[Hpn] San Francisco, CA - We, too, want change: every 3 days a homeless person dies - San Francisco Examiner - July 16, 2002

H. C. Covington H. C. Covington" <icanamerica@bellsouth.net
Mon, 22 Jul 2002 11:09:50 -0500

Every third day, on average, someone classified as "homeless" dies here.

Opinion - San Francisco Examiner - July 16, 2002

WHO CAN'T AFFORD to ignore the rows of street people clogging our sidewalks?

Our businesspeople, our hoteliers and anyone else who aims to entice folks into
buying things or visiting for a spell in The City.

Who can?  -- Our sluggish city bureaucracy.

As we shell out millions to help the addicted, the suffering, the jobless or the
just plain indigent -- $200 million a year according to one estimate -- the
situation just seems to get worse.

And while they are a big part of San Francisco's civic life, and paying a big
chunk of the bill for this aid, many business owners continue to feel that their
voices are unheard in City Hall debate.

Every day they wash urine and feces off their doorsteps and out of their
entrances, every day they hear another horror story about customers or tourists
being accosted by the reek or the ugly sights of The City, every day their calls
aren't returned by the folks in the supervisors' chambers.
Every third day, on average, someone classified as "homeless" dies here.

That's why the Hotel Council, the Committee on Jobs, the Chamber of Commerce and
many merchants' associations have come up with the "We want change" campaign.

The nicely dressed people on billboards hold up familiar cardboard signs, but
instead of carrying the usual pleas for money, the signs are statements: "I
don't want to sweep people off my doorstep," "Stop playing politics and actually
do something about the streets."

    "We just don't see results" from all the money and all the hot air being
spent to help homeless folks, says Bob Begley of the Hotel Council.

Convention planners are saying, "you told me this was being taken care of, but
it's not," and they book their groups in Chicago, where only six people died on
the streets last year. Or Philadelphia, which has returned itself to a
clean-streets city.

People have many choices, and while The City has the most attractions and
natural beauty, the human misery we can see on streets in every district erases
our appeal.

People will continue to stay away from here unless we kick ourselves into gear
and clean up our act.

he problems of people without homes dying in The City certainly aren't simple.

But since what we're doing isn't working, let's open the debate and find some
things that will.

A Web site that gives rational data and offers an open space for debate, such as
the new www.wewantchange.com, is a good start.

That it is our business community that is goosing us into action is a hopeful
sign, too.

While of course it is in its interest to improve our economy, it is in ours,

And it takes a little extra to appeal to all residents to make their voices
heard, even if what they may say may not favor business directly.

That's called leadership, and it is sorely needed here.


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H. C. [Sonny] Covington, Editor
Homeless and Housing News