Thursday, May 03, 2018

For the record: episodes in game of "Hate the Homeless"

For decades, San Francisco has been a city without enough affordable housing for its low income residents. Too much money has been chasing too little supply since the 1980s, a crisis only made more drastic by our current tech prosperity.

But hey, we're liberals here! We like to feel good about ourselves.

But hey, we also don't want to step over the people and their belongings that end up on city streets.

Smart politicians exploit our ambivalence by initiating round after round of "Hate the Homeless" in which we get to complain about how unhoused people damage the city we are so proud of -- and often to vote to make these people disappear, magically -- without providing the expensive and difficult solution they need: affordable housing.

Acting Mayor Farrell is running another round of "Hate the Homeless," probably as a trial balloon for a run in 2019 against whoever is elected mayor on this upcoming June 5.

So let's look at the record:
  • In November 1992, we passed a law aiming to outlaw "aggressive panhandling" -- though courts said people retained a free speech right to beg.
  • In 2003, a rare outbreak of realism, then-State Senator John Burton called out the home truth:
    "What bothers me is that politicians and political consultants are going after the poor for political gain," Burton said. "I just find it offensive. Last I checked, it's not a crime to be poor."
  • On April Fools day in 2005, Mayor Newsom was saying
    "Homeless woes can be solved."
It's probably only fair to San Francisco to mention that twice in the last thirty years we've rejected "Hate the Homeless" measures at the ballot box -- each time because civic leaders thought that impressing us with their compassionate liberalism was more advantageous than punching down on the already beaten down.

We can do better. Unhoused people demand of us who live inside that we do better; they have every moral authority to condemn us. We need political leadership that isn't playing games. Based on past history and likely electoral outcomes, we can't expect anything from a Governor Newsom; he's been one of Hate the Homeless' more enthusiastic promoters. But local mayoral aspirants should be pressed on their housing policies. That doesn't stop after we select the next one. It took decades for the city's human crisis to become as bad as it is and it will take time to dig out of the mess the more fortunate among us have imposed on the unfortunate.

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