Editor’s note: The office of City Attorney David Chiu will argue in federal appeals court Wednesday that the court should lift an injunction banning sweeps of homeless people. Three supes are planning a rally in front of the courthouse to encourage the judges to side with the city. Here, the director of the Coalition on Homelessness, which is the lead plaintiff in the case, responds.
We know you and many of your constituents are frustrated with the presence of unhoused people in your districts. So are we.
We are suing the city on constitutional grounds for the persistent, horrific practice of violating the law by destroying unhoused people’s property and threatening, citing, fining, and arresting them just for the supposed crime of being too poor to afford a home in the face of skyrocketing rents across the city.
We have over 400 people on the waitlist for shelter. While the city says only 50 percent of people in sweeps accepted shelter, they only had enough beds to offer 50 percent of encampment residents.
Our hope for this lawsuit is that it will spark a transformation of our street response to the homelessness crisis–one that actually results in people being able to exit street homelessness.
Our hope is that this lawsuit will lead to more shelter beds and more affordable housing for homeless people.
If we get that it will be a win for homeless people and housed people alike.
For decades, local municipalities have used police to manage the mounting humanitarian crisis that is mass homelessness in an America of rapidly expanding inequality and housing instability. This hasn’t worked.
The federal government found it doesn’t work.
We believe it is time for San Francisco to shift gears and stop holding onto failed strategies.
Simple solution: Let’s work together to get the city legally compliant and the homeless situation dramatically reduced by supporting solutions that work; shelter beds and housing. Support the common sense solutions already brought forward by us within the lawsuit and the recently proposed settlement. Because that is the path to a San Francisco without street homelessness.
Jennifer Friedenbach is director of the Coalition on Homelessness.