San Francisco neighborhoods wrestle with "homeless problem" FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 17 Nov 1998 14:17:21 -0400


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less.dtl
=46WD  San Francisco Examiner - Monday, November 16, 1998


NEIGHBORHOODS WRESTLE WITH HOMELESS PROBLEM
By Gregory Lewis of the Examiner Staff


In the Haight, residents and merchants who have spent the last year
discussing the thorny issue of homelessness have proposed a "Way Station"
to help people leave the life on the streets.

In North Beach, residents backed by a grant from movie mogul Francis Ford
Coppola surveyed the homeless to find out why they slept with their
belongings in the neighborhood's doorways.

In the Castro, a high school locker room was opened to provide the homeless
with showers.

All are examples of grass-roots efforts by city residents to create
awareness about the breadth of the homeless problem and find solutions that
fit their neighborhoods.

"The only way The City can impact the issue is for communities to come
together and partner with The City, the nonprofits and homeless people,"
said Terry Hill, the mayor's homeless coordinator.

As Mayor Brown continues to flail for a City Hall response to the homeless,
some city residents are taking it upon themselves to attempt to find
solutions. But like the mayor, they are running into the same roadblocks
that have plagued his administration - no easy answers and no consensus.

"We're so incredibly divided," said Susan Latham, a Haight resident who
sits on the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council's Committee on
Homelessness. "There are as diverse points of view in the Haight as there
are in any neighborhood.

"But we've tried to take the approach that it's not how you felt about
homeless but what do you want to do about it," she said.

The committee has proposed a "Way Station," which would provide some
services and information to help people with the problems that have led to
their homelessness.

"Other (Haight-Ashbury) neighborhood organizations are not seeing eye to
eye with us," said Donna Gouse, HANC vice president. "They look to police
as a solution to homeless. They're looking for methods to remove the
homeless. We're looking for long-term solutions and don't understand those
who believe services create problems."

Among those opposed to the proposed Way Station is Bruce Lyall, the owner
of Recycled Records on Haight Street.

"I've been in the neighborhood 20 years and the proliferation of services
is obscene," Lyall said. "It only ensures this will be a magnet area for
the homeless. It's an example of how you create problems by creating
solutions because each time you add another level of services it makes the
area more attractive to people with problems."

That's the rub of the ever-continuing debate - do you provide services to
help get people off the street and into productive lives or do those
services encourage the homeless to come out in droves.

While the exact number of homeless people in San Francisco is unknown, city
officials and homeless activists generally say the numbers range from 6,000
to 12,000.

Latham said the Haight-Ashbury council is trying to join other neighborhood
associations in addressing homelessness so services can be spread
throughout San Francisco.

"While the membership and board have endorsed the Way Station, we don't
want it to be the only facility in The City," she said. "We don't want to
draw more homeless people. But services don't draw people to a
neighborhood.

"The hardest part of this is how do you say, "OK, put your anger aside and
put your beliefs aside and let's look at what we can do,' without being
called bleeding-heart liberals," she said.

Joe, a homeless man in North Beach who would give only his first name, said
he has been on the streets about three years since losing his job. He lived
in the area before he became homeless and has since made friends with
others like him.

"It's the turf you know," he said. "That's where you stay. We look out for
each other and each other's stuff."

But residents and merchants alike are frustrated with the homeless,
especially the people they describe as "professional" panhandlers and
substance abusers. These homeless people, they say, don't want help and
aren't interested in changing their condition.

"We came to the conclusion that there are some people who are willing to
change their situation and some who are not. We'll help those who are
willing to change," said Phil Siegel, of Castro Area Planning and Action,
which started working several years ago with Supervisor Tom Ammiano on the
area's homeless problem.

"It's not that we're against the homeless," said David Heller, president of
the Greater Geary Merchants. "But there's enough services. I don't want to
see any of the services stopped but I want to see them give something back,
show us they want to make a difference in their lives - job training, use
the clothing banks to get clothes to dress for interviews. We shouldn't
make it easy for them.

"As long as we're going to be nice, we're not going to solve the problem,"
Heller said.

But Ann Maxwell of Richmond Area Multi-Services said her neighborhood
provides very few services for homeless residents who fled Golden Gate Park
last November during the mayor's crackdown on park encampments.

One church, Hamilton Memorial, serves meals, she said. "Otherwise no known
programs serve any hot food. There's one shelter. No toilets. No showers."

