Homeless Bill of Rights MLK Day of Action!
Sunday night into Monday morning Christopher and I participated in the Homeless Bill of Rights MLK Day of Action! organized by the Coalition on Homelessness (COH):
“On Sunday, January 18th, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter actions across the country, we will honor Dr. King’s vision and fight for the end of the War on the Poor and homeless. We will fight to end Broken Windows policing in SF and fight to protect the human rights of every person without housing. Our action will begin with a Sleep-In at 5p on 1/18 and continue through the night and into Monday morning. We will have food, coffee, live music, orators, and a movie screening for all those who join! We will end Monday morning by joining a contingency to head over to Oakland for an entire day of action!”
We arrived at Powell and Market around 6pm to a group of about 50 – 60 diverse folks energetically, yet peacefully gathered around a large banner reading “Black Lives Matter” in front of the Powell Street cable car turnaround. Near the BART escalators a table was set up with trays of food and beverages provided for free by Food Not Bombs, COH, and others. Soon after we arrived, the crowd was invited to participate in a guided meditation to reflect on our varied purposes for being there – to honor MLK, to support Black Lives Matter, to support and rally for a Homeless Bill of Rights, to connect with one another in solidarity and others.
A series of inspiring and engaging speakers addressed the crowd – un-housed and housed – on topics that ranged from Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s Campaign” for economic justice; the connection between racial inequity and homelessness – a black man is four times as likely to be homeless than a white man; the critical need to pass a national Homeless Bill of Rights and the devastating impact of not doing so; the challenges and pain of living on the street and the downward spiral that more often than not results; and the war on San Francisco’s poor and homeless accompanied by hollow promises of the city’s “leadership” to effectively and compassionately address the epidemic.
My emotions ranged wildly – deep compassion for those who are living and struggling on the street, a great sense of community and connection to work together to demand change and to have a real impact, gratitude for being blessed to have a home and bed to sleep in, anger at a culture that allows for this demonstration of systemic cruelty and dysfunction, great power, possibility, hopeful and hopelessness all in the same breath.
Following the speakers, various attempts were made to set up a projector and audio to view a documentary of MLK … with varying degrees of success. Mainly we huddled with different folks, including our friends and colleagues Laura Slattery (Gubbio Project) and Kelly Cutler (Coalition on Homelessness) to share stories and be together as a community rooted in fierce compassion and loving kindness – that radiated throughout the night.
About 20 – 25 people ended up staying the entire night – a mix of those with housing, and those without. Overall I slept for about four hours and in that time, I unfortunately missed out when the folks from POOR magazine rolled through and gave a powerful performance. We were lucky at 2:30am to find a 24-hour Starbucks that allowed us to use their bathroom, though at 4am it was closed to the public.
At 5:30 we were given a 15-minute warning that DPW would be coming through to spray the area down. We packed up and walked Laura over to the Gubbio Project … on our way up Golden Gate Ave. we passed tent after tent and sleeping bags filled with folks living on the street amidst the strong scent of urine and excrement – a reflection of how San Francisco is transforming from a city filled with many diverse, distinct hearts beating to the sound of a proud progressive history to one represented in the form of 200-ton lifeless cold lump of black granite sitting at 555 California Street, known as the “Banker’s Heart,” though today it could just as easily be the “Mayor’s Heart” or the “Board of Supervisors’ Heart” or the “Developer’s Heart” or the “Mega-Tech Corporation’s Heart”
Christopher and I both spent yesterday feeling high on the energy from the previous night, as well as sick from getting such little sleep for me – no sleep for Chris. My body ached, my throat sore, a headache … all the initial signs of flu. We both have autoimmune diseases, so we’re more inclined to get sick easily. But really what kept going through my mind is that for over 7,000 people in SF, to some degree that is their life everyday … and without the protected community that had gathered as part of a community protest/sleep-in.
In the “2013 Homeless Point-In-Time Count & Survey Comprehensive Report” the most commonly cited obstacles for obtaining permanent housing were all economic: 55% reported an inability to afford rent; 52% cited lack of a job or income; and 29% didn’t have money for moving costs. Forty-eight percent of respondents expressed that they were experiencing homelessness for the first time in 2013. Of those who were not experiencing homelessness for the first time 41% reported they had experienced homelessness four or more times in the past three years. More than half of respondents (54%) reported they had been without housing for a year or more.
