Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Queer, trans groups in SF criticize proposal on homeless people’s tents

Photo: Dan Brekke/KQED

Photo: Dan Brekke/KQED

Queer and transgender community members are criticizing San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell’s proposal to stop homeless people from staying in tents on the city’s sidewalks.

Citing survey data that show almost 30 percent of the local homeless population identify as LGBT, longtime queer activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca and others said in a news release that Farrell’s initiative would “make it even more difficult for queer/trans and all homeless people to survive and get off the streets” and would “further criminalize homeless people who already face fines and jail time from anti-panhandling and sit/lie laws.”

The statement, signed by Coalition on Homelessness, Communities United Against Violence, El/La Para TransLatinas, and others, also said that the proposal “plays into the homeless bashing” favored by neighbors and merchants in the Castro, Haight, and other neighborhoods, “where scores of homeless queer/trans youth and adults have sought refuge.”

“There is no pride in homeless-bashing neighborhoods or ballot initiatives,” the groups said. “Already, police have begun sweeps of the homeless in the Castro in preparation for this weekend’s queer and transgender celebrations. Are not queer homeless youth who flee here from homophobic families and schools throughout the country members of our community?”

San Francisco Police Department spokespeople didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the “sweeps” allegation.

The queer and trans advocates’ news release also pointed to laws that were passed in the 1960s and 70s to restrict gay men’s access to parks and even stop them from walking or sitting “on the streets.”

“We call on the Board of Supervisors, members of the queer and transgender communities, and concerned people of San Francisco to speak out against this initiative and to join with us in saying that we will not allow homeless queer and transgender members of our community to be swept off the streets, banned from having a tent, fined or arrested for sitting or lying on a sidewalk or stopped from using any public space that every person in this city has a right to,” the groups said. “Our people need housing, not jail cells, house keys not handcuffs.”

Farrell’s proposal is supported by gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, along with Supervisors Katy Tang and Malia Cohen.

In his own news release Tuesday, when he submitted his “Housing Not Tents” initiative for the November ballot, Farrell said, “It is not compassionate to allow human beings to live in tents on our streets – it is both dangerous and unhealthy. The answer to homelessness is housing, not tents.”

The initiative would mandate that shelter or housing be offered to people who are living in an encampment before it’s removed.

A majority of voters have to support “Housing Not Tents” for the initiative to become law.

The city would have to provide 24 hours notice, in writing, of the intent to remove the encampment. Everyone staying in the encampment would need to be informed “of a specific available shelter or housing opportunity.”

The Department of Public Works would store each person’s property for up to 90 days.

Farrell anticipates that expected money for homeless housing, Navigation Centers, and homelessness programs will provide ample housing and shelter opportunities for his proposal to succeed.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, June 24, 2016 @ 4:51 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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