[Hpn] SF Examiner: Squatters take high school for homeless

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 02 Jul 2003 09:11:29 -0700

San Francisco EXAMINER
Publication date: 07/02/2003

Squatters take high school for homeless
Of The Examiner Staff

Filing out of 170 Fell Street on Tuesday after an illegal squat, 13
activists from Homes Not Jails promised they'd be back.

The group, which has staged brief occupations of the long-vacant school
district-owned building with more regularity than Arnold Schwarzenegger has
had blockbusters, advocates decent, affordable housing for low-income and
homeless people. After police arrived and they finished a sidewalk press
conference, the group left peacefully.

Commercial High School, vacant since just after the Loma Prieta quake in
1989, is featured in a Susan Leal for Mayor "Clean it Up, Run it Right" TV
ad. Homelessness, as is the tradition, has emerged as a chief topic in the
mayor's race, with frontrunner Supervisor Gavin Newsom's Care Not Cash
proposal to replace cash handouts and Supervisor Chris Daly's alternative to
guarantee housing instead of shelter beds for welfare recipients.

Homes not Jails representatives believe they have found an effective and
easy solution to homelessness, highlighted by the Coalition on
Homelessness's Ten Point Plan where surplus vacancies would be occupied by
the homeless and renovated while they are being lived in, thus reducing
homelessness and refitting long vacant buildings.

"It's a crime that people are dying in the streets when there's
available surplus housing not being used by anyone," said Ted Gullicksen, a
member of the San Francisco Tenants Union who has long been involved with
Homes Not Jails. 

Gullicksen was one of several speaking on the sidewalk of Fell Street in
front of the squatters, who leaned out of the second-story windows of the
former schoolhouse.

The speakers represented groups such as the Coalition on Homelessness,
People Organized to Win Employment Rights (P.O.W.E.R.), and the Day Labor
Program, united in their belief that the city should be doing more to
provide affordable housing, and that proposals such as Care Not Cash were
not effective or helpful.

"We're taking Newsom's house next," one of the squatters shouted.

City supervisors last year passed an ordinance that would require a list
of all surplus and underutilized city property, and, when available, to
earmark that property for use by the homeless or for programs assisting the

Gullicksen says The City has been slow to move forward with this

"I think it is important to get the message out that there are solutions
to the homeless problem," Supervisor Chris Daly, the measure's author, said
in reaction to the takeover. He acknowledged that the new ordinance was
coming slowly, blaming bureaucracy for slowing the process down.

Daly said that The City is in the process of finalizing the list, and
that it would be available this summer.

Mike Lyle, a homeless man occupying the school, did not appear to care
about the political maneuverings regarding housing.

"An empty building is just a waste of space," Lyle said. "I'm on the
streets and The City don't seem to give a damn."

E-mail: efletcher@examiner.com
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chance martin, Project Coordinator
A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
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