There are only 1,300 shelter beds in San Francisco and, according to the January 2013 homeless count, 7,350 people are without homes. To receive a shelter bed, single adults must have their face and fingertips bio-metrically imaged, a requirement that implies criminalization to many who are already living on the margins, including immigrants and the mentally ill. And while the City reports vacancies in the shelters each night, 2 out of 3 people seeking shelter are turned away.
Places to rest during the day legally are equally as difficult to come by. In the past 12 years in San Francisco, 167,074 citations were given out for sleeping and sitting in public (San Francisco Municipal Court). Each citation carries a fine of $100. An unpaid or unresolved ticket goes to warrant in 21 days, and the fine doubles. Accumulated warrants can result in incarceration and denial of affordable housing. The Sit/Lie ordinance in conjunction with city practices that aim to move homeless people around public spaces, such as the recently enacted daily street cleanings on Market Street and sweeps in BART stations to remove sleeping or sitting people make it nearly impossible to rest in one spot for more than a few hours consecutively and does nothing to solve the problem.
A 2012 report released by the SF City Hall Fellows found that San Francisco’s Sit/Lie ordinance has been unequivocally ineffective, citing that the reported citations were issued to the same 19 offenders, who were reported as chronically homeless and incapable of paying the $100 fines. In March, 2014 the U.N. panel that reviews countries’ compliance with a human-rights treaty says laws in U.S. communities that subject the homeless to prosecution for everyday activities – including “sit-lie” ordinances like San Francisco’s – appear to violate international standards and should be abolished nationwide. The United States, the report said, should “engage with state and local authorities” to eliminate all such laws, withdraw funding from communities that enforce the laws, and work with social service, health care and law enforcement professionals “to intensify efforts to find solutions for the homeless in accordance with human-rights standards.”
Additionally, one of the most overlooked, yet greatest health risks for the homeless is the lack of sleep. San Diego-based blogger and self-proclaimed “chronic homeless man” Kevin Barbieux, who writes under the name The Homeless Guy states in the article Homelessness and the Impossibility of a Good Night’s Sleep by Hanna Brooks Olsen in the August 2014 issue of The Atlantic that “Without a doubt, sleep is the biggest issue for homeless people …homeless advocates are always focused on what are believed to be the root causes of homelessness, and providing the basics of food shelter and clothing to those who do without, and although those things are important in their own way, they don’t affect homeless people with the intensity that sleep does (or the lack thereof).” And yet, says Eowyn Rieke, a physician with Outside In in Portland, Oregon, the problem of insufficient sleep is “an unrecognized” one. Even within the medical community that deals directly with the homeless, “we don’t talk enough about these concerns with our patients.” Chronic diseases, such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, mental health problems and other ongoing conditions, are difficult to manage under stressful circumstances and worsen with lack of sleep. Additionally, acute problems such as infections, injuries, and pneumonia are difficult to heal when there is no place to rest and recuperate.
Another critical health concern for the homeless is the growing rates of hate crimes. Over the past 15 years, the National Coalition on Homelessness (NCH) has recorded 1,437 incidents of crimes committed against the homeless by housed individuals. In 2013 alone, the NCH became aware of 109 attacks, 18 of which resulted in death. The highest percentage of attacks (30%) took place in California. It is important to note that people experiencing homelessness are often treated so poorly by society that attacks are forgotten
of unreported. This reality worsens when one considers that many violent acts against homeless populations go unreported and therefore, the true number of incidents is likely to be substantially higher.
We must work to put far more pressure on our city officials and hold them accountable to truly address homelessness and the growing divide between the rich and poor in San Francisco through policy change and with strong and clear avenues for oversight and accountability.
All people, especially those who are living on the streets or have mental health or substance abuse issues, are worthy of respect, dignity, and loving kindness.
PLEASE HELP SUPPORT THE PASSAGE OF A HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS!
