Tech fat cats want homeless tent camps gone from S.F. sidewalks

Ladies and gentlemen, start your shopping carts: If some big-money tech folks from San Francisco have their way, police there will be able to clear out sidewalk homeless camps upon 24 hours’ notice.

Among the luminaries supporting the no-tents-on-sidewalks Measure Q on the November city ballot are angel investor Ron Conway, Sequoia Capital chairman Michael Moritz, and investor William Oberndorf, who have each donated $49,999 to support the initiative, according to CNN. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s husband, Zach Bogue, also backs the measure, CNN said.

Now, upon learning that members of the ultra-rich tech elite want to harry the homeless off the sidewalks, it’s easy to dismiss the fat cats as heartless scoundrels. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. Conway, according to CNN, has funded HandUp, an organization that helps non-profits raise money for projects assisting homeless and low-income people.

But, according to The Guardian, Conway in 2010 was also a primary donor to a campaign for a law banning sitting or lying on a sidewalk in daytime (a behavior that some homeless people engage in because they don’t have access to “nap pods.”).

San Francisco supervisor Mark Farrell, who authored the measure, said in an op-ed it’s intended to “help get the homeless into housing” because it’s “not compassionate to allow human beings to live on our city streets.”

Under Measure Q, police would be able to give homeless people 24 hours to clear their tents and belongings from sidewalk encampments, or face seizure of their property. The campers would be offered bus tickets to go stay with friends or family outside the city. A homeless person’s tent could only be removed if shelter space existed for the person.

Measure Q, critics say, is more about removing a public eyesore — homeless camps — than helping disadvantaged people rebuild their lives. They point out that the initiative would provide no funding for more shelters or housing.

The San Francisco Chronicle, in recommending voters oppose the measure, described the status quo: “For now, city teams give multiday warnings before scooping up the homeless and their possessions for interviews, treatment and placement or a ticket out of town,” the paper said. “It’s painstaking, slow work, and not the one-shot answer that this measure calls for.”

Measure Q would push homeless people out of their tents, but that’s about it, Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, told The Guardian. “We’re just taking away someone’s tent and making them sleep on the cold concrete,” Friedenbach said.

Long-term shelter beds in the city have a waiting list 800 souls long, and San Francisco, with more than 7,000 homeless adults, has only 1,000 temporary, first-come, first-served shelter beds, CNN reported.

With homeless folks only subject to tent-camp eviction if there’s room for them in a shelter, city officials would have an incentive to keep already-scarce shelter spots empty so sidewalks could be cleared of tents, Friedenbach suggested to CNN.


Photo: Homelessness in San Francisco (Wikimedia Commons/Christopher Beland)


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  • EllaFino

    Here is an idea, how about these guys get together and build housing campuses just like they do tech campuses. Oh right because it isn’t their responsibility even though their industry has driven the cost of housing to ridiculous levels.