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Friday, July 30, 2021

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News + PoliticsDear C.W. Nevius: Please stop attacking homeless people

Dear C.W. Nevius: Please stop attacking homeless people

Words can have consequences. Ugly words can have ugly consequences.

What the Fuck, Chuck? Have you got a real solution or are you just whining?
What the Fuck, Chuck? Have you got a real solution or are you just whining?

By John Elberling

AUGUST 31, 2015 — “Thoughtful, compassionate people have had it,” you declare in your latest Chronicle column broadside this last Thursday against the city’s “pee and poop” problems. Which you then immediately conflate with the city’s “out of control” homelessness reality.

It’s refreshing to see you have finally stopped beating around the bush and now are outright channeling Donald Trump: Why don’t “they” just go someplace else, like back to where they came from? The homeless, the “druggies, dunks, and the mentally ill,’” whoever offends us on the sidewalks or impinges on our quality of life.

I suppose this is a sign of the times, a new era of American Intolerance. Even in San Francisco, and even in the midst, by the way, of our greatest local prosperity ever. How ironic, or perhaps, how telling.

But, before we set up “camps” for the nation’s several hundred thousand long-term homeless in the Nevada desert, the only actual “someplace else” there could ever be that didn’t just shuttle the homeless from one city to another and back, why don’t we stop bullshitting and just get serious about cleaning up our San Francisco streets and neighborhoods everyday?

The prototype converted bus Lave Mae mobile bathroom/shower that rotates among Central City locations four days a week now is a great success for everyone, both the homeless and the neighborhoods. So why hasn’t the city ordered a fleet of at least two dozen more to cover the entire city? Sure, they will cost $10 million a year to operate. So?

The city’s parks have public restrooms too, but many are an awful mess because no staff are permanently assigned to most parks to keep them clean and safe, unlike the public restrooms in Yerba Buena Gardens for example. Sure that will cost $10 million a year or more too. So?

And several Central City neighborhoods have set up their own Community Benefit Districts whose taxpayers fund Clean Teams to safely take care of sidewalk messes and debris left by the homeless and nightclub patrons every morning, and Ambassadors to respond to calls for help from local residents, businesses, and property owners to deal professionally with campers, panhandlers, passed out people, and the deranged. But sure, this costs them millions of dollars every year too.

But no, you disdain, “This drumbeat call for money is getting old.” ”Enough carrot, there has to be a stick.”

But exactly what that no-cost “stick” for application to the homeless will be you leave completely unexplained. That aphorism unmistakably refers in its origin to some kind of physical punishment. So: SFPD sweeps brandishing nightsticks or Tasers to clear the Embarcadero for the Super Bowl media party there? Or confiscating homeless people’s shopping carts with their tattered few worldly goods? Or seizing their pet dogs and kittens for consignment to the city pound? Let’s break their will, even their hearts!

Is this code language for a new physical repression of the homeless in San Francisco, C.W.?

Or what? You actually never say. Because, I expect, in fact you have no answer, no idea at all, save one: Run Them Outta Town. No?

Bottom line: mass homeless is our permanent American reality for the 21st Century. Face it, C.W., that will be the fact of life here in San Francisco, and everywhere. For us, for our children, for our grandchildren, and for generations beyond.

We have no national mental health system to fund the expensive group homes that would actually move the severally mentally ill off our nation’s streets into decent places to live. Instead we build atomic aircraft carriers and nuclear attack submarines. And grant hundreds of billions in corporate welfare to powerful special corporate interests every year.

We criminalize drugs and leave the addicted no choice but petty theft, like the city’s ubiquitous auto break-ins, to pay high black market dope prices that then enrich the drug cartels and ultimately destabilize entire nations, like Mexico and Bolivia. How brilliant! Then we build more prisons that house and train those users to be better crooks at the cost of additional billions.

No, we all know San Francisco cannot solve these national failures. But we can at least clean up the “pee and poop” on our sidewalks here everyday, and offer our homeless – they are Americans and our neighbors too – the basic human dignity of real bathrooms to use. Is that too much to ask?

Yes that will cost San Francisco significant money – Tens of Millions a Year – from one of the richest cities in the world that right now is benefitting (some of us at least) from an unprecedented 21st Century Tech Gold Rush.

Deal with it, C.W. Stop whining. Stop blaming. Just do it.