Google’s Jack Halprin Runs Away From the Tenants He’s Evicting
Photo by Peter Menchini
Photo by Peter Menchini
Protesters disrupt landlord from getting on Google bus
By Sara Bloomberg
DECEMBER 16, 2014 — Sometimes he drives to work, but this morning Jack Halprin decided to take a private shuttle to his office at Google.
Housing advocates were awaiting him.
Shortly before 7 am, around a dozen protesters blocked a tech shuttle from leaving its stop at 18th and Dolores streets when someone in the group started yelling, “He’s walking down Guerrero!”
Maybe Halprin thought he could sneak by the loud group—and their signs denouncing him—unnoticed. But no such luck.
Halprin, a lawyer for Google, is using the Ellis Act to evict the remaining tenants at 812 Guerrero St., a seven unit building tucked between the bustling Valencia commercial corridor and Dolores Park.
And the question on everyone’s minds since he served the eviction notice last February is: Why does he need a seven unit building all to himself? Continue Reading HERE
Home For The Holidays
BETTER HOMES & GARDENS TODAY
A Public Art Project & Residency by Megan Wilson and Christopher Statton
Roxie Theater Storefront Window
3125 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
December 15, 2014 – January 15, 2015
Visible 24/7 through storefront window;
The artists will be painting in the window Th – Mon, 11am – 5pm (excluding holidays)
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!
Returning to the Roxie for this holiday season, Christopher Statton and Megan Wilson are bringing their public art project Better Homes & Gardens Today to the historic 16th Street theater. Wilson and Statton met while working at the Roxie Theater where Statton served as Executive Director for four years; Wilson created the window installation “99%” that was also presented at Yerba Buena Center for The Arts and worked with Clarion Alley Mural Project to paint murals in the Little Roxie’s lobby and bathrooms.
A year later the two have continued to collaborate with their project Better Homes & Gardens Today, which started at The Roxie’s sister theater down the street, ATA (Artist’s Television Access) in October 2014. The project aims to:
1. Heighten awareness around “home” and the realities of homelessness;
2. Cultivate a dialog within communities and amongst disparate groups about housing instability; and
3. Raise money to benefit the Gubbio Project, the Coalition On Homelessness, and At The Crossroads, organizations working to address homelessness in San Francisco.
To date, Statton and Wilson have raised over $4,000 for the organizations.
Wilson and Statton are creating a limited edition of 300 pairs of hand-painted “Home” signs in different languages. The artists will spend December 15 – January 15 painting in the storefront window space of the Little Roxie Theater.
The limited edition signs are available for purchase for $100/pair through the artists during the hours they are painting at the Roxie and on the project’s Website at: www.BetterHomesAndGardensToday.org.
The purchasers will get one sign and the other sign will be donated to one of the three partner organizations to use as they see best fit (e.g. the Gubbio Project will be hanging the signs on the pews at St. Boniface Church during their hours of operation). Purchasers will also be provided with more information on each of the organizations and how they can further help.
All of the proceeds and the signs purchased for the organizations will be divided evenly and go to the three partners (Gubbio Project, Coalition On Homelessness, and At The Crossroads).
As part of the project Statton and Wilson have been introduced to and reached out to some of the Bay Area’s tech corporations and their employees, including Twitter, Facebook, Zendesk, Yammer, Google, Dropbox, and Salesforce to invite them to attend the project’s events. The invitation was extended to these corporations, who are relatively new to the area, to provide them with the opportunity to learn about, contribute to, and support a community that is in great need and that they are now working/ living among and having a significant impact on.
Event at Gubbio Project with Twitter Employees during #FridayForGood
Throughout the project Statton and Wilson are hosting free events at various locations (to date ATA and the Gubbio Project). The events include presentations by representatives from the participating organizations and facilitated discussions on:
1. The realities of being homeless;
2. What the culture and climate of homelessness is like in San Francisco; and
3. What is truly needed to address this crisis – funding and policy change.
Megan Wilson’s original project Better Homes and Gardens is featured in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 75 Years of Looking Forward edited by Janet Bishop, Corey Keller, and Sarah Roberts. In 2000 Wilson hand-painted 250 signs and distributed them to residents living on the streets and those in danger of eviction to place in their carts or windows as a sign of solidarity during a period in which evictions were skyrocketing in San Francisco. Footage of Better Homes and Gardens edited together by Christopher Statton is also included in the Oakland Museum’s exhibition Fertile Ground in collaboration with SFMoMA.
