To the city and people of San Francisco:
Like you, we are frustrated, confused and dismayed by the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness in our city. Like you, we want answers — and change.
We see the misery around us — the 6,600 or more people who live on the streets of San Francisco — and we sense it is worsening. We feel for the people who live in doorways and under freeways, and for the countless others who teeter on the edge of eviction. We empathize with the EMTs, the nurses and doctors, the social workers and the police. They are on the front lines of this ongoing human catastrophe.
Numerous noble, well-intentioned efforts by both public and private entities have surfaced over the decades, yet the problem persists. It is a situation that would disgrace the government of any city. But in the technological and progressive capital of the nation, it is unconscionable.
So beginning today, more than 70 media organizations are taking the unprecedented step of working together to focus attention on this crucial issue.
We will pool our resources — reporting, data analysis, photojournalism, video, websites — and starting Wednesday, June 29, will publish, broadcast and share a series of stories across all of our outlets. We intend to explore possible solutions, their costs and viability.
Though this is a united effort, we do not claim to speak with one voice. There are many lenses through which the issue of homelessness can be viewed. However, we do not intend to let a desire for the perfect solution become the enemy of the good. We want to inspire and incite each other as much as we want to prod city and civic leaders.
Fundamentally, we are driven by the desire to stop calling what we see on our streets the new normal. Frustration and resignation are not a healthy psyche for a city.
Our aim is to provide you with the necessary information and potential options to put San Francisco on a better path. Then it will be up to all of us — citizens, activists, public and private agencies, politicians — to work together to get there.
The SF Homeless Project
Since February 2005, The City has provided nearly 10,000 homeless residents Greyhound bus tickets — also a $10 per travel day allowance for food — to cities across the United States under Homeward Bound, the bus ticket home program, according to data compiled by the San Francisco Examiner through the Freedom of Information Act.
People at a recent gathering in the Bayview District bandied about possible solutions to homelessness, among them a guaranteed income and stronger tenant protections.
T.J. Johnston is a freelance journalist who covers homelessness and other political issues. His work appears in such publications as Street Sheet, Street Spirit and the San Francisco Public Press.
Supervisor Mark Farrell last week placed on the November ballot a measure that would ban homeless tent encampments and authorize The City to remove them within 24-hour notice after offering shelter, while Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced Tuesday a counter to that measure that would create a process for the removal of encampments under existing laws.
San Francisco celebrated the opening of its second Navigation Center on Tuesday, marking the addition of 93 beds that will serve as temporary shelters for homeless residents.
Go to a corner store and try to stock a bathroom with toiletries all at once. Add camping gear and an emergency kit. It could cost you quite a bit. Enter the Tenderloin’s GLIDE Memorial Church’s GLIDE Goods program, a pop-up store that launched in May to distribute these goods, most as sample sizes, free of charge to homeless and low-income residents.
It was a sunny day last Friday as I walked under Interstate 280 looking for Neil. From the old Dolby Laboratories across Division Street, a gold glint caught my eye. Someone had scrawled on a nearby freeway pylon, “Neil, the cops came and took everyone’s stuff, sorry.”
At Public Works’ maintenance yard on Cesar Chavez Street, some items taken from encampments that are identified as “valuables” are held in the hopes that one day they’ll be claimed.
There seems to me to be much similarity between being an undocumented immigrant and being homeless. It’s about being in crisis mode, being displaced and being alienated by society. And both situations are driven by poverty.
The premise of the SF Homeless Project is that, collectively, media outlets shining a bright multi-angled light on the problem of homelessness at this moment can compel change. We, as project participants, felt it was time to say in one chorus — a collection of multiple voices — that what has been tolerated up to now is no longer tolerable.