John Elberling is president of TODCO Group

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. “Thoughtful, compassionate people have had it,” say Nevius.

    There’s one thing I know for certain, Chuck Nevius does not and can not speak for thoughtful, compassionate people. Period.

  2. @sffoghorn – Let’s not forget local venture capitalist genius Tom Perkins, who has explained to us plebes that the gigantic hedge around Danielle Steel’s mansion is the only thing protecting the 1% from a Krystallnacht.

  3. @Ezra Villarreal – Of course, anyone who considers the powerless party to be “the one with the power” is completely delusional. It’s not hard to look at material facts as a guide to separating facts from delusions in this case, nor in the many many other cases where the privileged are whining about how oppressed they are.

  4. It’s unfortunate but we have run out of spare continents on the planet to ship off the unwanted, marginalized members of society. It worked out great when the Brits shipped them all of to Australia. The petty crooks, thieves whores and drunks helped make Australia now one of the most prosperous places in the world.
    I’m thinking in another generation people may be sent to another planet instead of to jail.

  5. Which is why ‘impossible’ was not in quotes. That was just my sense of what you had said. If you’d like to carry on with the gutter language, feel free. But you still leave us wondering what leaving makes a ‘fate worse than Death’ so horrible.

    Oh well, I guess there’s no answer explainable, or deserving of explanation. “Pry it from my cold, dead hands” is a phrase more associated with the NRA but seems apt in this context.

    However, I’m rattling your cage. Help us understand why staying here (at a relatively cheap rate, even for other places in CA) is not just about the money.

  6. Who the fuck said ‘impossible’? Besides you, that is…but your reply suggests that I said it…which is untrue…so not sure where you’re pulling ‘impossible’ from.

  7. All prejudice that is based on stereotypical classifications is inherently hateful. Trying to rationalize it in some cases but not others based on your own personal opinions and prejudices is not helpful

  8. But saying its impossible doesn’t win you any understanding – it just indicates defiance.

    Care to flesh it out?

  9. “San Francisco is a rich city with a rich tax base. They could spend billions on low income housing also.”

    Yet there’s a measure on the ballot for 1/10th of that, and its unlikely to pass (and shouldn’t, really).

    Built “affordable housing” in SF simply isn’t. (http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2015/07/citys-land-purchase-to-build-889k-affordable-apartments-approved.html)

    If the City needs 100,000 new units, and they could save $100,000 on the land for each unit, then that would be a pot of $100B. For that amt, it makes sense to build transit to such a ‘new city’ that would allow the working class to live relatively close to work, and almost pay for the hosing they consume.

    As for the homeless, its ridiculous to try housing them here. They need care and treatment, and will likely not be significant contributors for a long time. A distant suburb seems reasonable and “affordable” for those who will pay the bills. What do they need from the City, aside from further services?

  10. It’s not about the 7×7 space. And, if I have to explain that to anyone, there sure the hell wouldn’t be a point to it. If I have to detail that where one lives isn’t exclusive to the damn room one sleeps in, that ‘living’ somewhere includes far more than that, then I’d probably have an easier time describing colors to blind people.

  11. Here’s an idea: pick on those who are stronger than you, don’t be pathetic and pick on those weaker than you.

  12. Who is the weak or the powerful is dependent on the context.

    A “powerful” rich white banker becomes the powerless when he is walking along 3rd Street and is confronted by a “powerless” black thug.

    Stereotypes are not helpful.

  13. But history has resolved that illegitimate claims that the adversary had power decisively in conflicts as diverse as the Civil War, Vietnam and WWII.

  14. What the hell are you trying to do? You come on here, single out my comment to reply to with an ass-load of sarcasm days after the damn article comes out, and display not a drop of sympathy or empathy for the social injustices we face. And, now, you’ve got this comment here that makes it seem as if you weren’t being sarcastic about living in El Cerrito or Fremont as a ‘fate worse than death’…and adding Daly City, San Mateo, and Redwood City to the lists of places that are hellish or ‘a fate worse than death’…what do you want?

  15. Most homeless people have no disability, though at ~40% their disability rate is higher than the ~20% rate overall.

    High rents are worst for the worst off.

