San Francisco street sweeps of homeless has Mayor's blessing FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 29 Nov 1998 23:32:15 -0400


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=46WD   Washington Post  November 28, 1998


CITY OF TOLERANCE TIRES, FINALLY, OF THE HOMELESS

By Rene Sanchez, The Washington Post


SAN FRANCISCO -- On the concrete plaza outside City Hall here, day or
night, dozens of homeless men and women shuffle from bench to grate
dragging blankets or pushing shopping carts stuffed with all they own. They
beg, they bicker, they sleep. It is a ragged, aimless procession that never
ends.

It is also a sight that this ever-tolerant city has tired of seeing.

San Francisco has become so intent on clearing its streets of the homeless
that it is targeting them with its own distinct version of the
three-strikes-and-you're-out laws in vogue across the country: Anyone
arrested here three times in 60 days for public drunkenness must enroll in
a rehabilitation program for six months or spend at least a month in jail.

The crackdown, which has the blessing of Mayor Willie Brown, has just
begun. As part of it, police officers are also rousting the homeless from
storefronts as they sleep, attempting to drive them out of tourist areas,
even confiscating the carts of those who refuse to abide by the new rules.
The homeless are bewildered by the flurry of moves, and their advocates are
furious.

``They harass us all the time now, even if you're bothering no one,'' said
Louis Eldridge, a grizzled Vietnam War veteran getting soaked by a cold
rain as he slumped one evening last week on a bench near City Hall. ``It's
like they don't want us to be seen here anymore.''

=46rustrated by how difficult it is to end homelessness even in robust
economic times, and facing pressure to make neighborhoods and business
centers safe and clean, San Francisco has become the latest in a growing
number of cities deciding that it is time to get tougher.

Across the nation, cities are imposing new bans on panhandling, sleeping in
public places or scavenging through trash and recycling bins. Others are
getting courts to force the homeless into shelters or treatment programs,
urging merchants not to sell alcohol to people living on the street and
encouraging private security firms that work for downtown business
coalitions to bully them into going somewhere else.

Even in nearby Berkeley, an epicenter of peace, love and understanding, the
liberal city council has had enough. Last week its members voted to
prohibit people from sleeping on the city's two busiest avenues.

``You hear fewer places now discussing what to do about this problem in a
positive way,'' said Mary Ann Gleason, the executive director of the
National Coalition on Homelessness. ``They have this sense that there's
nothing you can really do about it, so just try to drive it underground, or
away.''

San Francisco, which has long had a reputation for generosity to the poor,
is teeming with homeless people. By some estimates, well over 10,000 of
them live here. They line the bustling sidewalks along Union Square, drift
and mutter to themselves on the avenues leading to the Golden Gate Bridge
and stare with blank eyes from the doorways and alleys of restaurants and
cafes in Nob Hill and North Beach.

Even critics of the new policies concede the homeless are a diverse,
difficult group to reach. Some of them are mentally ill, some are
alcoholics or drug addicts, some are young runaways and some simply cannot
afford an apartment and fear living in shelters so much that they choose
life on the streets.

The problem is hardly new. But many officials say it is getting much worse
because of a drastic housing crisis, welfare reform and crackdowns against
the homeless in other cities that have made San Francisco even more of a
magnet for transients.

Last year, in another decision that outraged advocates for the homeless,
Brown had police officers scatter dozens of encampments of people living in
the 1,000 acres of Golden Gate Park.

Other aggressive campaigns have come and gone over the years, but the
homeless remain, exasperating one mayor after another. Some of the steps
Brown is authorizing are similar to others he criticized before becoming
mayor three years ago. He has even suggested at times that the problem is
beyond solving, at least until federal subsidies on housing for the poor
come close to matching the demand.

``We are not trying to criminalize homelessness,'' said Kandace Bender,
Brown's press secretary. ``But this problem makes life difficult for many
other people in the city, too. We can't just let the cycle go on and on. At
some point you have to intervene, and we're trying to do it as humanely as
possible.''

San Francisco has not given up entirely on other strategies to help the
homeless. Because one root cause of the problem is the city's incredibly
tight apartment market -- the vacancy rate here is less than 1 percent --
Brown has backed several measures recently to make evictions more difficult
and is giving rent subsidies to poor people enrolled in employment
programs. The city also is promising not to send homeless people who
violate its three-strikes ordinance to jail if there are no open beds in
treatment programs at the time of their arrest. But its patience and
willingness to keep throwing money at the problem appear to be dwindling.

Advocates for the homeless say that is the prevailing municipal mood
nationwide.

``If a problem persists long enough in America, people say we've tried and
tried and just can't do it,'' said Randy Shaw, the director of a housing
clinic in San Francisco's gritty Tenderloin neighborhood.

