too fine a respect for the details of
categories or society¹s laws.
They understand a higher force, which occasionally sentences the innocent
and the guilty alike to mysterious and watery death sentences. A guitarist
friend from the band Loverboy, swept off the stern of the Sea Major by a
rogue wave during a windless night, two miles offshore from Ocean Beach,
reminded me a few weeks ago in case I¹d forgotten...
Even on the cold and foggy skiffless morning I write this, the sea welcomes
every lost soul close to her borderless bosom. On dark, stormy and drunken
nights, or even calm days, she will take you into her depths too.
The threats to this way of life are real. One famous picture in Squatter¹s
Bay history shows a plan to build an elevated highway right off the
waterfront! Today, the big transformation is of the dot.commie kind, in the
form of giant new office buildings being built everywhere so close to shore.
The pixilated people are converting an old World War II hanger, cubiculating
their space over what used to be the artist¹s community. Brogan doesn¹t care
about any of that. He just wants to be sure that I know what I did wrong to
lose the skiff.
³I can¹t come to Squatter¹s Bay,² he tells me over the phone, like always.
He doesn¹t like it here, and anyway he has another message for me. ³I know
you said your bowline knot didn¹t come unhitched, but having the line part
because of chafing is a rookie mistake.²
³Thanks a lot for the compassion,² I answer. ³Maybe it wasn¹t chafing. Maybe
it was one of my enemies who cut the line of my skiff with a knife, in the
black of the new moon night.²
³You¹re a paranoid.²
Yes. He knows me well. But every time something really bad or good happens
on the water, I get superstitious. What did I do to earn that?
The gods of Squatter¹s Bay might one day make a man great, like the original
English 19th Century settler William Richardson himself. During the chaotic
period between Mexican and United States rule, Richardson became un Patron
Grande of Rancho del Sausalito, with cattle and ships, a log mill and a
large, loving family besides. But the gods can take it all away. His fleet
sank off the coast, his mill burnt down, and a lawyer named Throckmorton
gained control of the precious real estate after Richardson¹s death.
My ups and down in the last year haven¹t been that dramatic. Only half my
fleet is gone, and I have no land. We who choose to live on the water are
still around, despite threats and laws and proclamations. Greg Taylor led
the fight this summer against any attempt by the various Bay political
committees, who call boats ³bay fill,² to evict the water squatters. The
Squatter¹s Bay Regional Association¹s summer meeting was the final victory
of the boaters who like life away from the docks.
Seventeen proud anchor outs, craftspeople, boatworkers and artists, as well
as survivors on public assistance, stood up one after another to tell the
mayor and the harbormaster why they loved their life just the way it was.
The SBRA was missing its other members, the mayors of the surrounding towns,
and couldn¹t achieve a quorum. It was rumored that they were afraid to come
with so many citizens ready to do battle.
Even Brogan finally threw the hook of his wooden boat next to mine,
abandoning the comfortable civilization and electrical hook-ups of the
Richmond dock. ³Ah¹d like to thank ya out here in Squatty Bay for being
alright to me and my boat. Wouldn¹t change a thing if I was you,² he told
the lonely two officials in his Mass twang. He smiled and sat down to our
One of the oldest anchor outs, former Foreign Service diplomat and cab
driver Pablo Chase, has served as our first Poet Laureate since Kerouac
wrote On the Road nearby. He lives on the old wooden ketch Arjuna, and not
only writes but collects the manuscripts of many who have sailed through. He
rifles through his bookshelves, silver hair shining and blue eyes twinkling
amidst the dark volumes. ³Here¹s a poem by Boat Bart,² Pablo says, ³who
lived on a Chinese Junk in the 60¹s, when living was easy and berth rent was
$20 a month.²
And if has his way, he¹ll sell us down the river
To make room for the developers¹ greedy endeavor.
They¹ll swallow the waterfront and abate our boats
And build cute little condos on ferrocement floats.
And boardwalks and boutiques disguised as caboos
And have the gall to call them ³water-oriented uses.²
But what about the community, the way of life
That was there before they came with a knife
And cut out its heart and left it to bleed
And trampled its corpse to gratify their greed?
