Dufty fights Mayor Lee's dehumanization of homeless people

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Hang in there, Bevan -- your boss has a terrible idea

I've had some pretty sharp disagreements with Bevan Dufty, but in this case, he's on the right track: Mayor Lee's idea of launching an ad campaign to discourage contributions to panhandlanders is ugly, dehumanizing, and a civic disgrace.

Homeless people are people. They're not animals at Yosemite ("please don't feed the bears.") They're not some sort of public-relations problem for downtown hotels. They're San Franciscans who for one reason or another have lost the ability to pay rent. That's not a crime and it shouldn't be the end of their humanity.

You want to stop agressive panhandling? It's relatively easy. Increase general assistance grants and make sure that everyone in the city has enough money to eat and get a place to sleep. Oh, but that involves raising taxes -- and it also requires a dramatic change in attitude at City Hall. A guaranteed minimum income wasn't always considered a crazy radical idea; 40 years ago, it was part of the mainstream of American political thought. Now, anybody who isn't working -- for whatever reason -- is considered drunk, lazy, a freeloader, a drag on all of the rest of us. Except that a lot of the rest of us are one paycheck away from the same fate.

I always give to panhandlers. I know some of them take the money and buy booze or drugs; I spend part of my money on such things, too, and I don't even live on the street. If I did, I suspect the beer-and-bourbon portion of my net spending would increase significantly. I know some have substance-abuse problems; I suspect that the buck or two I hand over isn't going to make that any better or worse, but it might very well keep someone in need of a drink or a fix decide it's not necessary to rob a passer-by or break a car window to get the money.

Even the "agressive" panhandlers I encounter tend to calm down if you treat them politely. If I have no cash, I look them in the eye, say I'm sorry and would love to help but I can't do it right now. In more than 30 years walking the streets of San Francisco, treating panhandlers like the human beings they are, I've never once had a problem. And I don't expect to.

Let's do an ad campaign to discouarge residents and tourists from continuing to allow their tax money to go for loopholes and benefits for large corporations. Don't feed the rich; they're already too fat. How about it, Ed?

 

Comments

First, I appreciate the hard work that you do. It is a thankless and difficult job. I have worked with this population before also. I know for a fact that there are tons of services out there and available for those that wish to take advantage of them. I know that many f these agencies and the City itself does tons of outreach to people trying to get them into services. Honestly, I do not know what the answer is.

What I do know is that my City has become overrun with homeless people. Why this is I don't know. I think that there are a variety of reasons why this is. The weather is good, there are tons of services, drugs are easy to find, the legal system is very light on people caught dealing, using, stealing etc., many people in SF itself are pretty progressive and willing to give a handout. I think all of this and more added up results in an almost overwhelming homeless population. I don't know that adding more services is the answer. My fear is that if we do, it just attracts more and more. No thanks.

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 9:38 am

Your compassion is noble, but my own eyes tell me that all you've ever done is perpetuate the problem.

Posted by Chromefields on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

Bring on the Snatch Vans!!!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 11:06 am

Many panhandlers are not homeless and some are not even especially poor. I know this from first hand experience. Spare change will not change anyone's life. Contributing to a program such as Next Door ,which provides life and job skills training to the homeless, does change lives for the better. People should save their spare change and make donations to programs that provide a more permanent solution to extreme poverty.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

Disagree! I was and still am just a step above being homeless and its the ones standing there begging for help who are actually doing something to try and change their circumstances!!!! Giving to shelters is fine but arent most shelters full? What about the 1s who cant get into them? They need the most help and by standing there holding a sign theyre showing theyre trying to change their circumstances....find this better then the ones standing in lines with their hands out just expecting to get free stuff....Dont get me wrong i do agree aggressive anhandling is wrong... But put yourself in the homeless persons place for one minute...what would u do to survive?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 8:46 am

I agree even though i was once recently homeless i did notice a trend in the some of the homeless making it a career to b homeless...and yes they do go places where they know the resources are...I myself say Stop Feeding and Randomly givng to the homeless....It is causing an issue with lazy people sponging off of the people trying to help... I do give to vagrants when i think its appropriate but id never give to someone aggressive and when i had to beg i wouldnt have expected someone to give to me if id been aggressive!!!!!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 8:39 am

The biggest problem with SF's approach to the homeless is the fact that a person who is mentally unstable or addicted to drugs/alcohol can refuse to treat themselves and after a given number of days, if they have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, are able to leave on their own recognizance if they have been temporarily stabilized to the point that they can communicate they no longer want to be there. This not SF's fault, and all cities face the same problem in that regard.

I know abuses happened in the past and cannot guarantee they wouldn't happen again, but am perfectly willing to take that chance. It is the mentally ill and addicts who largely give all homeless a bad name (they aren't the only ones, but they are a big part of it). If it was just those who were down on their luck for one reason or other the existing programs would probably make a decent dent in the problem. But it isn't. As soon as the issue of the homeless comes up in this city one of the first things that comes to the mind of many people is the crazy person ranting and screaming on the street, alcoholics and drug-addicts.

