Here at SFist we can sometimes go months without paying much attention to the thrice weekly rantings of prickly local character and Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius. But between the Mario Woods case, the Super Bowl, and the homeless crisis related to the Super Bowl, he's been on a tear lately, and it's hard not to notice and there was the whole Muni fare evasion thing, but he's been too busy to mention that again. Today he gets big front page space on SFChronicle.com proclaiming that "Buying Tents for SF's Homeless Isn't Helping Them." Does this mean Nevius definitely speaks for the entire Chronicle now on this issue?
As we know, Supervisor Scott Wiener has come out strongly on the side of removing the tent city under the Octavia/Duboce viaduct on Division Street, calling it "a public health and safety hazard for those living in them and for our neighborhoods." At the time, last week, there were reports from local news stations that homeless people's tents were being forcibly removed as people were getting moved into shelters and out of the rain.
Nevius is firmly on the side of Wiener in all this, and staunchly against this crowd-funding campaign that was launched to buy more tents for people and he wants to dispel rumors that the police or Department of Public Works are confiscating anyone's tents. DPW spokeswoman Rachel Gordon emphatically denies that. Referring to the fact that people have camped under this freeway for the past two years, Gordon says the department is simply doing regular cleanups that are necessary for public health, reporting that last week she herself saw "75 and 100 [discarded] hypodermic needles in one block."
The logic is that the only way to help these people, Super Bowl or not, is to get them into shelters or supportive housing of which there is clearly not enough, though he makes the point that campers are often resistant to accepting these services. Nevius also met a dude on his rounds of the camp whom takes as representative of the population and whom he quoted last week saying, "I could have a job, be living in an apartment and all that crap, but I’m not ready. Right now I just like getting high.”
Meanwhile, 48 Hills took their own trip to the camp and found at least one homeless college graduate who is not an addict, and who is just down on her luck.
But even if there are a fair number of people who ended up there exactly because they'd rather pitch a tent and get high than bother with counseling or shelter rules, Nevius and Wiener are frustrated by citizens' who want to support that, and simply accept that "Tents for San Francisco" should be a viable option for anyone.
People like easy answers, and throwing a few bucks at the cause of more tents seemed simple enough that $15,000 has been raised so far for these tents. Meanwhile the city was slow to open the promised, emergency winter shelter at Pier 80, which is reportedly opening Wednesday, and where 150 people will get to move indoors, use showers, store belongings, and even keep pets.
The only thing is, it's a temporary structure, and basically a glorified tent.