What of the Houseboaters, last of a breed,
Who have no use for mortgage or deed.
Who live by their wits or the craft of their hands.
Where will you banish them, to what alien lands?
Or do you think, when their boats are ³abated²
They¹ll vanish into the air-evaporated?
I know not what others may say, but as for me.
Give me Liberty-not Quiche or Brie.
And when they bring out the ³wherefores² and ³howsomevers²
It¹s time to break out the tar and feathers,
And show them how we deal with revenuers and regulators
And what fate awaits would-be abaters.
For in their zeal to protect the ³public trust,²
They forget one thing: the public is us.
They¹d sell us out our birthright for a pot of message.
And have us believe it¹s a benison and a blessage.
Well, I didn¹t just fall off a turnip truck,
So they can all go and take a flying...****
You get the idea. I think maybe Pablo and ³Boat Bart² are the same person.
There are hundreds of how-to books that could help you see the world from
the waterside. Marinas are often having lien sales of abandoned yachts, and
it¹s possible to pick up a seaworthy craft for $500. The legendary T.J.
Rockford sailed his famous Frisco Felluca down the coast of Mexico and on to
Hawaii, without an engine, or even rudder half the time. The hull was an old
ship¹s lifeboat he bought for $150. That¹s about all I can say about the
game right now because someone is yelling at me from a speeding boat.
And they¹re towing my lost skiff.
JUST A THOUGHT
There are many arguments and views regarding the causes of homelessness and
disenfranchisement. Most views incorporate the issues of mental health and
substance abuse. These are both pertinent and must be addressed, but these
are just two of a myriad of causes. My personal experience, which includes
both homelessness and substance abuse, also involves criminal justice and
the re-entry to the mainstream through parole from prison and county jail
after serving lengthy terms. This is what I offer as a view from the bottom,
despair, hopelessness, and the issues swirling beneath homelessness and
substance abuse ‹ the lack of resources.
There are commonalties among those of us who know that coming home from jail
or prison does not necessarily mean that you have a home to go to. In fact,
most times home means just getting out of jail. The problem therefore
becomes what are we to do now? Of course, there is the probation or parole
officer, and the demands that are placed upon us to perform under those
strict conditions. There are also the issues of substance abuse, mental
health, or family reunification, which all contribute to a lack of
self-esteem and shame that is associated with ³coming home.² Symptoms become
so numerous and varied that to recognize them, let alone to deal with them,
becomes seemingly insurmountable. For most of us we have no clue. It is
easier to continue on with what got us locked up in the first place. At
least in jail we have a place to lay down, food to eat, and something to do.
Finding the resources and identifying the what, where, and how of them, are
questions that clearly come to mind from my experience. The knowledge that
there actually were agencies, support groups, computer and job skill
workshops, programs, places, people, and things I could do now to break the
cycle of recidivism, and therefore homelessness, substance abuse and
self-destruction was empowering. The encouragement that I , until now, did
not have as a result of my ignorance came from finding these resources. It
took me far too long to find them. Had I known them, I certainly would have
breached the barrier that undermined my initial attempts at change. For the
most part I would have utilized them long before. Had there been more
resources, I would not have languished in the system again. It is different
for each of us. The timing, the reason, the effort, the ability, the
resources, and the willingness to do what is necessary are all different for
each of us. Beyond that there still must be the opportunity, the place, and
the care for any positive changes to take place.
There is a criterion that must be met. There is a procedure, unclear to me,
that must be followed, and with all that, there must not be judgements made
by those who take down this information. Their part in a proposition for
change must be. (i.e., you can do it, ask for help, and empower yourself.)
The stranger who tells me that I cannot and will not change is wrong. We
must know that too.
There must be a better way. There must be! Too many families are displaced
and torn apart by the lack of concern for those who are ³just coming home.²
These are the people who end up on welfare, SSI, homeless, on drink or/and
drugs, with ³mental health issues,² have physical health problems and wind
up committing some sort of crime to get by, and ultimately back to jail or
prison. There must be more resources available for these people, and they
must know that there are resources for them. It is our moral duty to
advocate for those who have little or no voice, and provide them an
opportunity to realize a better life than that of homelessness, jails,
institutions, and death.