The fact is that the crazy and serious addicts are unable to take care of themselves and we should not treat them like they can. Institutionalize them after a fixed number of police and emergency healthcare incidents and hold them until a psychiatric panel rules that they can act like responsible citizens and take care of themselves. They do not get a say after minimum treatment. They have to run the full course of treatment in the facility regardless of whether or not they want to be there. If they revert to their old habits and cause half the number of police and emergency healthcare incidents required for the initial institutionalization after their release, put them right back into the institution and try a different technique/process.

This would get the worst of the homeless off the streets and would probably ease some of the overwhelming negative attitudes of the public towards the remaining homeless, which would make it easier to keep the programs we have now funded because of the increase in public support for such efforts.

Posted by me on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 11:03 am

The US constitution doesn't guarantee anyone the right to housing, a living wage, or mental health services and addiction counseling. It does, however, guarantee that you cannot be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime. This comment is interesting, because while sometimes, when civil liberties are eroded in our country, it comes as a result of some big, draconian, power hungry conspiracy, I think more often, rights are lost to those with perfectly good intentions, who think they know what's best for others.

Posted by myklValentine on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

When a person's lack of self-control repeatedly results in anti-social actions they should lose their rights. As they are unable to take care of themselves, it is the responsibility of the state to force them to undergo a full treatment regimen for the benefit of both the mentally ill/addict and the rest of society.

Posted by me on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

because I think that term is really key in your argument. If by anti-social, you mean literally, physically harming or endangering other folks or their property, then yes, I would agree that it is the government's job to get involved. But anti-social can also refer to just being loud and obnoxious, or even undesirable to look at, and I would emphatically maintain that it is not the city's job to enforce an upper middle class standard of civic order. In other words, the city should take every reasonable precaution to ensure that its citizens ARE safe, but not intrude on the rights of others in order to ensure that "respectable" citizens FEEL safe. To imply that anyone should lose their rights over behavior that is anti-social by the this latter standard betrays a misunderstanding of civil liberties at best, or an indifference at worst.
I'm sure that your intentions are good, and yes, crackheads are an extreme and tragic example of what can go wrong with the principle of self ownership, but the idea of anyone taking over their lives because they don't know what's good for themselves sets a frightening precedent, that could be extended to some ridiculous extreme like banning happy meal toys to encourage healthy eating. (I know, nobody would ever try anything that dumb).
"me", I believe you are the only person in the universe qualified to make those decisions for yourself. You are intelligent enough to decide what you want to do with your own body, be it eating organic, locally grown, nutritious, whole foods, or sprinkling uranium flakes on your high fructose breakfast cereal, or anything in between!

Posted by myklValentine on May. 01, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

seeing people pee in the street, shoot up drugs, offer to sell their body, rant obscenities and harass and curse passers by.

Too bad that's not important to you.

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

without seeing naked people? Should the entire city be childproofed just so you can have a nice, wholesome walk with your children? Problem with that is that SF's big time tourist appeal has nothing to do with being a "family city". If that's problematic for you, maybe you should try going ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY! There has to be somewhere for people who don't want kids, and enjoy things that are not appropriate for the whole family. Maybe somebody out there is just as offended by Pokemon as you are by the "ladies" of the TL. Should one subjective preference be exalted above another at a policy level?
Your choice to have kids was not a favor to me or anyone else. There's no reason for anyone to change their lives to accommodate your decision.

Posted by myklValentine on May. 01, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

The US constitution doesn't guarantee anyone the right to housing, a living wage, or mental health services and addiction counseling. It does, however, guarantee that you cannot be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime. This comment is interesting, because while sometimes, when civil liberties are eroded in our country, it comes as a result of some big, draconian, power hungry conspiracy, I think more often, rights are lost to those with perfectly good intentions, who think they know what's best for others.

Posted by myklValentine on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

Mayor Ed Lee's effort to stop panhandling is a masterstroke.

These people aren't panhandling, they're extorting the public with threats of violence and intimidation.

Shocking that anyone can think they're owed a minimum income with no contribution to society other than vomiting and peeing on the sidewalk in front of the tiny little apartment I live in with my two children.

Posted by Facts on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

who ever wrote this article is a FUCKING IDIOT, the term homeless is used only
by the press, and the welfare department, truth be told, 99.9% of these worthless
pieces of SHIT, are alchie's, junkies, and crazies, who do not want to take their
meds, and illegals, giving these people more money, is exactly what these
professionals bums want, so they can continue on their self destructive life styles without any interference, THEY want you to feel sorry for them, so they can
milk you for more money, the best thing you can do would be to dry out these
individuals, and then send them back to where they came from, over 50% are
from out of state, but be prepared for the moaning and knashing of the teeth from
the welfare department, as this would mean loss of well paying jobs, up and down
the chain of command, society is being used as a slush fund both by the bums and
the civil servants, time to end the game before the city goes broke, not only from
supporting the bums, but the civil servants as well!!!

Posted by native sf'er on May. 01, 2012 @ 10:07 pm