Monday, December 24, 2007

San Francisco Homeless

A lot of what this columnist says about the homeless situation in San Francisco, resonates in Sacramento.

If you want to help the homeless, just say yes
C.W. Nevius
Sunday, December 23, 2007

It is time for someone in the homeless advocacy community to say yes.

For every proposal to address San Francisco's problem of homelessness, panhandling and vagrancy, there has been one consistent response from advocates - no.

No to the suggestion of Laura's Law, which would require the severely mentally ill to take their medications. (Not all advocates disagree, but when I asked the director of the influential Homeless Coalition point-blank if she would support it, she said no.) No to the suggestion of looking at Portland's Street Access for Everyone program to get loiterers off the street, and no to clearing campers out of Golden Gate Park.

It was the same story back in 2003 when then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom put his Care Not Cash reform on the ballot. He was vilified for getting San Francisco to follow the lead of other cities and get out of the business of giving cash handouts to the homeless.

I don't question the advocates' motives or their commitment. I know that they do lots of good work for their clients. But the dialogue between them and critics of the status quo on the street has become a divisive battleground.

That's why I say there's only one way out of it. It is time for one of the advocates to say yes.

Pick a program, an idea, or a solution that has been proposed and support it. Or come up with one on your own.

But there's a catch. There has to be some common ground. It can't be slogans - free housing for everyone who comes to San Francisco. There has to be some room for compromise, a way for everyone, from the advocates, to the city officials, to the business community, to say, yeah, with a little effort that could work. It might not solve everything, but would be a start.