[Hpn] SF Supervisor Hall joins homeless crackdown

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Tue, 15 Jan 2002 12:02:29 -0800


http://www.examiner.com/news/default.jsp?story=n.homeless.0115w

Publication date: 01/15/2002

Hall joins homeless crackdown

By Eric Gershon
City Hall Correspondent

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Meet the man with the latest plan for
legislating homelessness, Supervisor Tony Hall.

Tony Hall?

What about Gavin Newsom? Chris Daly? Tom Ammiano?

Take your pick -- all four introduced homeless and quality-of-life reform
measures in recent weeks, including a ban on panhandling and a law that
would create a Department of Homelessness. But Hall stole center stage
Monday by proposing to outlaw sleeping, urinating and defecating in city
streets.

"Some people prefer not to use shelter beds, and if they can find other
shelter for themselves, that is their choice," Hall said at Monday's Board
of Supervisors meeting. "What is not their choice is to colonize the streets
and drive the average resident from their public walkways."

Homelessness has been a hot topic at City Hall in the new year, largely
because of controversial proposals by Newsom to curb panhandling and
loitering, and to track services consumed by individual homeless people. A
report issued recently by the supervisors' budget analyst provided a new
estimate of city spending on the homelessness -- $104 million a year -- has
also given homelessness new currency.

Although Hall and Newsom commonly vote together and are considered
conservatives when compared to many of their progressive colleagues, Hall
suggested in a written copy of his prepared remarks that Newsom's ideas were
impractical.

"I want to thank Supervisor Newsom for the publicity he has brought to this
subject by way of recent media attention," he wrote, "and now I think we
must address our energies to realistic and pragmatic solutions to people
living on our streets."

Hall said he hoped his ideas would contribute to a new "City Homeless
Policy" that incorporated expanded quality-of-life laws and aspects of
Seattle's "Civility Laws."

Although Hall did not say whether sleeping in the streets should be banned
24-hours a day or merely during certain hours, as in Seattle, one of his
aides said it likely would be a 24-hour ban. Hall also did not say whether
the ban would apply to all streets or only those in commercial areas.

Hall cast the prohibition on public urinating and defecating as a public
health measure and one that would "establish and enforce minimal standards
of civil behavior."

Prohibitions alone don't work, he said.

To provide sleeping space in lieu of sidewalks and streets, Hall proposed
increasing the number of beds in homeless shelters to 3,500. Various city
departments have been asked to devise a way of doing this within their
existing budgets, he said, and to report to him in 30 days.

Reopening toilet facilities at city parks, keeping other public toilets open
later, and adding more pay toilets (for which the homeless could get free
tokens) to city streets would give the homeless more sanitary and socially
acceptable means of relieving themselves, Hall said.

"I know that it is hard to keep (public restrooms) clean, but to simply
transfer the problem to the middle of the sidewalk is absurd," he said.

In December, Newsom introduced nearly two-dozen initiatives intended to
re-evaluate the services The City provides for its homeless and how it
provides them. He proposed laws prohibiting panhandling and loitering; one
that would create a Department of Homelessness; a "quality of life hot line"
for reporting public drunkenness, urination, defecation, aggressive
panhandling, and prostitution; and several others.

Separately, Ammiano also proposed a homelessness department.

Earlier this month Daly announced plans for a summit on homelessness
scheduled for March 7. Participants are expected to discuss The City's
five-year plan for addressing homelessness known as the Continuum of Care
Plan.

Hall said drafts of his proposed ordinances would be ready in time for
discussion at the summit.

Newsom said he welcomed Hall's proposals, and had considered but rejected
some of them. "Something good will come of all this," he said.

Daly said he wished more attention were devoted to implementing the existing
Continuum of Care Plan, rather than devising new plans.

"Proposing plans has never been a problem for elected officials," he said.
"Implementing them has."

Advocates for the homeless likely will cast Hall's proposals as attempts to
make homelessness into a crime. In a report to be issued today and conducted
by the National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project and the National
Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, San Francisco was named the third
"meanest" of America's cities on the basis of its homeless policies. (New
York took first place, Atlanta second.) California also was named the
"meanest" state.

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