Re: Good ol' MATRIX is thriving [Chance Martin of SF CoH] FWD

Tom Boland (
Mon, 17 May 1999 22:16:00 -0700 (PDT)

(Otherwise, replies go only to the person to whose post you reply.)
FWD  Sun, 16 May 1999
From: Coalition on Homelessness <>
Subject: Re: Good ol' MATRIX is thriving

The history of Scott Winokur's insight into MATRIX goes something like
this:  He went along with one of the Dept. of Human Service's 'outreach
teams' to cover the story when then-Mayor Jordan initiated his 'quality of
life' enforcement campaign against San Francisco's homeless community.  The
outreach teams were a public relations ruse.  What he DIDN'T get to see,
much less report, was the SFPD tactical squad officers who rolled up on the
'target population' about 5 minutes after the 'outreach teams' had left.

Public areas where homeless people gathered and camped in groups were
repeatedly swept by tac squad officers assisted by Dept. of Public Works
crews with trash- compactor trucks.  The officer would identify a tent,
shopping cart, bedding, etc. and instruct the DPW crew to throw the stuff
in the truck.  If any bystander protested, the officer would ask that
person if the belongings were theirs.  If the person then answered 'yes',
the officer would write a ticket for 'illegal lodging' or 'encampment' and
leave the victim with instructions to not be there when the officer
returned.  If they answered 'no' they could watch the stuff get thrown in
the truck and get compacted in with the garbage.  Homeless people would
accumulate multiple tickets, miss court dates, and, ultimately, have bench
warrants issued for their arrest.

I personally know of perhaps two people who received a temporary voucher
for a SRO room from the DHS 'outreach teams', and maybe another who got
hooked up with a GA check.  After MATRIX was going full-tilt for a few
months, the 'outreach team's' role unravelled like the window dressing that
it was, and SFPD officers would themselves perform 'outreach': distribute a
handful of shelter bed vouchers each night to 'good' homeless people, (at
the expense of anyone voluntarily competing for that bed in the nightly
lottery).  Especially favored were those who might provide information on
any extra-legal activities in the area.  I assume this sort of
intelligence-gathering fell under the auspices of the 'community policing'
programs that began popping up like malignant little toadstools in San
Francisco's neighborhoods around the same time as the 'quality of life'
campaign's efforts to drive homeless people from public spaces.

These practices are now becoming institutions under Mayor Willie Brown's
leadership--the same candidate Willie Brown who campaigned with rhetoric
like: "This charade called MATRIX will end when I become Mayor."  The big
change has been no pretense of any 'outreach' and spiraling numbers of
tickets for 'quality of life' infractions, with monthly averages exceeding
those of the Jordan era's most aggressive sweeps.  Mayor Brown has widened
the scope of places being swept to include unused industrial properties,
freeway overpasses, etc., i.e. anyplace someone may be living that is in
public sight, period.  The way things are playing out here, there is likely
to be an impending promotion of a 'secure campus' with 'sprung shelters'
(large temporary tent-like structures) to serve as emergency shelter for
homeless people, similar to the current proposal in AZ.  Then, if a police
officer finds you in the 'wrong' part of town for no approved reason, you
will be referred to this facility.  Refusal will result in arrest.  (Please
bear in mind that if San Francisco's shelter capacity were DOUBLED from the
current number of available beds, there would be shelter for about a fifth
of the 14,818 people San Francisco attested to in its 1997 application for
McKinney dollars to assist homeless people.)

The REALLY bad fallout from Mr. Winokur's editorial is that it has
(seemingly) buoyed ex-Mayor Jordan's estimations of how well he might fare
against incumbent Willie Brown in the coming election.  Well, he got a
coupla column inches in the paper saying he intends to soon announce
whether he'll run or not, whatever THAT means.  Such is what passes for
news in San Francisco.  Maybe we'll get as much press when San Francisco
has a record number of people dying homeless for the second year in a row,
which is how things look from here right now.

ch@nce martin

P.S. Tom, couldn't you consolidate your postings a bit more?  It's great
stuff but we really can't staff a large volume of postings just yet.  Plus,
I gotta deadline(s) next week and I'm sitting here corresponding when I
should be doin' the 'work thang'.  Gotta chop wood and carry water, y'dig?


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