ALERT: 250 Fast For SF Homeless, Protest Police Sweeps FWD

Tom Boland (
Thu, 18 Feb 1999 07:56:36 -0800 (PST)

PLEASE SEND EYE-WITNESS REPORTS on the San Francisco 21-day Fast Against
Homelessness to "Tom Boland" <> for posting on HPN. -- Tom

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FWD  San Francisco Chronicle  February 18, 1999  Page A16


     Religious group protests city's recent
     rousing of the poor out of plazas

Manny Fernandez, Chronicle Staff Writer

       More than 250 religious leaders and activists began fasting
yesterday to protest what they called San Francisco's lack of services and
housing for the homeless.

       ``We fast in solidarity with poor and homeless people who suffer
from the pains of hunger,'' said Sister Bernie Galvin, founder and director
of Religious Witness with Homeless People, the fast's sponsor.

       Dozens of the group's supporters started the fast at a rally at
Civic Center Plaza yesterday. The fast is scheduled to last three weeks,
until March 10.

       Some activists pledged to eat only one meal a day for five or six
days, while others vowed to eat nothing for the entire 21 days.

       ``It is not a mournful kind of penance,'' said Galvin, who promised
to consume only juice for 21 days. ``It is spiritually uplifting.''

       Religious Witness organized the fast to condemn the recent
crackdowns on the homeless in the city's plazas, including Civic Center and
United Nations plazas.

       Religious leaders are pressuring Mayor Willie Brown and other city
officials to open the Presidio's Wherry Housing for the poor and homeless.
San Francisco does not have jurisdiction over the Presidio, which is
federal property.

       Religious Witness' goal is to have 682 people join the fast,
representing the 682 homeless people who have died in San Francisco
``during the five years that Wherry Housing has sat vacant,'' Religious
Witness leaders said.

       Presidio officials, however, said the more than 1,000 housing units
have not been unoccupied. Three hundred San Francisco college students now
live in Presidio units. In addition, 100 homeless veterans are scheduled to
move into housing through a program sponsored by the Swords to Plowshares
veterans group, Presidio officials said.

       After yesterday's rally, more than 100 Religious Witness supporters
and homeless people walked into City Hall to deliver two enlarged letters.
One was for Brown, calling on him to cease the ``cruel and heartless''
policy toward the homeless.

       The other letter was for Supervisor Amos Brown, urging him to
abandon his plan to ban sleeping and drinking in U.N. and Hallidie plazas
for solutions that ``honor the dignity and value'' of the homeless.

       Neither official was in. Assistants for both accepted the letters in
their absence.

       Religious Witness is made up of almost 2,000 members and leaders of
the Bay Area's religious community.


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