My experiences in homelessness, substance abuse, and prison is not so
different from many of those who still languish in the gap of these
conditions and the resources to change them. Changing them takes effort and
with that effort, opportunities arise. I found that I did not have to do it
by myself, and that there were others, just like me, who did it, and wanted
to help me do it too. This road of change began with the willingness to do
so. It has brought me to Central City Hospitality House, a community based
non-profit agency in the Tenderloin where I am now a Job Counselor. (The
CCHH is part of the Homeless Employment Collaborative, which is comprised of
eleven agencies serving the homeless population in San Francisco. These
employment programs aim to provide valuable employment services for homeless
people re-entering the workforce.) I am now a part of a team of people who
provide the help needed for those who want to re-enter the job market, and
to reacquaint people with some of the skills they have forgotten. I teach a
job skill workshop which deals with resume writing, how to fill out job
applications, identifying and utilizing skills, and what it takes to get and
keep a job. We also have basic computer classes available for those
interested in learning. We have an employment resource center where you can
put your new-found computer skills to work as well as job searching over the
Internet. I must say that this experience is empowering and gives me faith
that change can take place. I am finding my way home this time for real.
There is not a day that goes by that I don¹t count my blessings because
where I am now is so different from where I came from. But it is nowhere
near where I have the potential to go. Again, I did not do this alone. I
needed and received help. Along the way to Hospitality House, there were
many that aided me in my quest in changing my condition and my circumstance,
but I had to ask for that help. I had to seek it out. That is what I am
doing now, helping others to find resources, change their circumstance, and
condition. I invite you to come and join us. Together we can make a
difference. We can do anything!
Please feel free to call Michael Red, Employment Counselor for Central City
Hospitality House, at (415) 749.2120.
Above all else we must be constantly conscious that this world is an
illusion. Coming to the conclusion that we are all oppressed peoples and
that we must organize in order that the most oppressed the starving woman
and child the man without shelter may speak to awaken their brothers and
sisters to truly express to them how foul the system is. That it is our duty
as human beings to not rest until injustice is put to its end.
With Christmas now within the week people walk the streets with the frenzy
of sharks that smell blood. The irony reaches a critical mass, as this is
the season of giving ‹ the hand full of days every year when you¹re supposed
to pretend to love everyone and that you¹re not competing for the same small
piece of cheese like starving rats. Even this attempt at community has been
completely soiled with consumerism. It¹s been turned from the family coming
together to celebrate the cycle of life, to intense crowds at malls people
scrambling after that last action figure, video game, dress shoes ‹ whatever
the latest hot item is. And after Christmas the winners and losers strut
their spoils, and shame for you if you ain¹t rollin fat after that.
More so amongst children than anywhere else exists a world in which many
hold possessions to be the measure of ones worth. Surely if you were doing
well you would have a Blam Co. product, little Jimmy doesn¹t have one! His
family must be a bunch of ³poor² people, taking advantage of the rest of us
hardworking folk and our glorious country, and its people like THEM who make
this country unsafe. We won¹t have to worry any more, not since George W.
has been enthroned to protect the democracy. With George W as our sacred,
holy, invincible guardian of peace, prosperity, and private ownership, we
can be assured that if we go to church on Sunday and work real hard (a few
masonic lodge meetings wouldn¹t hurt) we will get our fair share of the
american pie that our forefathers worked so hard for us to enjoy. We will
rest securely at night knowing that if we do not reach these impossible
goals there is something wrong with us... perhaps we have a thing for our
Because nothing could ever be wrong with the system. I mean government never
makes mistakes, they¹re professionals for christ¹s sake, they know what
there doing, we wouldn¹t put people in office if they didn¹t know what the
price of tea in china was... would we?
Awake! Rip away the cobwebs that have long been growing a mystic vines
covering your lines of sight pay attention to what matters lay the
trivialities of life to rest accept them and move on become part of another
world another life another mind another way of thought a realm of existence
where the impossible is possible where good can triumph over evil where
David slew Goliath not with rage but with patience and accuracy. Shunning
all fear as a foreign concept as foreign as our modern world is to love
respect honor and any other number of virtues that lay long in the dust
covered by cobwebs.
