By Dean Preston
Our Mayor and other City leaders are protesting the ruling by Magistrate Judge Ryu that the City cannot enforce criminal laws against camping on public streets when the City lacks adequate shelter or housing to offer those who are unhoused.
Their protest is based on the false assertion that San Francisco currently offers safe, decent, shelter and housing to all those on the streets and that those who are homeless turn it down because they want to be homeless. This is both cynical and dangerous. Lifting the injunction will not magically create more shelter beds, it will simply reinstate the city’s inadequate response to the homelessness crisis. Forcibly moving unhoused people block to block does nothing to address the homelessness crisis here in San Francisco.
We can and should seize the opportunity of Magistrate Ryu’s ruling to honestly address the problem of homelessness in San Francisco. Instead of political rallies and judicial appeals, we believe that the Mayor, who administers and controls San Francisco’s homeless services, should be doing everything possible to do outreach and make available adequate shelter and housing, including:
- Fill the thousands of vacant supportive housing units, subsidized homes, senior units, and other vacant apartments across the City, and acquire additional hotels for supportive housing
- Expand shelter options, including hotels and tiny homes, as temporary places to stay instead of on the streets
- Offer unhoused residents the services they need to get back on their feet, including mobile support services and wellness hubs
As numerous City plans recognize, the most effective solutions are preventing homelessness in the first place through strategies like the right to counsel and strong eviction protections, and expanding truly affordable housing opportunities for low-income and formerly homeless people in our increasingly unaffordable City. As we pursue these strategies, we must work together to make sure unhoused people have the care and shelter they need, and we need to do that work with urgency.
It is simply not ok that in a City with so many resources people are left to suffer on our streets. Punching down on the poor, disseminating false information, and political opportunism will only make our problems worse. Let’s work together to end homelessness and make sure everyone has a safe, decent place to call home.
Dean Preston is a Supervisor in San Francisco, District 5, representing, among other places, the Tenderloin.