AP-NY-11-28-98 1425EST

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receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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=46WD   Washington Post  November 28, 1998 =20



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>CITY OF TOLERANCE TIRES, FINALLY,
OF THE HOMELESS


By Rene Sanchez, The Washington Post

</paraindent>


SAN FRANCISCO -- On the concrete plaza outside City Hall here, day or
night, dozens of homeless men and women shuffle from bench to grate
dragging blankets or pushing shopping carts stuffed with all they own.
They beg, they bicker, they sleep. It is a ragged, aimless procession
that never ends.


It is also a sight that this ever-tolerant city has tired of seeing.


San Francisco has become so intent on clearing its streets of the
homeless that it is targeting them with its own distinct version of the
three-strikes-and-you're-out laws in vogue across the country: Anyone
arrested here three times in 60 days for public drunkenness must enroll
in a rehabilitation program for six months or spend at least a month in
jail.


The crackdown, which has the blessing of Mayor Willie Brown, has just
begun. As part of it, police officers are also rousting the homeless
from storefronts as they sleep, attempting to drive them out of tourist
areas, even confiscating the carts of those who refuse to abide by the
new rules. The homeless are bewildered by the flurry of moves, and
their advocates are furious.


``They harass us all the time now, even if you're bothering no one,''
said Louis Eldridge, a grizzled Vietnam War veteran getting soaked by a
cold rain as he slumped one evening last week on a bench near City
Hall. ``It's like they don't want us to be seen here anymore.''


=46rustrated by how difficult it is to end homelessness even in robust
economic times, and facing pressure to make neighborhoods and business
centers safe and clean, San Francisco has become the latest in a
growing number of cities deciding that it is time to get tougher.


Across the nation, cities are imposing new bans on panhandling,
sleeping in public places or scavenging through trash and recycling
bins. Others are getting courts to force the homeless into shelters or
treatment programs, urging merchants not to sell alcohol to people
living on the street and encouraging private security firms that work
for downtown business coalitions to bully them into going somewhere
else.


Even in nearby Berkeley, an epicenter of peace, love and understanding,
the liberal city council has had enough. Last week its members voted to
prohibit people from sleeping on the city's two busiest avenues.


``You hear fewer places now discussing what to do about this problem in
a positive way,'' said Mary Ann Gleason, the executive director of the
National Coalition on Homelessness. ``They have this sense that there's
nothing you can really do about it, so just try to drive it
underground, or away.''


San Francisco, which has long had a reputation for generosity to the
poor, is teeming with homeless people. By some estimates, well over
10,000 of them live here. They line the bustling sidewalks along Union
Square, drift and mutter to themselves on the avenues leading to the
Golden Gate Bridge and stare with blank eyes from the doorways and
alleys of restaurants and cafes in Nob Hill and North Beach.


Even critics of the new policies concede the homeless are a diverse,
difficult group to reach. Some of them are mentally ill, some are
alcoholics or drug addicts, some are young runaways and some simply
cannot afford an apartment and fear living in shelters so much that
they choose life on the streets.


The problem is hardly new. But many officials say it is getting much
worse because of a drastic housing crisis, welfare reform and
crackdowns against the homeless in other cities that have made San
=46rancisco even more of a magnet for transients.


Last year, in another decision that outraged advocates for the
homeless, Brown had police officers scatter dozens of encampments of
people living in the 1,000 acres of Golden Gate Park.


Other aggressive campaigns have come and gone over the years, but the
homeless remain, exasperating one mayor after another. Some of the
steps Brown is authorizing are similar to others he criticized before
becoming mayor three years ago. He has even suggested at times that the
problem is beyond solving, at least until federal subsidies on housing
for the poor come close to matching the demand.


``We are not trying to criminalize homelessness,'' said Kandace Bender,
Brown's press secretary. ``But this problem makes life difficult for
many other people in the city, too. We can't just let the cycle go on
and on. At some point you have to intervene, and we're trying to do it
as humanely as possible.''


San Francisco has not given up entirely on other strategies to help the
homeless. Because one root cause of the problem is the city's
incredibly tight apartment market -- the vacancy rate here is less than
1 percent -- Brown has backed several measures recently to make
evictions more difficult and is giving rent subsidies to poor people
enrolled in employment programs. The city also is promising not to send
homeless people who violate its three-strikes ordinance to jail if
there are no open beds in treatment programs at the time of their
arrest. But its patience and willingness to keep throwing money at the
problem appear to be dwindling.


Advocates for the homeless say that is the prevailing municipal mood
nationwide.


``If a problem persists long enough in America, people say we've tried
and tried and just can't do it,'' said Randy Shaw, the director of a
housing clinic in San Francisco's gritty Tenderloin neighborhood.


AP-NY-11-28-98 1425EST


END FORWARD

** 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. *=
*


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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=
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