On April 21, legislation passed by the San Francisco Democratic Party to oppose sit/lie law proposal. The Party argued that it reflects the failed incarceration model rather than restorative justice models.
Upcoming events regarding sit/lie debate:
April 21, 6pm: Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the policy-making body for the Democratic Party in San Francisco, will host a meeting in the basement auditorium of the California State Building, 455 Golden Gate Ave.
April 24: Stand Against Sit Lie citywide protest organized by grassroots groups
Recent news on the Sit-Lie I posted about last week.
A story today in the NY Times helped to gel some of my mounting concerns at Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Champion Workforce program. As a case worker for a Transitional Employee program that aides individuals in West Oakland who may have barriers to employment–I have observed a spectrum of persons out of work and desperate to become self-sufficient. The cases I see are as diverse from a Berkeley PH.d student unable to support his full family to a senior adult who’s last 10 years as a TV repairman has become an obsolete job. Of course I work with persons who have tough legal and substance abuse issues which bar them from jobs, but it’s hardly limited. No one, from the educated to experienced, is immune to experiencing the pangs of a recession. When many come into to see me, it’s their last straw–many are even shocked that their feet walked them into a social service agency. When when you’ve used up your resources, looked everywhere for a job and are at risk of losing your housing, you don’t have the option not to try and see what a seriously understaffed employment program (‘m currently the only one running it–a whole other story) can offer you.
The proposed sit-lie law ordinance would prohibit sitting or lying on public sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m, excluding public parks and benches. Police would first issue a warning, but subsequent offenses could result in a fine of at least $50 up to $500 with possible jail time.
Although aimed at the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the law would apply city-wide. San Francisco could follow suit to Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Palo Alto who have enacted similar ordinances.
Julia Yaziji, who moved to the area three years ago, says she has compassion for the homeless and a desire for safe streets. Still, she feels, “Haight Street is not a street where my children and I shop or spend time.”
Another recent confrontation turned into a fistfight between an “aggressive thug” with his dog and a Haight Street resident outside of his house. The resident, who suffered severe bite wounds, is moving because of the continued threats by the perpetrator’s friends.
It’s about changing behavior, says Loewenberg and the Mayor’s Office. Current laws against aggressive panhandling and blocking the sidewalks require a citizen or merchant to sign a complaint and agree to appear in court. A sit-lie law would make it possible for officers to take immediate action.
San Francisco’s elected public defender, Jeff Adachi, expects to challenge the law’s constitutionality if a person is charged under it. “It gives the police too much discretion to decide who should and who shouldn’t be prosecuted,” he told USA Today.
Taz Gran, a Haight resident and violinist, prefers to sit on her street to practice rather than disturb her roommates. “I don’t think sit-lie law is the solution,” she says, “not for people like me who just want to enjoy the weather and play music–not to mention for people who have mental health issues and are unable to go to a shelter.”
Newsom, who insists that the sit-lie law proposal isn’t criminalizing poverty, says San Francisco 24 hour shelters have 100 beds on any given night.
Homeless advocates argue this is simply pushing the poor out of sight and into the nearby parks. “Do parents want this?” Yaziji questions. “I don’t believe we should penalize the homeless for merely using the sidewalks to sit. The ordinance seems to push bad behavior into more remote, harder to control, areas of the city.”
By the end of May, a resolution will be reached which the Board of Supervisors is expected to reject. Residents are currently getting the signatures together for a ballot initiative in November, when the Mayor is anticipated to pass it.
NoPa is about to get 47 new neighbors at 850 Broderick Street. Construction that broke ground in February 2009 is the now finished Zygmunt Arendt House (ZAH), Community Housing Partnership’s (CHP) first housing development to exclusively serve formerly homeless senior citizens. Residents began moving in mid-February, and will continue at gradual rate until June when full occupancy is expected. All tenants were referred by the San Francisco Human Services Agency’s eight different access points of homeless shelters and social service agencies throughout the city.
At the Open House on February 4, CHP staff led about 30 NoPa neighbors on the first-ever tour of the building, answering questions along the way about architecture, funding and programs. The first floor hosts offices, lounges and community meeting spaces, a laundry facility, and a kitchen and dining area. Studio apartments, located on the second and third floors are each fitted with a single bed, small kitchen and private bathroom. The residency also features a courtyard garden, landscaped roof deck, and solar photovoltaic panels to reduce electricity costs.
At a community meeting on January 13, Gail Gillman, Executive Director of CHP, said ZAH is a wonderful opportunity for formerly homeless seniors. “The goal,” she said, “is for tenants to remain housed while integrating them back into the community.”
In addition to a long term commitment to maintain a property that adds values, community and safety, CHP will also administer extensive on-site supportive tenant services. The three case managers for ZAH will assist tenants who have a history of mental health and substance abuse issues. However, Gillman said that most of the case management will be helping residents to navigate the health care system.
On-site classes like cooking healthy on a tight budget, time management and civic engagement, life skills often lost as a result of chronic homelessness, are part of a full range of services that residents can voluntarily participate in. A large community room attached to a full kitchen provides opportunities for community meals and programs like senior exercises, computer classes, arts and crafts and books clubs. All of these classes and programs are part of a full range of services that residents can voluntarily participate in. There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities for NoPa neighbors to engage in with the residents of ZAH (at the end of article).
Neighbors are encouraged to bring questions and concerns to Stephanie Burch, ZAH’s Property Manager, for resolving issues to reinforcing curb appeal. NoPa neighbors can anticipate news to come on a Welcoming Party in June to celebrate the new ZAH residents and CHP staff in the community.
Stephanie Burch, Property Manager, (415-735-2700 x106)
Contact Kendra Fuller, Tenet Services Supervisor, (415-735-2700) for volunteer opportunities:
• Senior exercises (yoga, Tai Chi, nature walks in GG Park)
• Computer classes
• Film/Music appreciation
• Arts and Crafts (Sewing, Knitting, Fashion Design, Photography)
• Accompaniment to/from doctors appointments