Join us: the people of planet earth who are no longer willing to take it
lying down. We who resist, we who insist that poverty is a tool of the
establishment. A byproduct of capitalism. A byproduct of private ownership.
A byproduct of a world in which restaurants poison their dumpsters full of
food while homeless woman and children are rained on starved and finally
left to freeze to death in the street because ³nothing is free² and you
couldn¹t work hard enough so you don¹t deserve to live and if you don¹t like
it and you try to do something about it, we have local police, sherriffs,
state police, highway patrol, SWAT teams, K-9 units, computers forensic
scientists, prison industrial complexes, FBI agents, CIA agents, secret
service, national guard, coast guard, marines, airforce, army, tanks,
artillery, battleships, submarines, helicopters, paratroopers, snipers,
landmines, rockets, missiles, lasers, machine guns, pistols, knives, gun
butts, billy clubs, pepper spray, tear gas, neutron bombs, atom bombs,
hydrogen bombs, whips, chains, hand grenades, poisonous gas, attorneys,
crooked judges, politicians, and a whole mafia. (which coincidentally YOU
had to pay for.)
And still we are not powerless to fight this behemoth - this conspiracy of
mutual self-interest, as John Green once said to me. We can organize, resist
and insist; we can show compassion for our enemies while they beat us over
the head and spray us in the face. We can love them, we can forgive them, we
can understand that they are brainwashed, blinded, hypnotized, drugged, lied
to, and prohibited from understanding the truth on their own. They are only
allowed to see it with the special red white and blue goggles, which,
strangely enough, you are never ever under any circumstance allowed to
tamper with, adjust in anyway, or - god forbid! - take off. Not only should
your peers reject you instantly if you do (as you should if they do) but it
is there duty to immediately report you to the proper authority who will
rescue through pain compliance before you succumb to any false delusions
about who¹s got the power and who gets paid by the hour.
In the first world¹s constant fight for more gentrification we see the
people without private property to be protected over looked, ignored and
very regularly abused with force and malice of forethought by the very same
group of individuals who I will not name in order that you can take a guess
at who they might be. I¹m not sure how many of you out there are aware that
this very city has ordinances prohibiting ³urban camping² thus justifying
the perpetual herding of the homeless from the area they are residing in
once the circumstances are proper for gentrification. Once you have been
identified as transient there is a little know clause that activates in the
constitution which frees you of your right to fare treatment freedom of
speech freedom to be secure in your possessions rights to a trial within 90
days by a jury of your peers right to arraignment with 24 hours of your
arrest unless your privileged enough to have a lawyer up your sleeve which
most people aren¹t.
I know all this sounds bad but don¹t go jump off a bridge yet there are far
more constructive ways of putting yourself in harms way. There are anti-
capitalist movements building in every city in the world we are challenging
the way society operates the manner in which it is controlling peoples
thoughts. The only way to even become constantly conscience of the struggle
is through what Eisenhower called ³eternal vigilance² to know what is
happening in our neighborhoods all the time. Much as the black panthers did
in urban areas predominately populated by people of color during the civil
rights movements of the 1960¹s. This was an unbelievably important
experiment because it shows that when a community is a community and this
communities consciousness is as one it can target the elements within itself
that are operating counterproductively to the goals of the community what
ever they may be.
Knowing that this is possible we now have proof that even in ghettos where
murder is a daily occurrence and greed and need can be seen in there most
extreme manifestations communities can rally can fight back and can win!
This is the message we need to spread that we can win and it is this very
same message that the man the pig and big brother spend all night tossing
and turning in there giant beds having nightmares about because they to can
see the eventuality, the inevitability of their demise and eternal
extinction from this world that we are creating. A world of love, a world
free from money, a world in which we protect our mother fervently against
those who seek to manipulate, plunder, rape, rob, mine, dam, toxicity, and
otherwise to do naughty things to her. Why because we respect her she has
given us our lives and every single thing in them, without her would have
nothing not one insignificant miniscule spec of microscopic space dust.
Remember: You are the Difference between this world and a better one.