  16. REMINDER TO “Mr ED” and CW.
    Lest we forget them, especially those who served.
    Remember them during the Santa Clara Toilet Bowl –
    and after. A significant portion of revenue generated should be dedicated to immediate rehab and construction of low income housing and other services, not further enriching your corporate paymasters. Just my 2c.

  17. Most homeless people have some type of illness, disability or addiction, but as cities become more expensive, low income wage earners are increasingly unable to find any housing within reasonable commuting distance. I don’t know many homeless people in San Francisco, but you could try talking to some of them and find out their stores. You might be surprised.

  18. Mentally ill, drug addicts and former felons who live in public assistance don’t get “great places” they get dirty, overcrowded, rat infested hovels but perhaps its better than life/death on the street. Maybe not, ask them.

    San Francisco is a rich city with a rich tax base. They could spend billions on low income housing also.

    The point of the article is that urbanization is a global phenomenon, and a much greater percentage of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by the year 2050. City urban planners need to start now to prepare for massive influxes of people. As the lines blur between what is rich, middle class and poor questions arise about who gets to live in cities. I don’t have all the answers.

    The only country that is truly preparing for urbanization is China. They are busy building big cities now, which may remain vacant for years, but as they gradually move over 100 million peasants from rural farms to cities, they will at least be more prepared.

  19. Agreed, Ezra, so-called “progressive” thinking is never more dangerous or biased than when it attempts to rationalize hate speech against a class of people based on a convenient stereotype.

    By their argument it’s OK to be racist as long as the target is whites or Jews. It’s OK to be sexist but only against men. Gays and transsexuals are precious but straights are evil breeders. It’s OK to steal as long as the victim is wealthy. Violence is OK as long as it is against cops or bankers or landlords or tech workers or realtors or CEO’s or . .

    It’s like progressives think they can get a free pass to be hate-mongering and prejudiced as the people they allegedly oppose as long as they can successfully stereotype them in a negative way.

  20. Another chapter in Tim’s Little Red Book explains that it is never permissible to politicize occasions where illegal immigrants shoot people, but it is always permissible to politicize occasions where the SFPD shoots people.

  21. “The spirit of ‘if you can’t afford to live here, fucking leave!’ lives here…”

    Because having to live in El Cerrito or Fremont is a Fate Worse Than Death.

  22. In Tim Redmond’s Little Red Book, it’s OK to use ugly words on people who are perceived to be strong and powerful.

  23. It’s easy to read all of these comments down here and fully understand how the City has become the playground for the wealthy elite. Apparently, their supporters feel very passionately about the City’s progressive, grass-roots history…passionately hated and passionately lobbying to eradicate it and remake it in it’s new, sparkly, homeless-free, contemporary Republican/Libertarian image. The spirit of ‘if you can’t afford to live here, fucking leave!’ lives here…

  24. “We have no national mental health system to fund the expensive group homes that would actually move the severally mentally ill off our nation’s streets into decent places to live. ” We couldn’t move the severely mentally ill into those expensive group homes if they didn’t want to go. It would be a violation of their civil rights. People complain that Ronald Reagan closed the mental hospitals in California when he was governor to save money. That’s only half right. Mental hospitals were closed because advocates for the mentally ill wanted them closed and the former inmates integrated into society.

  25. Stop calling them “Homeless” for starters. Most are either Drug Addicts or Mentally Ill. The mentally ill deserve society’s sympathy and help, whereas drug addicts, not so much.

  26. No. Your quote proves my point. In every conflict the adversary group is considered a threat and therefore the one with the power. So your “targeting groups is acceptable when the target is stronger than the
    source and despicable when the source is stronger than the target” is an unreliable, risky assertion because it supports everyone’s point of view, whether David Campos’ and the oppressed La Raza in the Mission or Oz Erickson’s and his oppressed brethren of wealthy investors.

  27. “Words can have consequences. Ugly words can have ugly consequences.”

    48hills, January 26, 2015:

    “Don’t be a Stanford asshole”

    ““Stanford dicks.” That’s what my sons call them. Or Stanford douchebags, or Stanford tools. The term “Stanford assholes” has even made it into “Looking,” the HBO show set in gay San Francisco – and it’s not meant to be flattering.”

  28. I bet that you abuse small children and animals in your spare time because there is no difference at all.

  29. It is clearly the same thing to pick a fight with an opponent who could easily kick your ass as it is to pick a fight with an opponent who cannot fight back.

