So called "Quality of life" laws like the controversial sit/lie law are costly and ineffective, according to a new report issued by the city's Budget Analyst Wednesday. The Examiner picked up the report, and notes that it found enforcing laws like sit/lie costs the city $20.6 million annually while it hasn't led to a reduction in the number of homeless on San Francisco streets.
“The City spending $20.6 million criminalizing people forced to sleep on the streets would be much better spent on housing,” Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the SF Coalition on Homelessness, wrote in response to the report. “It's like the City is just pissing in the wind.”
The report, which was requested by Supervisor Eric Mar, essentially agrees. “Police officers are not trained to evaluate the complex needs of a homeless individual or to directly connect them with the social services provided by The City,” it reads. "Because of the high cost of police resources, the current use of police resources to respond to quality of life incidents relating to the homeless will continue to generate high costs for The City.”
Friedenbach put it more bluntly. "Any way you look at it, San Francisco is either ruining homeless people's lives and wasting money, or harassing homeless people and wasting money," she explained. "With little to show for it, it is time for a new approach."
With respect to sit/lie, the city may need to stop enforcing it anyway — in 2015 the Justice Department issued a statement that a similar Idaho law was in fact unconstitutional as it criminalized the status of being homeless.
Whether or not this report will change enforcement priorities remains to be seen, but it will likely serve as another arrow in the quiver of those arguing that the city's approach to homelessness is hopelessly broken.