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!
MI CASA NO ES SU CASA
Directed by Avery Yu and Haley Jensen
Released September 2014
MI CASA NO ES SU CASA tells the story of a rapidly evolving neighborhood: San Francisco’s Mission District. Stripping down the word “gentrification” to its literal and interpreted meanings, this film addresses the multifaceted perspectives of the issue. Through interviews with long time residents, politicians, professors and community activists. Mi Casa No Es Su Casa gives us a snapshot into this vibrant neighborhood and the complicated politics of its newfound popularity.
Interviews with Megan Wilson, Erin MC EL, Roberto Hernandez, Christopher Statton, Miriam Zuk, Jean Yaste, and David Campos.
The Gentrification of our Livelihoods: Everything Must Go… by Megan Wilson
We Lose Space, Installation by Megan Wilson and Gordon Winiemko, San Francisco Art Commission Grove Street Gallery (across from SF City Hall), San Francisco, CA, 2000, photo by Megan Wilson
New Feature on Stretcher:
Preface: When I began researching and writing The Gentrification of our Livelihoods in early March 2014 one of my primary interests was the impact that the collaboration between Intersection for the Arts and developer Forest City’s creative placemaking 5M Project is having on the existing communities that have invested in and called the South of Market home prior to the tech booms. Having worked with many community-based organizations within the SoMa community for the past 18 years, I’ve had deep concerns about the development’s impact for the neighborhood and its impact on the future of Intersection.
However, I would not have predicted the announcement that Intersection made on May 22nd to cut its arts, education, and community engagement programs and lay off its program staff would come as soon as it did. What began as a reflection on the shortcomings of creative placemaking as a tool for economic development and its implications on gentrification and community displacement has become a cautionary tale for arts and community organizations to question and better understand the potential outcomes of working with partners whose interests are rooted in financial profit.
Over the past two months I’ve spoken with many of the stakeholders involved with the 5M development, as well as the creative placemaking projects that are helping to shape the changes in the culture and landscape throughout San Francisco, these include: Deborah Cullinan, former Executive Director, Intersection for the Arts; Jamie Bennett, Executive Director, ArtPlace America; Angelica Cabande, Executive Director, South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), Jessica Van Tuyl, Executive Director, Oasis For Girls, April Veneracion Ang, Senior Aide to Supervisor Jane Kim, District 6 and former Executive Director of SOMCAN; Tom DeCaigney, Director of Cultural Affairs, San Francisco Art Commission; Josh Kirschenbaum, Vice President for Strategic Direction, PolicyLink, and an anonymous source within Forest City Enterprises … Continue Reading
Clarion Alley Mural Project’s “Wall of Shame & Solutions”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CLARION ALLEY MURAL PROJECT’S WALL OF SHAME AND SOLUTIONS
Megan Wilson: 415-351-8193 MegAWilson@aol.com
Christopher Statton: 925-876-4588 Christopher.Statton@gmail.com
High Resolution and Additional images available on request
Clarion Alley Mural Project Wall of Shame & Solutions
New Mural on Clarion Alley by Christopher Statton, Megan Wilson, and Mike Reger
Monday, February 24 – October 1, 2014
TBA – information to follow
Clarion Alley Mural Project
Clarion Alley @ Valencia Street (between 17th & 18th Streets), San Francisco, CA, USA.
WALL OF SHAME AND SOLUTIONS:
In a city that is rapidly changing to cater to the one-percent at every level, Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) is one of the last remaining truly punk venues in San Francisco, organized by a core and revolving group of individuals who have collectively volunteered tens of thousands of hours throughout its history over the past 21 years.
As part of CAMP’s mission to be a force for those who are marginalized and a place where culture and dignity speak louder than the rules of private property or a lifestyle that puts profit before compassion, respect, and social/economic/environmental justice, CAMP artists/organizers Megan Wilson, Christopher Statton, and Mike Reger have just completed Clarion Alley Mural Project’s Wall of Shame and Solutions to address the current crisis of displacement and the dismantling of our city’s historic culture.
