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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

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HousingHomelessnessThe real, ongoing states of emergency for people who are in poverty

The real, ongoing states of emergency for people who are in poverty

Temporary shelter beds and jails don't give people a place to live.


I massaged the corners of the hefty bag

It was cool and soft like life used to feel 

It was a state of emergency in the Tenderloin 

The mayor said 

Mmm I wondered 

Did that mean I wouldn’t 

End up swept to death 

From the cement so cold

the police taser jolt

You have to leave

No you can’t pee

This housing is full—can’t u see ?

It’s a State of Emergency in the Tenderloin 

Not for u and me

It’s not what you think

It’s for the people who cannot see

our public poverty 

It’s a state of emergency in the Tenderloin

Cuz budget cuts so deep 

there is no place to sleep

Cuz migrant children slanging pills

Terrify the wealthy white people 

In the hotels 

It’s a state of emergency in the tenderloin 

and it’s not for those of us without a home

it’s a state of emergency in the tenderloin 

Cuz poverty is only a myth so we just need to incarcerate your sorry bones 

It’s a state of Emergency- 

Or is it a Space of Emergency?

I hold on to the edges of a wet hefty bag

Pretending its nothing 

Instead of everything I have

I look up—my eyes weary 

I drink my daily dose of No’s and we can’t 

No there is no shelter bed

No you can’t stay here if you can’t pay the increased rent

No you can’t sleep in that tent

No you can’t stop here—

we don’t care how wet you are

My mouth can’t edge into a scream

States of daily emergency is my everyday reality 

The attempt to be ok—to make it or even to stay ok

was Swept along with everything 

I kept

I’m a victim of the War ON the poor

And I’m working so hard to silence the

PTSD terrors of this State of Emergency My houseless body is always in….

Police and DPW workers force homeless campers to get rid of or move their belongings. Photo by John Youll

The impossible states of emergency for people in poverty has been my reality for years as a houseless child of disabled houseless adult.  It has been a state of emergency every day for thousands of houseless folks living outside in the Tenderloin, the last neighborhood of San Francisco where poor people of all colors and cultures can stand, be, or walk. 

The settler colonial anti-poor, anti-Black and Brown people violence called sweeps has been happening continuously all across San Francisco intensely and endlessly for years, not letting up in a pandemic, as a matter of fact getting worse.

In most areas in the Mission, Raza elders of that community who have lived there for years can’t even sit down without being “seen” and told to move.  

Shelter-in-place mandates be damned, this mayor has not let up her assault on our poor bodies. Shelter in place motels, i.e. actual roofs and warm beds and blankets that aren’t wet, were begrudgingly granted and then slowly but surely pulled away, while sweeps of tents and belongings continued.

So let’s get it real clear: This State of Emergency is and has never been for poor people. It is for everyone else who doesn’t want to see public poverty on the occupied indigenous streets where they live. 

The State of Emergency would bring at least 80 more police overseers to an already over-policed neighborhood who would demand from houseless person, jail or shelter? First of all, I’m wondering how this racist, classist army would “assess” our houselessness. Based on how we look?

Mmm, this move also includes harassing street vendors. My mama and I literally survived on our street sales as many poor people do all across Mama Earth. And to that you say, well, that means selling drugs, no, most of the time, like with me and mama, it means selling art, hand-me-downs, survival gear. But again, you can’t have poor people economies in public. 

But my question to London Breed and other politricksters across this stolen land from so-called Denver to Bellingham, Washington is: What about the houseless residents of the Tenderloin and all of these towns who are never seen as residents? We are pathologized and dehumanized and only viewed as a thing, “The Homeless problem,” and silenced forever. 

So my purpose as a formerly houseless child and single mama in poverty is not to rant, there is no more time for that. It is to demand the meeting promised to us at POOR Magazine when we did the Stolen Land /Hoarded Resources UnTour thru the Tenderloin, when Mayor Breed launched her all-out assault with a private security force. We proposed a LandBack proposal so houseless San Francisco residents could build their own solutions like we houseless folks are doing with Homefulness.

No we don’t want more open-air prisons a.k.a people-cages, we don’t want more temporary shelter beds.

From a mayor who claimed to be for Black Lives and the reduction of police, last year, consider a different solution to the ongoing war ON the poor and listen to us houseless people about our houselessness. 

Because like this poverty skola always says, no matter how many times you sweep me, study me or jail me, it doesn’t give me a home.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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