Boris Johnson, the noted former mayor of London, once uttered these now infamous words to the London City Council: “Great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies.” In essence, Johnson was rebuking the council for not using its backbone to resist the inertia of do-nothingness.
Sadly, the same could be said of the current way the homeless crisis is being address in San Francisco.
Personally, I have experienced homelessness firsthand when I was part of a research project that required me to sleep on the streets at night for many years. Also, as part of another research project, I was required to live in shelters for a number of years. It was very dangerous, but I saw firsthand why the notion of shelters only makes the problems worse. Luckily, my years of training in a private paramilitary force in Israel proved to be very handy and actually saved my life numerous times.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently voted to pass an ordinance declaring that The City has a shelter crisis. Great, you say! But all’s not well. We are nervous; there is a smell of urine everywhere. The Nimbys are yarning and pissing all over the place, and nothing is immune including the emergency ordinance introduced by Supervisor David Campos.
Supervisor Norman Yee added an amendment that renders the emergency declaration useless. “The Board does not suspend, waive, or otherwise limit the requirements of any applicable City law providing for public notification, community outreach and/or public input as part of that process.” In essence, what we have here is an ordinance that speaks loudly but lacks a big stick. It has no soul.
Finding the backbone to solve the homeless crisis would mean the Board of Supervisors voting for the emergency ordinance without Supervisor Yee’s amendment, because the amendment makes the ordinance a toothless tiger good enough only to pee on itself.
What we have here is Nimbyism. Nimbyism will get us nowhere, because it only gives lip service to people in need. This is both immoral and criminal — a crime against humanity.
Now, here is cause for wisdom: The Board of Supervisors has another chance to show some backbone when Supervisor John Avalos’ encampment reform legislation comes before the board. Will they finally allow our restless homeless population to rest, or will they capitulate to anti-housing forces?
It is time for the Board of Supervisors to have some backbone and move forward, and not try to speak loudly then undercut the laws and resolution with slight-of-hand trickery. We would like to see a resolution or law with some teeth, not just empty words on a piece of paper that has amendments that renders such laws useless.
Katherine Hans Von Rotes Schild Zitler is president of the Asian Southeast Asian Societies Policy Institute and a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation.