Letter to SF Board of Supes and Mayor Breed on the harassment of homeless people living on the streets of San Francisco

Under the leadership of Mayor Breed, City officials have quietly continued to enact homeless encampment sweeps, despite a court ruling them unconstitutional last year. Learn more about the City's ongoing criminalization of poverty in the midst of a widespread housing crisis, by reading this letter that we sent the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor early in 2019.

Date: January 21st, 2019

To: San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Mayor London Breed

cc: Kelley Cutler, Human Rights Organizer, Coalition on Homelessness

re: Harassment of homeless people living on the streets of San Francisco

Indivisible SF opposes sweeps of homeless people’s encampments and restrictions on vehicular habitation and calls on the Mayor and Board of Supervisors to enact legislation to stop ongoing harassment and traumatization of our neighbors who live on the streets.

The homelessness crisis in San Francisco is severe, and sweeps do not help people who are homeless. Although the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that West Coast cities cannot criminalize people for sitting or lying outdoors when there is nowhere for them to seek shelter, the City continues to harass and traumatize those who live on the streets. Temperatures dropped into the 40s and more than an inch of rain came down during recent storms, but tents, blankets and tarps continue to be confiscated. With over 1,200 people on the waiting list for shelter beds, confiscation of this minimal “housing” --really just survival gear-- violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

According to the SFMTA, San Francisco has over 1,200 people living in cars, vans, or RVs on the streets of San Francisco. These include families, students, pregnant people, young children, elderly people, and people with disabilities. For the vehicularly housed, numerous challenges threaten their only form of shelter. Vehicular dwelling is far from ideal, but is often the safest option for this vulnerable population. Yet the City is threatening it by issuing parking citations and tow fees, which exacerbate precarious living situations.

The Board of Supervisors and Mayor should immediately take these actions: Ban the SF Police Department, Department of Public Works, Municipal Transportation Agency, and other city agencies from conducting sweeps of homeless people, tent “encampments,” and people living in vehicles.

Ban the confiscation and towing of vehicles that are used for housing.

Provide clean, safe, secure facilities with easy access so that people can keep their property safe when they voluntarily accept places in overnight shelters and other temporary housing.

Provide safe parking sites for people living in their vehicles, including 24/7 access and security, hygiene and sanitation facilities, and on-site support services.

Anna Krasner