“The city gave all of us contracts when we got here and said we would be housed for 18 months to three years,” said Ronnie X, one of the houseless residents who was sleeping in a tent and offered Shelter in Place hotel rooms in San Francisco because of the COVID pandemic.
Over the last eight months of the Shelter in Place mandate, cities across this stolen land were told to stop “sweeping” houseless peoples, our tents and belongings like we are trash, by the Centers for Disease Control, as those policies weren’t in compliance with CDC SIP guidelines. But from Philly to Sacramento to San Francisco to Oakland, the sweeps continued — and more importantly, so did the anti-poor people hate.
Witness most violently the Thanks-Taking eviction of houseless families, who like Moms4Housing, took back their own rights to “shelter in place” in abandoned homes owned by CalTrans, ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom and carried out by California Highway Patrol on November 26.
In many cities like Philadelphia, whose residents staged a co-ordinated housing and land decolonization occupation, which resulted in them taking back some abandoned homes for permanent housing, and locally in the Bay Area, because of housed advocates, houseless revolutionaries and poverty skolaz demanding, protesting and pushing, not to mention the millions of “homeless services” dollars flowing into cities, finally some mayors like SF Mayor London Breed and Libby Shaaf begrudgingly granted some of the thousands of empty hotel and motel rooms to the houseless residents of their cities.
“We pay for these rooms, Ronnie continued, “I had to agree that $400 dollars of my $480.00 GA check would be allocated to pay for the motel room before I moved in, which I had no problem with, but don’t act like these rooms are given to us for “free” and then just renege the contracts you had with us.”
This formerly houseless daughter and single mama had the blessing of sitting down with ten currently houseless SIP hotel residents in San Francisco to record a #RoofLEss radio segment on the impending evictions by Mayor Breed of thousands of SIP residents in less than 10 days, four days before Christmas, in the middle of freezing winter and a global pandemic.
These poverty conversations were made possible thanks to one of the housed allies who was present at POOR Magazine’s Stolen Land Hoarded Resources Tour thru Yelamu(SF) last week where we proposed a #LandBack Proposal.
“I’m born and raised in San Francisco, I’m from the Fillmore, and it gets real rough on these cold streets,” said Anthony about his journey from the streets to the SIP motel rooms. Anthony, like most of the SIP residents, is disabled, Black and an elder. “This concrete not kind to anybody.”
As each of the skolaz spoke, my bones ached with the pain of my own outsiderness. It’s an odd idea for folks who haven’t tried to stay alive while also sleeping outside, but my PTHD (Post Traumatic Homeless Disorder) comes to me in waves out of nowhere. From literally years of being on the street, trying to live houselessly with mama as a child and then later as an adult with my infant son, post gentriFUKation eviction.
The terror, the bone-crunching cold, the inability to EVER stop looking behind your back, feel safe, get dry, know where your next meal, dry blanket or hot shower is coming from. These are all unspeakable, almost lost to our human ability to keep on keeping on no matter what. But when you get inside, for the first time in a while, all the SIP motel residents expressed to us, little things like hot running water and a private toilet, and the ability to even think, are huge blessings and some of the important lessons we poverty skolaz teach folks with race and class privilege at PeopleSkool bi-yearly.
These deep traumas with survival itself is why I constantly shiver to this day, why I can’t ever really get warm and why I sit with my Mama Dee and other poverty skola ancestors at the Homefulness Altar and thank them and Creator and Spirit everyday for this roof that me and my son have which is part of the landless peoples movement we houseless and indigenous people call Homefulness. The same template we proposed on the Stolen Land Tour to UC Hastings and London Breed.
“That 18-month time span gave everyone time to heal some, from the street,” Anthony went on to explain. He was just starting to get his life back, get it together, and now he is really confused by these threatened evictions back on to the street, right before the holidays,
“How do you sign a contract in the state of California and breach it like that? I do have a speech impediment, but I can get words out, this isn’t legal,” Anthony concluded.
Anthony is right. Not only are these threatened evictions absolutely inhumane, they are illegal. If you sign a contract with anyone, houseless or not, it’s a binding contract.
“You got people that for the first time in their lives have been able to get their shit together, a warm bed and a roof above our heads, now you gonna see overdoses to be honest, using cause it’s too much pain to live with,” said Nick.
Nick was so right because like the terror of not having access to a roof, recovery from any of the “man’s poisons” is almost impossible when you are struggling to just stay warm, to sleep. It becomes the reason so many of us begin to use in the first place. And then keep using.
“I feel like they took advantage of us, its just not right at all,” said Felicia, a soft-spoken poverty skola who joined the conversation.
“These are contracts and they think of us like garbage, you know, to be thrown out, so that’s why they think they don’t have to honor them.” Myrna, a houseless SIP hotel resident and fierce povertyskola advocate concluded.
No matter whether people believe the antipoor people hater lies about us, the reality is, in the State of California, there is such a thing as tenant rights, and guess what? These folks have lived in the SIP hotels for over 28 days so they have eviction-protection rights and equally importantly, human rights.
Please join POOR Magazine, House the Bay, Hotels Not Hospitals, The San Francisco Bayview Newspaper and other houseless and formerly houseless povertyskolaz and SIP hotel residents in demanding the SF mayor meet with us to enact the LandBack Proposal and grant ownership to the SIP hotel residents so they can launch their own Homefulness, self-determined project. You can tune in to the Budget Committee of the SF Board of Supervisors on December 9th at 11am and demand the cease and desist of all SIP hotel evictions in a pandemic.
You can reach Tiny on Twitter @Povertyskola or at her website www.lisatinygraygarcia.com