Homeless Emergency Law Moves Forward with VetoProof Majority

first_imgDozens of people sat in on a hearing on Thursday at City Hall to support Supervisor David Campos’s efforts to declare a state of emergency on homelessness, a measure passed unanimously by the subcommittee’s eight members. That level of support at the full board will make it veto-proof, said the Mission District supervisor. “I want you to know that I have heard you,” said Campos, addressing a crowd of concerned citizens, current and formerly homeless people, and those who advocate for them during a subcommittee hearing of the Board of Supervisors. “The issue of homelessness here in San Francisco has reached a crisis level.”The legislation, introduced by Campos earlier this month and forwarded from the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee to the full Board of Supervisors Thursday afternoon, would liken the living conditions of the approximately 7,000 homeless in the city to a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a flood. Many of those in attendance described the crisis as a “man-made disaster” that they said city leaders have neglected for years. “I’ve been in state of emergency for five years, but I’m glad you guys finally caught up,” said Darnell Boyd, who is currently homeless.“Every time someone is about to become homeless, alarm bells should be ringing because the consequences are so dire,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.Following the example of cities such as Oakland and Los Angeles, the emergency declaration could be the first step in allowing the city to request state and federal assistance, and to expedite certain codes and legislative procedures to create more housing for the homeless, said the supervisor. The legislation will move to the Board of Supervisors in early April.“The declaration gives local government the power to cut the red tape in terms of legal requirements when it comes to use of public property in dealing with housing homeless people,” said Campos. “It will allow us to shorten the process to be able to quickly turn buildings owned by the city and county into spaces to house people.”This immediate action would include building more homeless shelters on public lands. On Tuesday, Campos followed his declaration with another ordinance that would force the city to open six Navigation Centers within one year, three within the next four months.The city’s first and only Navigation Center at 1950 Mission St. has been pointed to as a successful model in helping the homeless transition off the streets and into stable housing.  That site was chosen as temporary location for the center’s pilot program, set to expire in June 2017, and Campos said that he is committed to ensuring that one of the new centers will find a permanent space in the Mission. The six new centers would be connected to long-term housing and serve specific community needs — such as a wet house for chronic alcoholics, as well as a possible safe injection site — and could be built quickly under the state of emergency declaration.Photo by Laura WaxmannA large contingent from the Mission that included housing activists, residents and students showed general support for Campos’s declaration and the possibility of new centers, and spoke to a crisis made visible by a growing number of encampments in the neighborhood in recent months.  “It’s about time,” said Dennis Wagner of Rainbow Grocery at 14th and Folsom streets. For months, a large homeless encampment snaked along Division Street near the grocery cooperative, until it was declared a public health crisis by the city’s health officials and dismantled last month.“We just displaced people that are already displaced. That’s not an answer, and we need a long-term solution. If we can help, we’ d like to be a part of it,” said Wagner.Other Mission community members voiced concerns over the manner in which the city has dealt with the influx of homeless campers.Matt Ostrow, an eighth grader at San Francisco Friends School at 250 Valencia St., questioned the effectiveness of the sweeps conducted by the city’s Department of Public Works to clean out homeless encampments.“A few blocks from our school is Division Street. I see homeless people on every block on my way to school. The sweeps done in that area aren’t helping to solve the issue,” said Ostrow. “All they are doing is moving them to another street.”Some speakers referred to the analogy of a “drowning man placed in a neighbor’s pool” to illustrate how the city’s sweeps often perpetuate the homeless’ plight by shuffling campers from one street to another. “That analogy is right on. The criminalization of the homeless is a major issue,” said Kelly Cutler, of Coalition on Homelessness. “Everyone’s frustrated, including those on the frontline. The [Public Works crews] don’t want to be doing this, but they are ordered to.”While most speakers rallied in support for the state of emergency declaration, some said that efforts by law enforcement to address the criminal elements associated with the encampments are insufficient. “The homeless encampment on Florida Street has quadrupled since [the homeless] cleared out from the freeway. Now, they break into cars, and it’s unsanitary and unsafe to be on a block where I pay a ton of rent,” said Daniel Conrad, who runs a law firm on Bryant Street. “Tell Captain Perea of Mission Station that my neighborhood is not an injection safe zone. ”The measure will likely go to the full board next week. Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0%center_img 0%last_img

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