  30. >”No diff between targeting rich, predominantly white tech displacers and targeting the homegrown homeless?”

    I have to admit, you’re right. When I said that the targeting of the group was wrong I hadn’t taken the RACE of the group into account. As you point out, since most of them come from a single race it is obviously proper and correct to target them.

  31. But you know that is not going to happen, because the Mayor will never give up such a valuable political constituency as the homeless. Not only do mayor’s get to lard out dollops of patronage for the homeless industry, but on cue they get to hoist the homeless up as political targets to punk on progressives.

    That shit stink you smell is Ed Lee’s shit stink, Gavin Newsom’s shit stink, WIllie Brown’s shit stink.

  32. Absolutely! I didn’t mean to disagree.

    Targeting groups is perfectly acceptable when progressives decide that the group needs to be targeted.

    The only part that is obscene is when people OTHER than progressives determine that a group needs to be targeted.

    Who can not understand such a simple, basic tenet of SF Progressives?

  33. “Mayor DeBlasio is committing $41 billion in fund to build affordable housing in Manhattan.”

    Of course it goes without saying that the homeless, mentally ill, and former addicts and felons should get to live in awesome places in great locations like Manhattan or San Francisco, and of course we want them among us as much as possible — who wouldn’t want that — but does it ever cross the progressive mind, “wow that 41 billion could help so many thousands and thousands more if it was put to work not in Manhattan.

    On the one hand, adherence to progressive religion, on the other helping more people. hmmm.

  34. “I am starting to feel a little like Pastor Niemoller in Nazi Germany,” Erickson wrote in an August 15 letter obtained exclusively by San Francisco.“You are all probably familiar with his famous words. ‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.’”

    Oz Erickson claims to be a holocaust victim.


    Are you seriously suggesting that the governing conservative coalition and developers are misunderstood oppressed minorities and the homeless are the real threat?

  35. Absolutely, SF has seen a faster rise in price than most cities and should invest much more in housing. Yet SF has added affordable units at a faster rate than NY. What neither SF nor NY nor any other large East Coast city has done is add enough housing.

    When people need housing, the right thing to do is build it.

  36. ahahaha! What was rational about suggesting that Oz Erickson believes himself to be suffering like a holocaust victim?

    My point is that it’s likely that in most conflicts between groups through history both groups have considered themselves to be the one under threat, economically or not, including the conflict you raised. So your “targeting groups is acceptable when the target is stronger than the source” is the same zeal as ever. The key is to make sure that the other group is perceived as powerful and a threat and of course the “other” (they’re rich and white and they don’t have “soul” and they’re destroying our culture, as the propaganda here goes).

    It’s a ridiculous, trivializing comparison that apparently others have raised and you insist on re-raising because no one’s getting carted off in cattle cars here, but whether it comes to nothing more than dirty looks in Dolores Park and stupid legislation from David Campos, it is interesting to see the same underlying dynamic at work. Fascinating study of human behavior.

  37. Do you have any evidence that it is high rents that create homeless?

    People with jobs generally do not become homeless. They just make alterations to their lifestyle and living situation to compensate for that. They might, for instance, move to Oakland or Queens rather than try and live in SF or Manhattan.

    The homeless are mostly incapable of work or unwilling to work, due to reasons like mental health issues, criminal behaviors, addictions and so on. They are the people who cannot make reasonable adaptations to their life. As such, any rent would be too high.

  38. So, surprise surprise, Elberling thinks that we should spend even more on the bottomless pit of the homeless. Even though much of the reason why so many homeless people move here in the first place is the generous packages of services here.

    This is not a vote winner for progressives. The average voter may be sick and tired of this vast malodorous underclass, but they are not in the mood to throw ever more money at them. They do actually want the homeless to “just go away”, and would prefer spending money on relocating them to some place where they cannot be seen, heard, smelled or stepped in.

  39. All American cities have witnessed a dramatic increase in housing prices, but SF has seen a faster rise in the last few years than East Coast cities and has not devoted as high a level of resources to the problem

  40. What do you mean, ‘you people’?

    In SF there are lotteries to get BMR apartments, and the chances of getting a place are very low, but evictions do not occur the way they occur in NY: in 2014, there were 40% fewer eviction notices filed with the SFRB (%/units) than actual evictions in NY.

