By now you’ve most likely heard about the drama on the Embarcadero where a collection of wealthy residents are trying to block a navigation center that was approved by the Port Commission last week.
Given that this is the Bay Area, I’m willing to bet that a number of these same people have posters in their windows that say something along the lines of “In this house we believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, No Human Is Illegal, Science Is Real, Love Is Love, Kindness Is Everything”.
If you are one of the people threatening to file a lawsuit to block the navigation center you need to take this sign down immediately. Even if you don’t have the sign up, but your profess any of those beliefs, you need to stop doing so. Your actions are negating the things you say you support.
If you believe that Black Lives Matter, you can’t block this navigation center. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, 36 percent of SF’s homeless population is black, yet less than 6 percent of San Francisco is black. This astoundingly disproportionate number stems directly from the racist laws and practices that’s led to us to have to proclaim that Black Lives do indeed Matter.
If you feel that Women’s Right Are Human Rights, how can you deny this shelter? According to the 2017 San Francisco Homelessness Count, 33 percent of SF’s homeless population are women. Being a woman is hard enough when you live indoors. Can you imagine the danger of being one who sleeps outside?
If you say that No Human Is Illegal, yet you’re trying to use the law to stop people from receiving shelter near you…well, I’m just going to stare at you until that sentence sinks in. I’m not going to waste any more ink explaining how literally every single one of these core Bay Area values are being negated by blocking a homeless shelter, but I will say this: We need to live our values, not just put up posters. We need to act on our beliefs, not just say them. We need to be willing to live a little less comfortably in order to make this a better place. Because that’s what it comes down to doesn’t it?
We live in one of the richest cities in the world, yet we’re in the midst of housing crisis that feeds into our homelessness epidemic. Since, according to the SF Homelessness Count, 71 percent of homeless people in San Francisco had SF addresses before they were homeless, that means these are our neighbors who have been displaced. It also means that, if you’ve come to San Francisco and made a lot of money in the past 10 years, you’re partially, if unintentionally, responsible. You may not have evicted anyone personally, but people were displaced to make room so that you could live here, work here, and make money here.
The thing about all of this is that our efforts to battle the homelessness epidemic are actually working. While other cities on the west coast like Los Angeles and Seattle are seeing their homeless populations grow, San Francisco’s has actually stagnated.
Since the navigation centers were introduced in 2015 they’ve helped over 2,000 people get off the streets permanently. Just imagine what we’ll be able to achieve once the money from last year’s Prop C. gets freed up. We’ll have an extra $300 million a year to tackle this thing and get our houseless neighbors the help they deserve.
I will agree with the people opposing the new navigation center on one thing though; other districts need to do their part. The Mission, SoMa, and the Tenderloin have the vast majority of the homeless shelters, navigation centers, and transitional housing in San Francisco. Every neighborhood needs to help carry the load.
Right now if you’re reading this column saying “Well how would you like a navigation by your home Stuart?” Proudly, I already do. I live near the Navigation center on South Van Ness. A couple years ago I wrote an article called I Live at the corner of Needles and Diarrhea, because my neighborhood was ground zero for encampments. And since the navigation center on South Van Ness opened it’s become far better.
So let’s be about change, not just talk about it. Let’s agree that it’s ok to be slightly less comfortable, if it’s for the greater good. And let’s all get serious about ending this homelessness epidemic. Because this crisis won’t end itself.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. He is guest opinion columnist and his point of view does not necessarily reflect that of the Examiner.