Wilson herself was evicted in 2008 through the Ellis Act from her home of 13 years. In 2013 she was evicted from her studio at 340 Bryant Street, along with 150 other artists, by developer Joy Ou of Group i to make way for new tech offices. 340 Bryant Street was one of the last remaining affordable industrial spaces for artists’ studios in San Francisco. Additionally, during the painting of the “Wall of Shame and Solutions” Wilson was held by a Mission District police officer (with a back-up team of two officers) for 30-minutes for “breaking San Francisco’s Sit/Lie Ordinance” by sitting on the ground while taking a break from painting the mural.
The mural includes the following selection of “Shames” and “Solutions” – there are many others that could’ve been included; however, due to space, we narrowed it down:
SHAME: 3,705 Ellis Evictions 1997 – 2013, SF Eviction Epidemic
SOLUTION: Ellis Act Relocation Bill & Support the Anti-Speculation Tax and Support the SF Community Land Trust
SHAME: “Google Buses” / SFMTA
SOLUTION: Ban Private Shuttles From Public Bus Stops and Pay Into The Existing Public Transit System
SHAME: Corporate Tax Give-Aways by: Mayor Ed Lee & Supervisors Jane Kim, Scott Weiner, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, Eric Mar, and David Chiu
SOLUTION: End Corporate Welfare and Tax Them and Make Them Pay Their Fair Share
SHAME: Uber, Lyft, Sidecar etal.
SOLUTION: Regulate & Tax
SOLUTION: Regulate & Tax
SHAME: Corporate Community Benefit Agreements
SOLUTION: Just Say “NO” – Make Them Pay Their Fair Share
SHAME: Closure of Chess Game in Mid Market
SOLUTION: Bring Back The Public Chess Games
SHAME: SF Sit/Lie Ordinance
SOLUTION: Repeal Sit/Lie
SHAME: Closing SF Public Parks at Night
SOLUTION: Re-open The Parks at Night
San Francisco is experiencing a massive displacement of its residents, its communities, and its diverse culture – as the high tech industry and its workers continue to move into our City and to recruit more and more of its employees from outside of the Bay Area. Additionally, high numbers of foreigners are buying up property in San Francisco as second or third homes, contributing to the shortage of affordable housing. Those being forced out of their homes and neighborhoods include longtime residents (many who are low and middle income, immigrants, and communities of color), local businesses, and non-profit social service and arts organizations – agencies that act as integral parts to the neighborhoods they live in and serve. It’s been truly heartbreaking to watch so many people who have spent many years creating and contributing to our communities be forced to leave because, while they have plenty of creativity, energy, and love for their neighborhoods, they don’t have enough money to keep their homes, small businesses, and community-based organizations.
This is an epidemic rooted in a systemic war being forged by politicians and for-profit interests across the world. In San Francisco it’s a war being led by Mayor Ed Lee (led by Gavin Newsom before him, and Willie Brown before that), District Supervisors, and the Planning Commission, funded by deep pockets with the money to pull these City “leaders”’ strings. These are the folks who have created and are creating the changing image of San Francisco as “money is the priority,” not culture and/or a voice for the disenfranchised. All eyes throughout the world are now on San Francisco and watching as the city that was once known for its progressive free-love counterculture is rapidly being dismantled by free-market capitalism on steroids.
Ultimately the power of the people who don’t have deep pockets lies in calling these interests out, demanding better, and coming up with “creative solutions” to put an end to the powers that are cruelly targeting the most vulnerable populations locally, nationally, and globally.
CLARION ALLEY MURAL PROJECT
Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) was established in October 1992 by a volunteer collective of six North Mission residents: Aaron Noble, Michael O’Connor, Sebastiana Pastor, Rigo 92, Mary Gail Snyder, and Aracely Soriano. Photographer Fiona O’Connor documented CAMP from the beginning. Other members of CAMP over the years include Diego Diaz, Kate Ellis, Permi Gill, Maya Hayuk, Megan Wilson, Andrew Schoultz, Ivy Jeanne McClelland, Jet Martinez, CUBA, Daniel Doherty, Antonio Roman-Alcala, Mike Reger, Christopher Statton, and Ronin Miyamoto-San.