  41. Almost all American cities have problems with homelessness, except in very cold Northern regions where people freeze to death in the winter. Maybe this will always be a problem, it’s hard to say. There are many people who have studied this problem and listed various reasons why homelessness exists, some of the problem is mental illness and drug abuse, but increasingly, homeless people in the US are just poor.

    Mayor DeBlasio is committing $41 billion in fund to build affordable housing in Manhattan.

    You people in SF are relative newcomers to the problems of explosive housing prices, take some advice from urban planners who have been there, done that: Cities where only the rich can live have serious problems. It’s worth the money to invest in affordable housing. In NY there are lotteries to get apartments in rent controlled buildings, and the chances of getting a place could be very low, but evictions do not occur the way they occur i SF. There are people in their 90’s in rent stabilized apartments in NY who have been there for decades.


  42. “I’ve seen homeless shitters in Manhattan”

    Of course – DeBlasio runs New York now.

    “Everyone Poops.”

    But only in truly Progressive cities do people regularly poop on major thoroughfares.

  43. Not really. I’ve seen homeless shitters in Manhattan as well as in the Tenderloin. Everyone Poops.

  44. Having lived in the funky heart of the Tenderloin over a year, I can say as a veteran that the piss problem is real, but that the poop problem is highly over dramatized. In 18 months of walking the streets every day, countless urinations and only about 3 shit fests.

    The shit fests were schizophrenics. There’s one Asian dude in particular who hangs all day at the Main Branch Public Library, rocking back and forth, talking to the sun, and gesticulating. He’s harmless. He sleeps at Leavenworth and Eddy and I’ve seen him take a dump in the street once. A couple others caught in the act… and maybe 2 or 3 anonymous turds. But unless you see the butt cheeks in action, it’s hard to tell if they’re doggie or homeless turds.

    On the other hand, the public urination is ubiquitous. I know I’m home when the acrid whiff of urine tickles my nostrils at about Ellis and Taylor. But again, who knows if its doggie or human? I’d guess about half and half having seen dozens of zippered whip outs against a lamp post, many by upscale drunks declaring the Tenderloin their turf after the $12 cocktail bars have closed.

    Bottom line; we can fix the piss and poop problem quickly and at less cost than Elberling suggests with Broke Ass Stuart’s public toilet program. Open all the city owned restrooms; fund the pilot Tenderloin Pit Stop program for 300 venues; incentivize restaurants to open their bathrooms to tourists and homeless alike. Done.

    The real problem is that City Hall hasn’t wanted to solve the problem, except now that Mayor Conway has told his flunky Mister Lee to get rid of the smellies for the Super Bowl.

  45. You’re so right. History teaches us that targeting those perceived as the strong and powerful is FAIR GAME!

    “Abraham Foxman describes six facets of canards used by proponents of economic antisemitism:

    All Jews are wealthy[9]

    Jews are stingy and greedy[10]

    Powerful Jews control business world[11]

    Jewish religion emphasizes profit and materialism[12]

    It is acceptable for Jews to cheat non-Jews[13]

    Jews use their power to benefit “their own kind”[14]”

  46. No diff between targeting rich, predominantly white tech displacers and targeting the homegrown homeless? Your moral equivalency argument is obscene.

  47. Yep, I’ve traveled in dirt poor places throughout the global south and never seen as much human shit as I see here at home.

  48. No, targeting groups is acceptable when the target is stronger than the source and despicable when the source is stronger than the target.

    I bet you abuse animals and small children for sport.

  49. Yes, exactly. It’s fine when us Progressives do it, but reprehensible when anyone else does exactly the same thing.

    What’s so hard to understand about that?

  50. The poor victimized tech workers are suffering like the homeless, just as Oz Erickson suffers like a holocaust victim or Ron Conway likened the google bus protests to the persecution of Jews in nazi Germany.

    What the fuck is wrong with you people that you’d even make such a comparison, the more powerful to the weaker?

  51. “Bottom line: mass homeless is our permanent American reality for the 21st Century. Face it, C.W., that will be the fact of life here in San Francisco, and everywhere.”

    Weird that other American cities seem able to stop public defecation on major streets.

    This is hardly a problem “everywhere”.

  52. The second paragraph is particularly great given the widely-held progressive belief that tech workers should go back to where they came from (or at least go to Stockton) and are destroying the fabric of San Francisco.

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