Monday, July 30, 2012

"San Fran: Odyssey of a Sleeping Ban‏" -featuring Jennifer Friedenbach at SF Coalition on Homelessness

Linda's Hearth note:  Generally my notes are below pasted-in Linda's Hearth posts. This article(s) is longer than most, so I'm privileging myself by putting my note above.  I first got to work with Jennifer  of  Coalition on Homelessness in 'welfare reform politics', both of us and other moms with children in tow. Later, it was at Housing California yearly conventions we got to know each other better, including each others' interests in housing and getting rid of homelessness.

aside: I passed the annual organizing bash off, then at a Raddison Hotel in Sacramento, as a "vacation" for my youngest child, who would have had no concept for vacate meaning "R&R" if not for those confabs. Except for these events, "vacate" came to mean "evict" in our lives, then in service to buffering poverty in low income families here in Santa Cruz County. 
So I'm ever-grateful for the gulp of culture that included care for children of low income participants who attended early Housing California conventions. He benefitted from the children's activities and grew up to offer a child-care hand, himself, before the Raddison events dried up and so did I. Now, Housing California seems to still exist, I guess, but it has come to belong to realtors and bankers and opportunists. Tenant rights and anti-homeless organizers and activisits no longer participate.

Meanwhile, Jennifer is the ED of Coalition on Homelessness, and the Coalition is fortunate indeed. The article just below shares a glimpse of her at work, and of her organizations long-established values, which include treating homeless folks as if they are human beings. The articles below this are background, for those intersted. 
I encourage everyone to read about Jennifer, the prejudice she deals with, and faces head-on in her job. Later I hope to process the "below this" articles better, or to summarize the background.

Jennifer Friedenbach, champion of S.F. homeless

by Heather Knight, Published 04:00 a.m., Sunday, February 5, 2012

This time, the battleground was a recent meeting of the Board of Supervisors' land use committee, which was voting on Supervisor Scott Wiener's legislation to ban camping, sleeping and four-wheeled shopping carts in Jane Warner and Harvey Milk plazas in the Castro. Wiener called it "basic, common sense legislation."
But Friedenbach - director of the love-it-or-hate-it Coalition on Homelessness, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year - said it was the latest example of San Francisco's quest to criminalize those living on the streets.

She packed the rows and aisles of the committee room with homeless people and their supporters to decry the legislation. Several gay rights icons and friends of Milk's agreed with her and penned a letter to the committee saying the late supervisor would have hated the restrictions in his old stomping grounds. The savvy Friedenbach used the big names to her full, in-your-face advantage and instructed her supporters to spend the meeting holding up pictures of the men under big, black letters reading, "Friends of Harvey say no!"

"So here's a Cleve Jones," she said before the meeting began, handing out pictures of the famous AIDS activist. "Here's a Harry Britt. And here's a Tom Ammiano," she continued, distributing pictures of the former supervisors.

Distracting to Wiener

The signs, indeed held aloft throughout the long and contentious meeting, must have proved at least a little distracting to Wiener, the latest representative of Milk's district.

The creative, confrontational strategy was trademark Friedenbach, described by her friends and enemies alike as passionate, organized and whip-smart. And hard-working, too, considering she earns a salary of just $22,000 a year.

Her auburn hair held up in a messy bun with chopsticks and her long-sleeved T-shirt showing traces of sweat, Friedenbach busily passed out yellow speaker cards, encouraging her supporters to talk. She handed out press packets to reporters and kept an eye on her two sons before addressing the supervisors herself.

"I'm saddened to go down this very tired and very hurtful road," the 46-year-old began. "We can't say this legislation is anything but anti-homeless. Who else is sleeping in public places? Who else is pushing large shopping carts?"

Much of the crowd burst into applause and hoots of support. The committee wasn't buying it, voting 2-1 in favor of the legislation.

Friedenbach is certainly used to these kinds of highs and lows, having worked at the controversial nonprofit for 17 years. She counts among her proudest achievements expanding access to substance abuse programs for homeless people, establishing standards of care in homeless shelters and successfully advocating for a city-funded rental subsidy program.

But she's best known to most San Franciscans for her heated battles against City Hall politicians, most notably former Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Usually, the mayor prevailed with voter support such as in his attempts to ban aggressive panhandling and sitting or lying on sidewalks and his slashing of welfare checks if housing is available.

Newsom did not respond to a request for comment. Friedenbach, for one, says the coalition's spirited advocacy has at least provided a voice of resistance.
...Supervisor Wiener said Friedenbach's unwillingness to negotiate with political opponents and her publicity stunts are counterproductive.

"I think the Coalition on Homelessness has had a very, very negative impact on San Francisco's ability to address homelessness in a meaningful way," he said.

On a recent morning, Friedenbach sat in the coalition's offices on Turk Street, huddled in a black down jacket zipped up to the top, having canceled heating in the office three years ago because it got too expensive.

The coalition runs on a budget of $250,000 a year, raised from private donors - many of whom first learn about the coalition through buying its newspaper, the Street Sheet, from homeless people who sell it and keep the money. Seven paid coalition staff earn the same hourly rate of $12.75, though several work just 10 hours a week.

"It covers my lunch habit," Friedenbach said of her salary, bursting into her well-known belly laugh. "I pretty much just mooch off my husband."

...Friedenbach drives a 1985 Chevy Caprice station wagon, and the family lives in a 900-square-foot home they bought 16 years ago in the Mission District with a mortgage payment of $1,400 a month....

She told Paul Boden, then director of the Coalition on Homelessness, that she would fundraise for him for six months for free if he'd hire her after that. He did. She became director a few years ago.

Boden said Friedenbach's passionate beliefs and thick skin have served her well. "I've seen other people where the first letter to the editor that called them a poverty pimp, they get really hurt by it," he said. "That's not her."

That's a common knock against the coalition - that its staff members actually want homeless people to remain on the streets so they can continue to operate. Friedenbach said that's ridiculous.

"I would love to go out of business," she said. "I would be like 'Woo hoo! I'm going to my kids' school and volunteer all the time and infuse a little joy in my life!' None of us who do this work want to see it continue. It's heartbreaking."...

Friedenbach says dealing with City Hall is actually her least favorite part of the job, though she was there again Tuesday when the full Board of Supervisors took up Wiener's plaza legislation. After the board voted to remove the ban on shopping carts, they passed the rest of it.

Friedenbach and about a dozen coalition members gathered outside the chambers after the vote and hailed it as a huge victory.

Despite vehemently fighting against it for weeks, they said there was actually plenty to like about the legislation. Camping would now be an infraction instead of a more serious misdemeanor. People can sleep in the plazas during the day, just not at night.

Wiener said he got most of what he wanted and so did the coalition - and that the whole public fight could have been avoided if they'd negotiated from the start.
But for the coalition, training a bright spotlight on homeless issues is the point. They consider the plaza fight one for the memory books and distributed the colorful "Friends of Harvey" signs after the vote to keep as souvenirs.
"I want the lavender one," Friedenbach said with a laugh.

Heather Knight is a Chronicle staff writer.

Occupy The Castro: Neighborhood Activists Face Off Against Wiener In Open Spaces Debate

December 3, 2011 8:15 AM

gay_flag_lede.jpgScott Wiener supports the Occupy movement -- the Castro District's elected supervisor affixed his name to the Board of Supervisors' pledge of support. He won't be around for the local neighborhood edition Saturday -- he'll be out of town -- which may be just as well, as a group of neighborhood malcontents are using their Occupy the Castro protest to further their opposition to a set of rules Wiener's proposed for the Castro's open spaces that are anathema to Occupy standards.

Harvey Milk Plaza, the brick entryway into the Muni station at Market and Castro streets in front of the Diesel store, named for the slain LGBTQ icon and marked by the gigantic rainbow flag visible from many parts of town, and Jane
Warner Plaza, the intersection of Castro, 17th, and Market streets, closed to automobile traffic under the "Pavement to Parks" program in favor of planter pots and patio furniture, are virtually the only open spaces in the entire Castro aside from sidewalks.

The rules currently governing both are insufficient, according to Wiener, almost comically so: Harvey Milk Plaza is technically owned by Muni, while the California Vehicle Code is the law of the land at Jane Warner, which is a road, just closed off from automobile traffic. Neither are governed by the Parks Code, in effect in nearly every other open San Francisco space.

Wiener introduced legislation Nov. 15 to, among other things, ban camping, large wheeled vehicles like shopping carts, and smoking in both spaces.

"We've been talking about this in the neighborhood for several years," Wiener said Friday.

"Folks in the neighborhood agree, it's important to know what's acceptable and what's not. That's the impetus for it."

While the rules would outlaw camping like everywhere else ruled by the Park Code, Occupy the Castro has nothing to do with Wiener's proposed rules for the Castro's public spaces, the supervisor noted.

Yet he's still in the crosshairs: queer activist Tommi Avicolli-Mecca, one of the organizers of Occupy the Castro, accused Wiener this week in a Bay Area Reporter editorial of focusing more on banning public nudity than preserving AIDS funding. And some Castro District agitators and gadflys accuse Wiener's rules of violating the sacrosanct spirit of Harvey Milk himself.

A modern-day Milk would need a permit from the Department of Public Works to organize rallies on the brown tile that bears his name, as would nonprofits and other events using the space, according to neighborhood resident Gary Virginia, who's lived in the Castro since 1987.

"These areas are public space and should be as least restrictive as possible," said Virginia, who noted that while permits can easily be secured for city-organized events like ski jumps on Lombard, "the average person is being restricted in many ways at one of the busiest intersections and tourist destinations in the city."

Other opponents of the legislation aren't pleased with Jane Warner Plaza's hours, as volunteers take in and put out the tables from shelter in the morning and at night, meaning there's places to sit -- with towel covering bare bottom -- from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only. Others, like blogger and iconoclast Michael Petrelis, find issue with the provision on "peddling or vending" wares or printed material.

Of course, there's nothing in Wiener's laws or anywhere else that would ban political speech or demonstrations in the area, such as the marches and rallies seen most recently during the Prop 8 debate -- and the Occupy the Castro rally planned for noon Saturday.

Most permits are a nominal formalities, easy to obtain, and not much more than a nod to the notion that public spaces are for the enjoyment of all, and if a rally or a motive for profit require their use, a fee is small potatoes.

And nothing's final, either -- Wiener said Friday he's open to amendments when the legislation enters the committee process in the new year.

Ordinance would put restrictions on Castro District plazas
by T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Jan 26 2012 - 2:13pm

A proposal to regulate two popular Castro District hangouts by restricting chairs and shopping carts is a step closer to becoming city law.

The Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday on an ordinance, which passed the Land Use Committee this week that would ban nighttime sitting, sleeping, vending, smoking and even pushing a shopping cart in Harvey Milk and Jane Warner Plaza.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said his measure will clarify a legal gray area that city and park codes don’t cover at the plazas located across the street from each other at the intersection of 17th, Castro and Market streets. He called it “common sense legislation.”

The city would charge fines up to $500 for camping, smoking and selling merchandise without a permit in those areas. The ordinance would also bar sitting on removable chairs between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. and bans shopping carts.

Supporters from neighborhood associations and merchant groups said the law would alleviate noise, safety and public health problems. But advocates for homeless people and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth oppose the measure, saying it adds to existing codes that already penalize them.

“This isn’t about law. It’s not about order, it’s not about rules, it’s not about safety, it’s not about quiet,” said civil rights organizer Bob Offer-Westort of the Coalition on Homelessness. “It’s about an emotional response, and the emotion that the author of this legislation has chosen is hatred.”
If the board approves the measure, it could take effect as soon as Feb. 29.

Posted: 10:08 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

SF supes pass new regulations for Castro Plazas and wires

A proposal to ban camping and other activities at two plazas in San Francisco's Castro District was approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, but only after the removal of regulations that had angered homeless advocates in the city.

Supervisor Scott Wiener had proposed the legislation to prohibit a variety of activities in Harvey Milk Plaza and Jane Warner Plaza, both located near the intersection of Market and Castro streets.

Wiener had proposed to ban sleeping in the plazas at any time of day, as well as pitch tents or other structures to camp there. The legislation also proposed to prohibit the use of wheeled equipment in the plaza.

That last item rankled advocates from the San Francisco-based Coalition on Homelessness, who argued that the legislation unfairly targeted the homeless, particularly those who used shopping carts to carry their property.

The homeless advocates also argued that the legislation was unnecessary because of a state law that already bars lodging in public places without permission.

Bob Offer-Westort, an organizer with the Coalition on Homelessness, camped out in Jane Warner Plaza on Friday night and was quickly arrested for breaking the state law, which he said proved Wiener's proposal was redundant.

Wiener argued today that the state law concerning lodging in public "is unclear at best," and that the homeless advocates "want to have their cake and eat it too ... if they went to court, they would say (the state law) doesn't apply and is unclear."

When the legislation went in front of the board this afternoon, board president David Chiu introduced an amendment to remove the wheeled equipment prohibition from the legislation.

Chiu said he was "worried about the issue of elderly people and others that have to use carts" to get through the plaza.

The board easily passed the amendment, then narrowly passed the full legislation by a 6-5 vote, despite opposition from supervisors like Christina Olague, who called the proposal "a solution looking for a problem."

Supervisor Eric Mar said he too opposed it because he was worried that the legislation would lead to police targeting the city's poor and youth.

Wiener argued that the legislation was "not about targeting, it's about small constrained public spaces" and said it "had broad support throughout the neighborhood."

Despite the legislation passing, homeless advocates gathered outside board chambers following the vote to celebrate what they considered a victory.

"The legislation passed but all the harmful parts are out," Offer-Westort said. "We didn't have any objection to most of the legislation."

SF supervisors split on plaza restrictions

Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published 04:00 a.m., Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A San Francisco Board of Supervisors' narrow vote over new regulations for two Castro district plazas showed the deep political divide over the issue of homelessness in the city.
The board gave preliminary approval to the legislation Tuesday on a 6-5 vote, showcasing the progressive-moderate split among San Francisco's lawmakers. Final consideration is set for next week.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, who sponsored the legislation, described it as "modest, basic legislation" that absorbs some of the rules governing city parks and streets.
The proposal would affect Harvey Milk and Jane Warner plazas at Market and Castro streets. It would ban smoking and bar people from selling merchandise without a city permit; an exception would be made for written and other materials protected by the First Amendment.
But it was two other elements that stirred the most controversy: a ban on large shopping carts, which are often used by homeless people to stow their possessions, and a prohibition on sleeping and camping. Homeless activists urged supervisors to reject the plan.
In an attempt to mollify critics, the legislation was amended Tuesday to remove the shopping cart provision and to only bar sleeping in the plazas between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
But the changes weren't enough for supervisors who voted against the proposal.
"Generally, I'm philosophically challenged by restrictions to any public space that we have here in San Francisco," said Supervisor Jane Kim.
Added Supervisor John Avalos: "I tend to want to support people who I feel are more vulnerable, and I'm going to be siding with them on this. I do believe we have to figure out how to make our city the sanctuary it really is, and when I see intent behind legislation that constrains our abilities to use public space and enjoy it, I question that legislation."
Wiener, the Castro district representative who said he crafted the legislation at the request of neighborhood organizations, said his intent is not to undermine people's rights to assemble or visit the public plazas.
"We have a very, very extensive parks code governing our parks system. There are many rules in place for our sidewalks. None of these rules have undermined the freedoms we enjoy as a community," he said. "Rather, these rules ensure that these public spaces are usable by everyone."
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who helped craft the amendments, and cast the decisive swing vote, said the fissure on the board was based more on ideology than on policy.
"I do think we in our roles have to figure out how to move beyond the intense emotion and symbolism around some of these issues and get down to what this legislation really does, and I do think it's a modest piece of legislation. ... It by and large reiterates what's in our parks code," he said.
Joining Wiener and Chiu in voting in favor were Supervisors Carmen Chu, Malia Cohen, Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell. Voting with Avalos and Kim in opposition were Supervisors David Campos, Eric Mar and Christina Olague.



2:15 AM on February 1, 2012
The city may have extensive rules and regulations, but from what I can see they don't enforce anything...

I'm not against the homeless, but I am against being hassled by an aggressive panhandler at an ATM (long been illegal), I'm tired of being chased down the street and touched or having my way blocked by another aggressive panhandler. I'm tired of seeing street thugs who are not homeless pray on tourists because the city wants to do nothing. I'm tired of seeing the thugs pretend to be disabled and homeless to get tourists money. (Did you ever see the shift change at the wheelchair on Geary Street, the day guy gets up and leaves and another guy uses the chair in the evening, both are more mobile than I am)...

San Francisco needs to start worrying about the rights of everyday San Franciscan's over the tourists and street people.

If people need help they can go to many agencies, most who choose to be in the street only do so because the city bends backwards to let them do so...

What if the city just gave out cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, it would probably stop this in its tracks.

I see business closing and tourists being upset at our antics. All I hear lately is about people's rights, lets hear about people's responsibilities! The rights of the average San Franciscan are being trashed in our efforts to let people act out any way they want for any reason. It is hurting tourism because most other venues don't allow it. So Honest Ed Lee says he does not want the tourists hassled in Union Square, Let him walk down Geary some evening without his squad of goons and see what it is like...

10:12 AM on February 1, 2012
John Avalos said:I do believe we have to figure out how to make our city the sanctuary it really is, and when I see intent behind legislation that constrains our abilities to use public space and enjoy it.

This just shows what and idiot John Avalos is. Why should San Francisco be a sanctuary for those who come hear to do harm to the City? As far as contraining our ability to "use and enjoy" public spaces, its the abusive panhandlers and vagrants who constrain that ability and its Supervisor Weiners legislation that is designed to fix that problem. Avalos and Mar are up for reelection this year. Vote them both out of office and San Francisco will be better off for it.



12:10 PM on February 3, 2012
Some have the public realm and the public good in mind. SuperWiener, as some like to call him, has his delicate sensibilities, affluence and the broader agenda of privitazation of public spaces in, um..mind?

In the words of the Supervisor ""This legislation is not draconian. It does not restrict anyone from the plazas," said Wiener, later adding, "This is basic, common sense legislation." - well, obviously that's a matter of opinion. It's interesting to me that Wiener focuses his attention on such matters (which some might categorize as demonizing the homeless, destitute and desperate...), rather than do work to HELP homeless people. As one person has said "I'm sooo releived to know that our very own "SuperWeiner" (I just coined that) is expending his legislative might to tackle the REALLY BIG issues plaguing our fair corne...r of the City."

Unfortunately for all of us and for our city by the bay, Homelessness has been a favorite political football in this in some ways provincial town for neigh unto 4 decades. The politicians and other forces in the city use homelessness and the homeless to attain other political goals. I find this particularly ugly and loathsome as the homeless represent the weakest link in our shared culture - they are the most desperate of folk among us. Just in case there are those of us who might not have thought of this, many if not all of the homeless are multiply-diagnosed. The first thing they are diagnosed with is not having a home (a condition which plays havoc with one's dignity not to mention personal hygiene.) Then comes HIV disease of various stages of progression, other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis as well as health problems that are present in the non-homeless population but may not be treated in the homeless due to lack of medical care or access to such, active or latent drug and alcohol dependencies, mental illness, at-risk state of being for such things as sexual and physical and emotional and legal assault, and the list goes on and on.

Add to that, the heavy handed regulatory aspirations of Wiener. Let's face it, folks, even if he isn't one of the 1% now, he is certainly acting like one and undoubtably aspires to be one of the one, in time. He DOES have a Harvard Law degree, after alll.......but unlike our President, Barack Obama, he is not an appealing creature - quite the opposite.

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