Today CAMP’s core organizers include: Megan Wilson, Mike Reger, Christopher Statton, Ronin Miyamoto-San, Jean Yaste, Roisin Isner, Jose V. Guerra Awe, and Rigo 23.
CAMP was directly inspired by the mural cluster in Balmy Alley focused on Central American social struggles. CAMP did not choose a single theme however, instead focused on the two goals of social inclusiveness and aesthetic variety. As a result CAMP has produced over 700 murals on and around Clarion Alley by artists of all ethnicities, ages, and levels of experience, with an emphasis on emerging artists and new styles.
CAMP has contributed to the tradition of labor muralism with offsite projects at ILWU Local 6, at 9th and Clementina, and inside the Redstone Building at 16th and Capp (the latter, a cluster of its own, includes twelve murals). CAMP has also presented major gallery installations at the San Francisco Art Institute, New Langton Arts, and Intersection for the Arts. In 2003 CAMP completed an international exchange project, Sama-sama/Together with artists from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. As part of the project CAMP produced the 156-page book “Sama-Sama/Together: An International Exchange Project Between Yogyakarta & San Francisco,” published by Jam Karet Press.
CAMP and The Changes To The Mission Neighborhood:
Sadly CAMP has helped to contribute to the extreme gentrification of the Mission District over these past two decades. What started as neighborhood-based project committed to diversity and inclusion, is now a magnet for lots of folks hoping to profit off of the image that CAMP has created – from the developers and real estate agents who use CAMP as a selling point for the “cool, hip Mission experience,” to those who use the space for fashion shoots, to corporations hoping to include the “gritty urban street art” image to sell their products, to any number of paid tours by folks unrelated to CAMP, spreading misinformation about the project, artists, and murals.
CAMP itself was evicted from our warehouse at 47 Clarion in 2000 to make way for new condo lofts. In addition to its long history as a labor hall in the 1930’s, community center, and space for artists (including Terry Riley, John Waters, and the Cockettes), 47 Clarion was the original office and studio for the Clarion Alley Mural Project. Subsequently, CAMP was then evicted from its garage on the alley in 2005. Many of the artists who once lived in the neighborhood and worked with CAMP have also been displaced due to the outrageous and unaffordable hikes in rents to the area.
WALL OF SHAME AND SOLUTIONS ARTISTS:
Megan Wilson has been an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project since 1998. In 2003 she curated, raised the funds, co-organized, and participated in CAMP’s international exchange project Sama-Sama/Together through which six artists from SF (Aaron Noble, Andrew Schoultz, Alicia McCarthy, Carolyn Castaño, Carolyn Ryder Cooley, and Megan Wilson) completed a 6-week residency in Yogykarta, Indonesia and 4 artists from Yogykarta (Arie Dyanto, Arya Panjalu, Nano Warsono, and Samuel Indratma) completed an 8-week residency in SF painting murals, installing exhibitions, and participating in public dialogues. In addition to her work as an artist, Wilson has worked in non-profit development, planning and management for over 15 years. She has extensive experience in program development, community organizing, and social & economic justice activism.
For more information see: www.MeganWilson.com
Christopher Statton has been an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project since 2012. 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 an Advisory Board member of the Tom Steel Clinic, which provides medical services for the HIV positive community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mike Reger has been an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project since 2010. Reger, a prolific cartoonist, is a co-founder of Mission Mini-Comix. He’s also a San Francisco native, and juggler. His specialties include: commix, OCD detailing, painting, juggling, and sedition. For more information see: www.MissionMiniComix.com.
High Resolution and Additional images available on request
Megan Wilson: 415-351-8193 MegAWilson@aol.com
Christopher Statton: 925-876-4588 Christopher.Statton@gmail.com
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 …