Public space should be for everyone, including those who are homeless. This legislation targets the homeless or those perceived to be homeless. It does not offer them housing or jobs or services, only fines, which, if not paid, turn into bench warrants and possibly jail time. That "criminal record" creates a hurdle to their getting into housing later on. So the legislation keeps people homeless.
Reject legislation restricting use of Harvey Milk and Jane Warner plazas
We, the undersigned, are opposed to Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposed regulations for Harvey Milk and Jane Warner Plazas, the only public spaces in the Castro.
These regulations came about not from a community process, but from selective meetings between Wiener and business and neighborhood associations that have always opposed services for the homeless in the Castro. QUEEN (Queers for Economic Equality Now) at one point approached Wiener and the Castro Benefits District about setting up a task force, composed of community members, activists, merchants, neighbors, etc., to address any problems that may exist in the plazas and come up with ways to make them more welcoming to everyone, including the homeless. The idea was rejected.
Harvey Milk Plaza has always been a symbol of the LGBT community. Back in the 70s, Harvey Milk would get up on a soap box with a bullhorn in hand and speak out on issues that concerned him. Over the years, the spot has been, and still is, a place for rallies, gatherings, celebrations, cruising, tabling, sunbathing, performing, etc. It is a valued community treasure that has never needed regulations to make it welcoming to everyone.
These regulations will make it less welcoming by targeting a group that some merchants and neighbors do not like, that is, the homeless or those perceived to be homeless, by prohibiting sleeping, pitching a tent or other shelter, sitting on moveable chairs after 9pm, and having a shopping cart.
The fact is that 40% of homeless youth in SF are queer. Given that they can't get into the bars to socialize, public space such as Milk Plaza has become an important place for them to hang out. They need housing, they don't need to be fined for sitting on a chair after 9pm or falling asleep on a bench. That's not what Harvey Milk would have pushed for. He would have given them hope by working like hell to provide housing and jobs and healthcare, things that we all need.
For the homeless, a fine can be a permanent ticket to homelessness. If a fine is not paid (because the person simply doesn't have the money), it turns into a bench warrant and possibly jail time. That "criminal record" creates a hurdle to getting into housing later on. So the legislation keeps people homeless or extends their time on the streets. Which, in a city with over 10,000 homeless people, is pure insanity.
Keep Milk and Warner plazas free for everyone. Say NO to this legislation.
*photo by Terrrie Frye