L->R: Signs painted during Wilson and Statton’s residency at ATA; Margaret Cho supporting Better Homes & Gardens Today with her custom-made mini home sign.
Christopher Statton has been an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project since 2012 and was one of the collaborators on “The Wall of Shame and Solutions”. Statton is the former Executive Director of San Francisco’s Roxie Theater (2010 – 2013). In 2013 he was awarded the Marlon Riggs Award by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for “his significant contribution to San Francisco’s film community through the Roxie over the past four years.” In 2013 Statton was also awarded a Certificate of Honor by SF Supervisor David Campos for his “important and tireless work with the Roxie.” Statton was a founding member of the Sidewalk Sideshow, a project of the Marin Interfaith Council, which produced music shows with San Rafael’s street and homeless community. In addition, he is actively involved with the Gubbio Project in the Tenderloin as well as an Advisory Board member of the Tom Steel Clinic, which provides medical services for the HIV positive community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Christopher Statton and Megan Wilson painting inside ATA’s storefront. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.
Megan Wilson is an artist, writer, and non-profit consultant. She moved to the Bay Area in 1994 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2000 Wilson co-organized the performance/protest series Art Strikes Back in response to the extreme wave of gentrification displacement in San Francisco during the first “dotcom boom.” In 2003 she curated, directed, and raised the funds for the international mural exchange and residency Sama-sama/ Together, a collaboration between artists from San Francisco and Yogyakarta Indonesia designed to foster understanding of Muslim and non-Muslim cultures following 9/11. From 2004 – 2008 she transformed her 1,600 sq. ft. living space into an installation that explored and challenged the meanings of “home” and “homelessness” through her project Home 1996-2008. Wilson has been a core organizer of the Clarion Alley Mural Project since 1998 and is one of the organizers of CAPITALISM IS OVER! If You Want It, a series of interruptions/ actions launched in 2010 that has included artists from around the world, responding to the negative impacts of capitalism. Wilson’s article The Gentrification of Our Livelihoods was published on Stretcher.org in June 2014. www.MeganWilson.com
The Gubbio Project
Since its founding in 2004 The Gubbio Project has offered refuge for thousands of people in the heart of the Tenderloin and encouraged connection between the housed and unhoused. For nine hours each weekday, 6am-3pm, the doors of the sanctuary of St. Boniface are open to all. The mission of The Gubbio Project is to provide a sacred space to sleep or rest and care services for those in need of a safe, compassionate respite that places dignity and respect in the highest regard. Each day, 250 people on average, enter the project, with 95 folks sleeping at any given time in the pews of St. Boniface and others accessing care services. We invite you to visit St. Boniface and see The Gubbio Project firsthand. www.thegubbioproject.org
Coaliton on Homelessness, San Francisco
26 Years of Resistance, Resilience and Re-Building
For decades, the Coalition on Homelessness has developed the leadership skills of homeless San Franciscans to forge true solutions to the housing crisis and beat back mean-spirited attacks against them. The Coalition on Homelessness is comprised of homeless people and allies who have been organizing together since 1987 to expand access to housing in one of the richest cities in the country, to protect the rights of the poorest people in our society, and to create real solutions to contemporary homelessness. http://www.cohsf.org/
At The Crossroads
The mission of At The Crossroads is to reach out to homeless youth and young adults at their point of need, and work with them to build healthy and fulfilling lives. Our innovative model focuses on young people who do not access traditional services and are disconnected from any type of consistent support. We remove common barriers to service by bringing our counselors onto the streets and shaping our support services around the needs of each individual client. http://atthecrossroads.org/
November 8, 2014 at the Coalition on Homelessness’ SLEEP-IN & Picket to call for an end to BART police harassment of people sleeping in transit stations.