People in the Richmond began meeting in January to discuss their
neighborhood's growing homeless population. Five forums were held through
May that included city officials and homeless people talking about the
issue.

"It's not the people we want to get rid of, it's the problem," Maxwell
said. "A lot of the homeless grew up in the Richmond and work but don't
make enough to pay rent. We're trying to educate people.

"We're trying to make The City aware of the dimension of the problems," she
said. "We're working with The City and the community to make linkages here
and not alienate the homeless. You can have as many committees as you want
but if you don't include homeless people there's no rate of satisfaction."

Ammiano said he began sponsoring meetings in the Castro after Mayor Brown
early in 1996 threw up his hands in frustration about the lack of consensus
and canceled a planned homeless summit.

Since then, homeless advocates have criticized Brown for continuing former
Mayor Frank Jordan's use of the police to sweep the homeless from the
streets. Brown and his staff say the police response to those urinating in
public or aggressively panhandling are but one part of The City's overall
effort, which includes shelters, substance abuse programs and other
services for the homeless.

"We had department heads (and) service providers meeting at the Harvey Milk
Academy," Ammiano said. "But the big difference at those meetings was the
homeless were actually there.

"People began to talk about tailored responses. . . . It was great to get
people talking about it. Then, a new influx of people came. There was a lot
of discourse and disagreement on solutions."

Siegel worked with Ammiano's office to develop a "plan that would
compassionately deal with the homeless."

The plan was never implemented, Siegel said. "It was not comprehensive
enough for advocates and too comprehensive for merchants. The whole thing
was too controversial."

But from the proposal and the meetings in the Castro, a JC Decaux public
bathroom was made available for use 24 hours, a high school opened its
locker rooms to provide showers for the homeless, merchants offered some of
them jobs and Metropolitan Community Church began serving meals to the
hungry.

"Some people don't like it," said Ammiano. "But the Castro is a bit better.
We still have a ways to go." But Ammiano said even with the disagreements,
people are still talking about finding solutions "and that's better than
everybody sitting there frustrated."

END FORWARD
-
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distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=3D/examiner/hotnews/stories/1=
6/homeless.dtl


=46WD  San Francisco Examiner - Monday, November 16, 1998=20



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>NEIGHBORHOODS WRESTLE WITH
HOMELESS PROBLEM

By Gregory Lewis of the Examiner Staff

</paraindent>                  =20


In the Haight, residents and merchants who have spent the last year
discussing the thorny issue of homelessness have proposed a "Way
Station" to help people leave the life on the streets.=20


In North Beach, residents backed by a grant from movie mogul Francis
=46ord Coppola surveyed the homeless to find out why they slept with
their belongings in the neighborhood's doorways.=20


In the Castro, a high school locker room was opened to provide the
homeless with showers.=20


All are examples of grass-roots efforts by city residents to create
awareness about the breadth of the homeless problem and find solutions
that fit their neighborhoods.=20


"The only way The City can impact the issue is for communities to come
together and partner with The City, the nonprofits and homeless
people," said Terry Hill, the mayor's homeless coordinator.=20


As Mayor Brown continues to flail for a City Hall response to the
homeless, some city residents are taking it upon themselves to attempt
to find solutions. But like the mayor, they are running into the same
roadblocks that have plagued his administration - no easy answers and
no consensus.=20


"We're so incredibly divided," said Susan Latham, a Haight resident who
sits on the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council's Committee on
Homelessness. "There are as diverse points of view in the Haight as
there are in any neighborhood.=20


"But we've tried to take the approach that it's not how you felt about
homeless but what do you want to do about it," she said.=20


The committee has proposed a "Way Station," which would provide some
services and information to help people with the problems that have led
to their homelessness.=20


"Other (Haight-Ashbury) neighborhood organizations are not seeing eye
to eye with us," said Donna Gouse, HANC vice president. "They look to
police as a solution to homeless. They're looking for methods to remove
the homeless. We're looking for long-term solutions and don't
understand those who believe services create problems."=20


Among those opposed to the proposed Way Station is Bruce Lyall, the
owner of Recycled Records on Haight Street.=20


"I've been in the neighborhood 20 years and the proliferation of
services is obscene," Lyall said. "It only ensures this will be a
magnet area for the homeless. It's an example of how you create
problems by creating solutions because each time you add another level
of services it makes the area more attractive to people with problems."



That's the rub of the ever-continuing debate - do you provide services
to help get people off the street and into productive lives or do those
services encourage the homeless to come out in droves.=20


While the exact number of homeless people in San Francisco is unknown,
city officials and homeless activists generally say the numbers range
from 6,000 to 12,000.=20


Latham said the Haight-Ashbury council is trying to join other
neighborhood associations in addressing homelessness so services can be
spread throughout San Francisco.=20


"While the membership and board have endorsed the Way Station, we don't
want it to be the only facility in The City," she said. "We don't want
to draw more homeless people. But services don't draw people to a
neighborhood.=20


"The hardest part of this is how do you say, "OK, put your anger aside
and put your beliefs aside and let's look at what we can do,' without
being called bleeding-heart liberals," she said.=20


Joe, a homeless man in North Beach who would give only his first name,
said he has been on the streets about three years since losing his job.
He lived in the area before he became homeless and has since made
friends with others like him.=20


"It's the turf you know," he said. "That's where you stay. We look out
for each other and each other's stuff."=20


But residents and merchants alike are frustrated with the homeless,
especially the people they describe as "professional" panhandlers and
substance abusers. These homeless people, they say, don't want help and
aren't interested in changing their condition.=20


"We came to the conclusion that there are some people who are willing
to change their situation and some who are not. We'll help those who
are willing to change," said Phil Siegel, of Castro Area Planning and
Action, which started working several years ago with Supervisor Tom
Ammiano on the area's homeless problem.=20


"It's not that we're against the homeless," said David Heller,
president of the Greater Geary Merchants. "But there's enough services.
I don't want to see any of the services stopped but I want to see them
give something back, show us they want to make a difference in their
lives - job training, use the clothing banks to get clothes to dress
for interviews. We shouldn't make it easy for them.=20


"As long as we're going to be nice, we're not going to solve the
problem," Heller said.=20


But Ann Maxwell of Richmond Area Multi-Services said her neighborhood
provides very few services for homeless residents who fled Golden Gate
Park last November during the mayor's crackdown on park encampments.=20


One church, Hamilton Memorial, serves meals, she said. "Otherwise no
known programs serve any hot food. There's one shelter. No toilets. No
showers."=20


People in the Richmond began meeting in January to discuss their
neighborhood's growing homeless population. Five forums were held
through May that included city officials and homeless people talking
about the issue.=20


"It's not the people we want to get rid of, it's the problem," Maxwell
said. "A lot of the homeless grew up in the Richmond and work but don't
make enough to pay rent. We're trying to educate people.=20


"We're trying to make The City aware of the dimension of the problems,"
she said. "We're working with The City and the community to make
linkages here and not alienate the homeless. You can have as many
committees as you want but if you don't include homeless people there's
no rate of satisfaction."=20


Ammiano said he began sponsoring meetings in the Castro after Mayor
Brown early in 1996 threw up his hands in frustration about the lack of
consensus and canceled a planned homeless summit.=20


Since then, homeless advocates have criticized Brown for continuing
former Mayor Frank Jordan's use of the police to sweep the homeless
from the streets. Brown and his staff say the police response to those
urinating in public or aggressively panhandling are but one part of The
City's overall effort, which includes shelters, substance abuse
programs and other services for the homeless.=20


"We had department heads (and) service providers meeting at the Harvey
Milk Academy," Ammiano said. "But the big difference at those meetings
was the homeless were actually there.=20


"People began to talk about tailored responses. . . . It was great to
get people talking about it. Then, a new influx of people came. There
was a lot of discourse and disagreement on solutions."=20


Siegel worked with Ammiano's office to develop a "plan that would
compassionately deal with the homeless."=20


The plan was never implemented, Siegel said. "It was not comprehensive
enough for advocates and too comprehensive for merchants. The whole
thing was too controversial."=20


But from the proposal and the meetings in the Castro, a JC Decaux
public bathroom was made available for use 24 hours, a high school
opened its locker rooms to provide showers for the homeless, merchants
offered some of them jobs and Metropolitan Community Church began
serving meals to the hungry.=20


"Some people don't like it," said Ammiano. "But the Castro is a bit
better. We still have a ways to go." But Ammiano said even with the
disagreements, people are still talking about finding solutions "and
that's better than everybody sitting there frustrated."


END FORWARD

-=20

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is=
 distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in=
 receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. *=
*


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink=
=2Enet>

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