Activists Replace Tents Confiscated By Mayor Ed Lee For Super Bowl Party
This is a guest post by Tawny Scarlet Sverdlin
Feel like buying a tent to directly donate to someone? Get one here.
Mayor Ed Lee has remained true to his word that homeless people would have to leave the streets of San Francisco for the Super Bowl, as evidenced by a video that spread quickly on Facebook last Thursday, January 28th. The video shows Department of Public Works employees in trucks labeled “Clean Patrol” removing encampments along San Bruno Avenue in the city’s South of Market neighborhood.
The effort to remove the homeless from the streets is timed conveniently with the predicted influx of thousands of people coming to San Francisco to celebrate America’s highest-profile sporting event, and coincides with the worst El Nino season in decades. The confiscation of tents by the mayor, while failing to provide the additional 1,300 shelter beds that were promised has struck a major nerve with many advocates for the most disadvantaged San Franciscans.
For two longterm San Franciscan residents, Tara Spalty and Shaun Osborn, airing their grievances online was simply not enough. Instead, they did what any modern-day activist does in the age of social media; they created a GoFundMe campaign. Funds were raised to buy replacement tents in bulk and distribute them to those who were immediately effected by the Department of Public Works confiscations. However, the direct action would not stop there. Spalty and Osborn promised that tents confiscated in future sweeps would also be replaced with donations to the fund until adequate solutions to the homeless encampments were provided. In less than two days, the fundraiser received donations totaling $13,475 from 411 people (Editors note: at time of publishing $14,655 has been raised by 450 people).
“This action is solidarity, not charity” said community acupuncturist Spalty in response to the successful crowdfunding. “We need sustainable solutions to house and provide needed services to people living on the streets of San Francisco, and that is something that many of us are working on. But also sometimes, like now, there is a critical situation which needs to be addressed immediately. Currently, SF has 1 shelter bed for every 5.5 homeless residents.”
There are several reasons many San Franciscans are disgruntled about their city hosting Super Bowl-related events. A few of the main ones include the inevitable downtown gridlock, and the five million dollar price tag that the NFL is not reimbursing. Tack these reasons on top of San Francisco’s rapid gentrification and eviction crisis, and the ingredients are just right for a perfect storm.
Supervisor Scott Wiener lodged the most recent complaint over the tent cities. The local politician has sent out six letters to city agencies to enforce a ban on sleeping outside in such encampments just a few weeks before the Super Bowl party arrives with cameras in tow.
Osborn, a fourth generation bay area native and graphic designer, believes a fair solution to address the problem of homelessness in SF entails requiring all new housing construction projects to include 25% below market rate units. In addition, he feels increasing shelter bed count is vital. “It’s unfortunate that getting into affordable below market rate apartments is like begging for scraps. 71% of homeless people in San Francisco reported that their last address was here . We have a real lack of affordable housing in this city. Ed Lee and Scott Weiner can’t just sweep the problem away by hiding it.”
Tawny Scarlet Sverdlin is a recovering English major and librarian, freelance writer, and oatmeal wrestling champ recently displaced from San Francisco to the peninsula ‘burbs. She is Member of the Oregon trail generation and finds herself torn between cynicism and idealism on a minute-by-minute basis. You can find her on twitter.