***********EDICION POPULAR EN ESPANOL*******************
³Poverty pimping:² Los directores que se enriquecen de las personas
Una investigación de Raising Our Voices por T.J. Johnston, MaryAnne Greb,
Adrian Varnedoe, Michael Morgan, y Delfine Brody
La gente que vota en San Francisco le dice a los encuestadores que el
desamparo es el problema principal en esta ciudad. Como resupuesta, los
politicos pasan sus días poniendo dinero en programas de servicios sociales
que son deseñadas a ayudar la gente que vive en la calle-y más cínicamente
están vigilando estrategias para echar a las personas desamparadas de esta
ciudad. En efecto, el desamparo o mejor dicho el descontento de los que
votan por la manera en la cual la ciudad trata esta problematica, ayudo a
derribar a los alcaldes Art Agnos y Frank Jordan.
Aún con todos los dichos y toda la furia, sabemos muy poco a que punto está
la crisis-o cuanto efectivo ha sido la respuesta de la ciudad al mismo.
Nadie en el gobierno de la ciudad sabe cuantas personas hay en San
Francisco. Y aproximan brutalmente cuanta plata que viene de nuestros
impuestos se pone para realmente solucionar el desamparo.
La ciudad ha jugado un largo juego de manipulación de estatisticas. A los
medios de comunicación locales, la ciudad minimizan la cantidad de personas
desamparadas; cuando están pidiendo fondos del gobierno federal usan otra
cantidad mucha más alta. Durante la mayoría de la decade de los 90s los
empleados de la ciudad bajo juramento dijeron al Departamento del Desarrollo
de Viviendas y de la zona Urbana que 14,000 - 15,000 personas desamparadas
vivían aquí. Al mismo tiempo, los empleados del Alcalde Willie Brown dijeron
que habían 4-6,000 personas desamparadas en varios articulos del S.F.
Chronicle and Examiner.
En los ultimos meses durante la campaña del census para las personas sin
hogar, George Smith, la persona encargada del desamparo en la oficina del
Alcalde, dijo que habían solamente 5,000. Al mismo tiempo, en una aplicación
del año 2000 pidiendo fondos del gobierno federal dice que hay 12,500
personas desamparadas en la ciudad.
La ciudad tiene poca idea de cuanto dinero está llendo a programas que
sirven personas desamparadas. En 1994, el Analista de la Presupuesto de la
Mesa de Supervisores, Harvey Rose, dijo que la ciudad gasta $31.1 milliones
para solucionar el desamparo. Pero unos años despues, otro documento de la
ciudad, el reporte ŒContinuum of Care¹ en 1996, hablando de 1994 dice que la
ciudad gastó $82.7 milliones.
¿Dónde va todo ese dinero? El público piensa que los milliones de dolares
que vienen de los impuestos que pagamos van directamente a los bolsillos de
las personas sin hogar. Aunque algo de dinero va directamente a las personas
desamparadas por el sistema de Œwelfare¹de la ciudad, llamado Asistencia
General (GA), mucho más dinero va a organizaciones sin fines de lucro para
proveer servicios sociales como entrenamientos de empleo, consejería de
salud mental, y tratamiento de substancia de drogas.
Raising Our Voices examenó los archivos financieros de 15 de las
organizaciones sin fines de lucro más grandes en esta ciudad que están
sirviendo a las personas desamparadas y lo que encontraron fue que la
mayoría del dinero en estas organizaciones no va para comida, ropa o
vivienda para las personas desamparadas, pero va a pagar los salarios de
trabajadores sociales y de los directores. Los directores en las
organizaciones de caridad más grandes generalmente ganan más de $100,000 por
Un analisis de los documentos públicos, incluyendo los del IRS y revisiones
de cuentas, dice que Alfonso Acampora, el director ejecutivo de Walden
House, un programa para rehabilitación de drogas, gana el salario más alto.
En el año fiscal de 1998, el año más reciente documentado, Acampora gano un
total de $254,533. Solamente el salario de la directora de la Fundación de
SIDA en San Francisco puede comparar con un salario de $188,119 en 1998. El
año pasado, Caridades Catolicas de San Francisco pago cada uno de sus cinco
directores más de $100,000. Homebase, una organización sin fines de lucro
con un presupuesto total de $420,000, gasto $100,000 en el salario de su
directora ejecutiva, Martha Fleetwood.
