By TJ Johnson : 48hills – excerpt
For a short while in 2020, it wasn’t always “all COVID, all the time.”
That was for about two and a half months into the new year.
The first year into a new decade almost seems like eons ago, but early 2020, at one point, is where homelessness in San Francisco and the US might have turned a corner — starting as early as December 2019.
That’s when the Martin v. Boise case in Idaho was upheld. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the city of Boise’s appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s decision on the city’s urban camping ban. The federal appeals court found that enforcing anti-homeless ordinances without providing services amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, making the law unconstitutional.
In January, the director of San Francisco Public Works, the city agency that has been at the forefront of encampment evictions and the improper seizure of residents’ property, was arrested by federal investigators in connection with a wide-ranging bribery scandal. The ensuing complaint also alleged that Mohammed Nuru, who has since resigned, sought to fix city contracts for homeless bathroom trailers.
Meanwhile, Mayor London Breed’s administration started receiving demands to decriminalize homelessness on two separate fronts — homeless advocates and the Police Commission. The newly formed Solutions Not Sweeps coalition sent Breed a list of demands, including abolishing the confiscation of homeless people’s property and towing the vehicles of people living in them, as well as leading with services rather than enforcement. The SNS coalition also rallied in front of City Hall while performing a mock sweep of people into jail as a bit of street theater…(more)
Someday people will write books and make movies about how we got through 2020. This article outlines some of City Hall’s known homeless policy flip-flops. Not much more could happen this year to throw us off kilter. At this point we are primed to anticipate bad news.
Exposes of corruption with multiple city departments and agencies, accompanied by the breakdown of legal protocols under emergency orders and the craziest election in recent history made us want to hide under a rock or tree until it is over. We all wanted to stay indoors when confronted by blankets of poisonous air from smoke and a mysterious virus. People living on the street, who might have balked were ready to go inside this year. San Francisco was primed for a change and we got one.
Seeing the housing policy deck of chairs laid out on a single timeline helps us put that into some perspective. As we experienced a breakdown in city services we learned to rely on friends and neighbors as we battle against car break-ins, stolen mail, and packages delivered to the curb. This author’s vision of the shifting state of affairs helps us understand how the system failed us so miserably. Regardless of how people feel about the solution for the homeless situation, we can all agree that there are gaping wholes in the system that need to be addressed. The steady stream of citizens leaving the city and state is testament to the need a change in priorities and policies.