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News + PoliticsOpinionDoes Mayor Breed just hate poor people?

Does Mayor Breed just hate poor people?

A solution lead by the unhoused is working in Oakland—but we can't get any traction in San Francisco.

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“This mayor is blocking all affordable housing proposals at this point,” an aide to a San Francisco supervisor said to our small group of houseless/formerly houseless POOR Magazine poverty skolaz on a zoom call we organized last month.

A big group of us poor people from San Francisco have been meeting, thinking, activating, praying and visioning since November of 2020 to bring the urgent medicine of Homefulness to Occupied Yelamu, now called San Francisco. 

Why not let the unhoused take over one of the many empty buildings in the city?

The aide continued, “You should come to the upcoming Prop. I hearing next week, but I really can’t guarantee anything will come from those funds collected with this mayoral administration.”

I was reminded of the brutal days of begging  San Francisco politicians and non-profiteers to listen, honor, respect or even consider poor people’s voices and solutions from me and my mama Dee, Leroy Moore, JuneBug, Queennandi, A.Faye Hicks, Vivi T, Muteado, Laure McElroy, Bruce Allison, Kathy Galves, Ingrid DeLeon,Teresa Molina, Joseph Bolden, Rommie, Charles, and so many more houseless/no-income reporters and members of POOR Magazine.

We had proposed the landless, homeless people’s solution known as Homefulness to San Francisco in 1998, when my mama and I were still struggling to stay housed at all, when we were barely getting by on what we made from a micro-business on the street and when we were still getting citations for sleeping outside. 

“Sorry we don’t have any technical support for these HUD grants, but good luck,”  a disinterested clerk in the San Francisco office of the US Housing and Urban Development, said to me without looking away from her computer as she pointed me to a frighteningly tall stack of grant applications that were for a HUD grant specifically for “innovative” housing for homeless people.  

I dove head-first into a 91-page grant application to HUD for the Homefulness project—rent-free, forever housing, on-site healing and recovery support, child care/education, arts and media training, a ComeUnity garden that truly belonged to the people, an all access radio station and a school project for houseless, no-income families and disabled elders in San Francisco.

It was an extremely crazy, hard application. I had no help and I suffer from dyslexia and discalcula so Excel sheets are especially terrifying for me. But I was determined.  

I had once taught myself how to write one of the fated “Welfare to Work” grants in the evil welfare-deform years of 1998 under the neo-liberal President Bill Clinton. We proposed the first and only journalism program across Turtle Island for poor parents to the City and County of San Francisco while still receiving food stamps myself. So I figured if I could do that one I could do anything.

In politics solutions are usually because of someone you know—or the rare situation of a person in power who actually listens to poor people about their own solutions. In that case it was only because of one such person, Joyce Crum who was one of the humans in charge of Department of Human Services (aka hellfare) who truly listened to us and believed in a vision, a solution, created by a poor, disabled houseless single mother and daughter, and gave us a chance.

This little bit of support launched the movement known as POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE (which DHS later brutally unfunded because we refused to report on fellow poor single mamas for being late or absent for work, but it got us started nonetheless). 

Sadly, there was no such person at HUD, and we didn’t get the HUD grant. It was almost as if a joke was openly played on us. They “approved” our application for Homefulness—but because HUD provided no technical support or any support for their grants, I filled out the budget wrong and we were approved for a one year “grant”  of $12.00 a month. 

After this debacle, I knocked on endless doors,  just to hear different people say “no.” Until we poor folks just stopped asking.

“You see there are two separate but related taxes,” another board aide told me. “The first, Prop. I from 2020, is a tax on the transfers of properties valued at $10 million or more.”

“Prop. I has generated more than $300 million since taking effect, and although those funds were intended for affordable housing, the mayor has hijacked those funds for other purposes, most notably increases to police budgets.” 

He continued: “The second is Prop. M, the Empty Homes Tax, from 2022. For any residential home in a building with 3 or more units that is vacant for more than six months in a given year, the city is imposing a tax that increases by unit size and length of vacancy. This law took effect Jan 1, 2024 and will start to collect funds in the coming fiscal year. The proceeds will by law go half and half, one portion to rent subsidies for seniors, the other to acquiring vacant properties to convert to affordable housing.”

He said: “I reached out to the Department of Real Estate about surplus public lands but got a very frustrating response that they basically have such a restrictive definition of what is ‘surplus’ that there is nothing available according to their count. But we know that’s bullshit. There is plenty of city-owned land.” 

“Navigation Centers aren’t a solution to homelessness, shelters aren’t a solution to homelessness, a sandwich isn’t a solution to homelessness, Homefulness is a solution to homelessness.”

My sister truth warrior, formerly houseless, Longtime POOR Magazine member, Community Health Worker, povertyskola and the other daughter of Mama Dee, spoke at a powerful action POOR Magazine held in honor of houseless mothers on Mothers Day in collaboration with fellow warriors for truth Coalition on Homelessness and Western Regional Advocacy Project.

“You see us houseless mamas and daughters sleeping in a tent… that’s cause we don’t have money for the rent,” I shouted out to our beautiful village of children, mamas, uncles and elders, houseless and formerly houseless, advocates and survivors, as we shared food and cold drinks and fruit outside a locked and closed Motel at Polk and Ellis.

The Civic Center Inn, in the Tenderloin, is one of many empty, unused, hoarded, and locked up buildings across San Francisco. It was in beautiful condition, with doors and windows, locks, and amenities, just standing there, forlorn and unused, while the block that surrounded the motel was filled with tents with houseless people residing in them.

San Francisco residents, not seen as “residents” because we are without access to a roof. San Francisco residents dying from heat exposure, cold exposure, and medically fragile bodies living outside.

The Civic Center Inn is just one in a collection of literally hundreds of vacant buildings that could be transformed into housing all across the Bay.

“As a houseless mother and grandmother, Homefulness allowed me to heals,” aid Angel Heart, resident of the rent-free, forever housing model of Homefulness we have built in Deep East Huchiun (Oakland) that now houses 21 houseless, now homeful, youth, adults and elders.

“We are advocating that the city open this beautiful building to homeless people. We can support the project, there is no reason to keep this locked up,” said Pastor Paul of City Hope Church at the homeless mamas action May 7th. 

In November of 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, while houseless people in San Francisco were still being swept like we were trash by Breed, even in violation of federal requirements to let us shelter in our tents, POOR Magazine conducted one of our Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources UnTours of the Tenderloin and Hastings Law School, which made it clear through a law suit to the city that they demanded more violent sweeps of houseless residents in the middle of the pandemic. 

We offered to meet with Breed to propose Homefulness. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, after a trajectory of private police, endless citations and police harassment of houseless SF residents and her recent bloodletting of crucial non-profits and advocates and the blocking of Prop I funds, and more funding for the police, I concluded, yea, she probably does hate poor people.

After a series of failed attempts, she said no to a meeting with us.

Interested in people-led solutions? Register for next decolonization /degetrniFUKation seminar at PeopleSkool by going to www.poormagazine.org/education 

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