The Roxie Theater is the oldest continuously running cinema in the United States and has been at its location in San Francisco’s Mission District since it opened in 1909. Over a century later, the Roxie has remained true to its mission to promote and support truly independent film / filmmakers and programming that would likely never be presented at more mainstream, profit-based venues. The Roxie continues to stay rooted in a commitment to taking risks with non-traditional and experimental films – works that are critical to challenging the status quo and inspiring viewers. Films have become one of the most important and effective sources for presenting stories that need to be told and communities that need to be recognized. www.Roxie.com
Megan Wilson’s installation 99% in the Roxie’s storefront window, 2012
Golden City Stories: Better Homes and Gardens Today
Really great interview and short profile of Christopher Statton and I, thoughtfully filmed by Walter Thompson that is part of his latest film project” Golden City,” a feature-length documentary about how the tech industry is reshaping housing and transportation in San Francisco.
Walter is currently raising the money needed to complete “Golden City” – please help support his insightful and critical work that promises to be a one of the best documentaries about this current era of change, struggle, and transformation in San Francisco! https://www.indiegogo.com/…/golden-city-housing-and-transpo…
Airbnb Had Housing Activists Pushed Into a “Free Speech Zone”
This weekend Airbnb held its first-ever conference for hosts in San Francisco. Inside, executivesrestated the company’s goal to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Outside, local cops allegedly shoved housing activists who were protesting Airbnb’s role in the eviction crisis, confining demonstrators into a “free speech” pen. …. Read more HERE
Goldman Sachs Commitment to the Homeless in San Francisco
Oinky Oinky Oinky … this little piggy went to market and guess how much out of Goldman Sachs $34B piggy bank it was able to scrape up to help the homeless in San Francisco this Thanksgiving? Just guess … $833 … Let them eat garbage!
San Francisco Left Its Heart …
Several folks have contacted Clarion Alley Mural Project in the last few months to let us know that they had been harassed on the alley for money by guys with “druggie auras” – and in some cases paint cans, and who at times have become verbally aggressive and have made visitors to the alley nervous and uncomfortable.
CAMP is, and has been aware of this situation for sometime. Here’s the deal – these guys (and so far, all we know of and have heard about are men) are homeless or housing unstable and part of the street community. They really aren’t “bad people,” rather the opposite – at heart they’re very kind and really do care about the alley and the murals – as the space is part of their home and it is their community. However, they’re struggling and often desperate because they are in pain – physically, emotionally, and/or mentally … or they’re hungry … or cold … or in desperate need of medical care. Some are addicted to drugs/alcohol … and some are recovering from addiction … or are seriously trying to get help. So far we aren’t aware of any incidents in which anyone has become physically violent. At least one of them is formally part of CAMP – and often helps with maintaining the murals on the alley. In fact, he’s one of the primary folks who regularly repairs murals and cleans up tags – as he’s an artist and he cares about the alley because it is his home/community.
However, from a broader perspective, these guys reflect a much deeper concern – one that’s become especially glaring in San Francisco – the growing divide and disparity between the rich and everyone else. San Francisco’s “leadership” is catering heavily to the wealthy – in every way, shape, and form – and leaving everyone else struggling, and often desperate, and many on the street with NO alternatives. Many of the city’s services have been closed, or whittled way down. There’s a sit/lie ordinance in place, which is a direct attack on the homeless/housing unstable. The city supervisors recently voted to close the parks at night; they’ve voted to give huge tax breaks/exemptions to the very companies who are in part responsible for driving housing costs way beyond what middle and lower income people can afford – driving many folks to housing instability; they did nothing to oppose the closure of the chess games in mid-market; and most have supported (directly or indirectly) the developers and corporate interests that are destroying San Francisco’s middle and lower income residents, its longstanding creative culture, its non-profits, its city services, its infrastructure … its soul.
Sadly, San Francisco is becoming a city that invests heavily in shit – literally – as it continues to cultivate a culture that spends much of its money on high-end restaurants and boutique foodie ventures so that its new 1% residents are blowing hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars in an hour or less – so they can just shit on the rest of the city … while many of the folks they’re pushing out are on the streets and starving …