Otros gastos, como viaje, conferencias, ejerciendo presion a los politicos,
y recaudando fondos también son sospechosos. Documentos del IRS demuestran
que Caridades Catolicas gastó $385,007 en viaje y conferencias en el año
1998, Walden House gastó $312,735 en viaje, y la Fundación de SIDA de San
Francisco gastó $1 million para ejercer presion a los politicos y casi $4
milliones en recaudando fondos. Nuestra curiosidad nos estaba picando,
Raising Our Voices decidio ir a las oficinas de las organizaciones sin fines
$ $ $
En julio el Palacio de Artes Finas fue anfitrión de una ceremonia de
graduación particular. Los graduados no estaban llevando sombreros o
agarando diplomas, y nadie les estaba diciendo que tienen que seguir
estudiando-ellos estaban celebrando que completaron su rehabilitación de
droga y alcohol. Walden House, el programa más grande del estado que provee
tratamiento de substancias abusivas, estaba dando la bienvenida a los
graduados a un mundo nuevo, limpio y sobrio.
La mayoría empezaron teniendo nada, llegaron desde la calle o del carcel.
Noventa y ocho por ciento de las personas quienes entraron al programa,
según Chris Canter el director de la Fundación de Walden House, eran gente
de bajo o sin ingreso-la falta de un ambiente estable es una conseguencia de
Walden House se formó humildemente en 1969 como una casa segura para
personas que se fueron de sus casas y que se encontraban en el distrito
Haight-Ashbury de San Francisco que en esa decada fue un sitio para los que
se rebelaban encontra de la cultura corriente. Hoy, la mitad de los clientes
de Walden están en San Francisco, mientras que el resto está en todo el
estado de California. Además que programas residenciales y para pacientes no
internados, los servicios de Walden también incluyen servicios para los que
están presos, para jovenes, y para adultos con HIV y con problemas de salud
mental. También, proveen entrenamientos de empleo.
En esta ciudad, Walden maneja siete agencias. En tres decadas, el creciente
Walden House ha tenido 20,000 personas que han completado sus programas y
Walden House se presume de los logros de sus graduados como cualquier
escuela o universidad. Canter, un graduado de unos de los programas de
adultos, se entretiene con la historia de una mujer desamparada de 19 años
que completó un programa, ganó una beca para estudiar en Harvard, y recibío
su post-doctorado en psicología-ella ahora maneja un programa de tratamiento
que tiene 780 camas en la Prision Estatal Corcoran.
³Para poder atraer oficiales en el mundo de las organizaciones sin fines de
lucro, yo pienso que uno tiene que dar un salario comparable como lo haría
para una organización de ganancia,² Canter opinó. El salario de Acampora y
la mayoría del presupuesto de Walden viene del público a través de fondos de
la ciudad y del estado. El resto viene de donaciones (³Nunca pedimos por
donaciones,² dice Canter). El presupuesto de Walden en el año fiscal de
1998, según el IRS, fue un total de $21,895,832.
¿Cuánto hace Walden para sus clientes con casi $22 milliones? Canter
aproxima que, ³Walden House alcanza entre 8,000 y 10,000 individuos cada año
a través de servicios directos y serivicios de trabajador social. El
promedio es que 52% de los clientes en un programa logran a completar un
³episodio² de tratamiento-episodios están definidos como un programa
especifico del Walden House, como ejemplo un servicio de 90 días, etc. De
los que logran completar un tratamiento, 75% se mantienen sobrios, libre de
crimen y tienen vivienda segura seis meses despues del tratamiento.² ¿Y los
otros 25%? ³Desafortunadamente, no está claro porque esta gente no responde
a nuestras encuenstas. Se puede culpar a que esta población es muy
transitoria y por la falta de viviendas accesibles están forzadas fuera de
la ciudad o de la Area de la Bahía,² respondió Canter.
$ $ $
Caridades Catolicas, una de las organizaciones sin fines de lucro más
grandes que sirve las personas desamparadas está ocupada limpiando su imagen
por el escandelo de sus gastos que fue bién reportado. Despues del escandelo
del viejo zopilote Fran Hudson, que resultó en echarlo de la organización y
en una disminución masiva de donaciones a la organziación-emplearon Brian
Cahill como CEO temporal. Cahill recientemente mando una carta disculpandose
a los donantes de la organización por la ³violación de administración² por
el régimen político anterior. La carta describe las maneras que la
organización ha tratado de reparar los daños-corriendo directores ejecutivos
y eliminando algunas posiciones ejecutivas con salarios grandes.
³Somos una organización responsible,² dice Cahill, ³proveeamos servicios a
una comunidad muy vulnerable a través de donaciones, de dinero del gobierno,
que requiere que administremos bien el dinero de otra gente. Eso significa
un gastos generales bajos. Eso significa todo el dinero tiene que ir donde
debe ir. Ellos no deben ir a restaurantes caros.² Cahill también encuentra
otros gastos-como los $134,000 gastado en viaje y $250,000 en
conferencias-²totalmente injustificado.² Cuando Hudson manejaba todo,
encargados aprobaban gastos como viajes en avion y hotel para los directores
de Caridades Catolicas; ahora estos gastos tienen que ser aprobados por su
Junta Directiva. Una investigación de la junta ha sido enviado a la oficina
del Abogado General estatal confirmando los reportes de los gastos
³Yo hubiera hecho las cosas en una manera diferente,² dijo Hudson en una
entrevista del S.F. Chronicle. ³En un nivel personal, yo no permitería que
me critiquen injustamente. Pero no los llamaría lamentos, yo los llamaría
lecciones aprendidas. Personas por varias razones les gusta decir cosas
asquerosas. Pero yo no odio a nadie.²
$ $ $
Mientras que la ciudad no puede decidir exactamente cuantos residentes sin
hogar hay, o cuanto dinero se está gastando para ayudarlos, nuestros
buracratas nos proveen información interesante. Una mirada de los documentos
internos de la Oficina de Vivienda del Alcalde nos aclara bastante. Los
milliones que San Francisco pone cada año en programas que ³arreglan a la
gente² como rehabilitación de drogas, entrenamiento de empleo, ayuda de
salud mental, etc. en un gran parte son malgastadas.
Basicamente la ciudad no está tratando de solucionar la causa del desamparo:
la falta de viviendas. En los ultimos diez años, la población de esta ciudad
ha crecido por 75,000 personas, aumentando de 723,959 en 1990 a un estimado
799,000 hoy. En los ultimos diez años, 6,614 unidades se han creado-casi
nada-según reportes de la Oficina de Viviendas del Alcalde. Agrega a esto la
invasión masiva de las personas que trabajan en las ciberneticas que-para
decir lo obvio-ha subido las rentas para los pocos apartamentos disponibles
al cielo. Gracias a la prosperidad de la tecnología, el ingreso promedio ha
subido desde $33,481 en 1990 a $50,000 hoy. Esto significa que las personas
desamparadas están competiendo con un grupo con mucho dinero que cada vez es
más grande. ¿Alguien quiere apostar por quién está ganando esa competición?
³San Francisco tiene el más ajustado y el más caro mercado de vivienda [en
California],² dijo Marcia Rosen, la directora de la oficina de viviendas.
³El problema está terrible, pero la respuesta de la ciudad es que nosotros
dedicamos más de $100 milliones por año para el desarrollo de vivienda
accesible.² Pero, según la oficina de viviendas, su Plan Consolidado del
2000 admite que ese dinero no ha tenido ningun impacto. Y cuando tiene que
ver con construyendo viviendas especificamente para personas desamparadas y
otros designados como ³de muy bajos ingresos² por el gobierno federal, la
ciudad han fallado.
Aparentamente hay un tipo de desacuerdo cognoscitivo sobre la alcaldía.
Porsupuesto, es crítico ayudar a personas sin hogar conquistar sus demonios
lo que sean. Pero tratar sus enfermedades solo para dejarlos sin la
posibilidad de encontrar un hogar accesible y seguro no tiene sentido y es
It's a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary
just to be a decent man.
A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 / 346.3740 - voice
415 / 775.5639 - fax