Candidate Statement on Homelessness
January 16, 2006
I’m going to start off my candidacy for the District 6 seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by touching the third rail of San Francisco politics. It’s time to stop jerking around about the homeless problem in San Francisco. When the disenfranchised get here they are confronted with a criminal underclass that introduces them to self destruction through exploitation, dependency through self medication with narcotics such as methamphetamine, and hopelessness. San Francisco is a progressive city. We have historically, and will continue to do right by the homeless. Unfortunately, some of what we’ve done has been counter productive.
San Francisco provides unparalleled resources to the homeless. The disenfranchised make their way to San Francisco because of our generosity. It is society’s responsibility to provide for the disenfranchised. That is, after all, what community is about, supporting each other. At the same time, we as a community cannot provide the circumstance, or facilitate the exploitation of both the truly needy and the community as a whole by resident and outside criminal elements.
The disenfranchised come here because of San Francisco’s compassionate policies. Our abdication of responsibility toward the homeless creates an environment that encourages violent crime. What I am saying is not new. In New York, it was called the Broken Windows theory. “[I]f the first broken window in a building is not repaired, the people who like breaking windows will assume that no one cares about the building and more windows will be broken. Soon the building will have no windows.” (Wilson and Kelling, 1982). The theory suggests that more serious crimes evolve from minor infractions. In some instances, San Francisco’s compassion has served to make permanent a life of dependency that should have been only temporary.
This phenomenon affects the people who have chosen to make San Francisco their home. Let me talk about this situation from my perspective. My car has been broken into three times within two years. I’ve had a bicycle stolen. I’ve witnessed criminals trolling my neighborhood, looking into cars for valuables to steal. People defecate on the side walks. Addicts smoke crack on the streets. Shattered safety glass litters the streets where I live.
Let us not confuse compassion with the abdication of responsibility. It’s time to take responsibility for our city. This is what I propose:
1. Respect the disenfranchised. The homeless are people that deserve basic human dignity. Encourage both theoretical and practical solutions to deal with the chronically homeless. This includes aggressively tackling the root problems of homelessness, mental illness and addiction.
2. Safe Streets through Quality of Life Enforcement. Allow and encourage the SFPD to arrest minor offenders. This allows the police to conduct searches for outstanding bench/arrest warrants. It also communicates that San Francisco does not tolerate crime. If drugs are involved in criminal activity, the arrest of the offender may allow a period to detox. Most importantly, it allows San Francisco to get jurisdiction over the individual, and encourage treatment for the root causes of homelessness (mental illness and addiction).
3. Back the SFPD. As a community we should discourage politicians from using the SFPD as a whipping boy to accomplish self-interested political goals, at the expense of our first responders. Can you imagine working for a boss that treats you the way San Francisco treats it police department? Backing the SFPD will increase moral and productivity, which will result in good police work. The police officers of the SFPD put themselves on the line every day. They confront persons exhibiting the worst behaviors. At the end of the day, police officers are human beings, who make mistakes. Even so, the department should not be allowed to become punching bags for politicians to score cheap political points.
4. Aggressively helping the disenfranchised and attacking the roots of homelessness will help to improve blighted areas, encourage business to invest, increased tax revenue, and thereby help fund more services for the disenfranchised.