Disease does not care about class divisions or housing status. If you leave anybody vulnerable to COVID-19, you increase your whole city’s vulnerability to COVID-19. When you increase access to stable, humane housing, you increase the health of your city. When you support and prioritize the health of your friends and community members who are experiencing homelessness, you support and prioritize the health of your healers in the hospitals and the health of those organizing in the community.
This is the most difficult piece I have ever had to write on the issue of homelessness and supportive housing. Like all of you, I tend to be very hesitant about bureaucratic hurdles that keep people from being able to access housing from homelessness, and through this, I still will be in the vast majority of circumstances.
However, the resurgence of COVID-19 due to the delta variant and widespread vaccine refusal has forced my hand,
Editor’s note — we ran the first part of this piece in March of 2020, with the intention of running Part 2 in April. By April we were temporarily out of print as we grappled with how to continue the Street Sheet program safely while COVID raged in our communities. We’re so happy to be back in print twice a month, and to finally share Tariq’s story with our readers. Here is the full story:
I’m not sure where to begin and end this short tale about my homelessness.
San Francisco, like many cities, is in a challenging place economically with over 200,000 workers on unemployment, a $1.5 billion deficit due to loss revenue, and exponentially higher needs for city services such as rental assistance, health care, child care and other city essential activities. San Francisco has a very unique budget process, where the legislative branch receives the budget from the much more powerful executive branch and has the opportunity to cut things out of the Mayor’s budget in order to fund other things they deem as higher priorities.
Starting in August, all tenants in Direct Access to Housing (DAH) program will pay only 30% of their income towards rent. Previously, while most supportive housing units — and all units that have come online since 2016 — were at 30%, 678 tenants in the DAH program were paying literally half their income towards rent, a legacy of backwards and cruel policies from the City and County of San Francisco.
The funding that was released came from a $1 million allocation that came as a result of me hunger striking for rent relief in 2019,
While the Tenderloin Plan began to be implemented on Thursday, only 16 people were moved into hotels, a mere 5% of the 300 person goal.
Friday, June 12th — Early Thursday morning, San Francisco’s Health Streets Operation Command (HSOC) arrived in the Tenderloin under the pretense of placing at least 300 of the Tenderloin’s unhoused residents into Shelter-in-Place Hotels. Clutching their lists of names, city workers scrambled down Turk street struggling to locate some of the people on their list that they would be moving into a nearby hotel,
Already normalized by COVID-19 “shelter in place” conditions that were prompted by the pandemic, housed and unhoused San Franciscans alike found themselves beset by a curfew that Mayor London Breed imposed on City residents for five nights from May 31 through June 4.
Through demonstrations and vocal outcry, community members rebuked the City’s response to nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd and countless African Americans slain by police officers as part of the nation’s systemic and social racism.
On Friday afternoon several dozen people gathered outside the unassuming Palms Motel in Oakland, CA with signs reading “Housing is a Human Right” and “Hotels Not Graves.” Inside, Stefani Echeverría-Fenn, an adjunct classics lecturer who herself was formerly homeless and has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, has chained herself in the bathroom of a small room. She has been demanding that the City of Oakland offer hotel rooms where she has helped set up for her unhoused neighbors at the intentional encampment at 37th Street and Martin Luther King,
A plea for survival during COVID-19
“Like anybody, I would like to have a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”
-Martin Luther King Jr. on April 3, 1968, the evening before he was assassinated.
These final prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King,
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, San Francisco Mayor London Breed has refused to use executive powers to house San Francisco’s 9,000 homeless residents living in the City’s streets and shelters. Under the Mayor’s emergency powers in the Charter and Administrative Code, Breed has the authority to commandeer a portion of the 33,000 vacant hotel rooms to house homeless residents, but has yet to utilize those powers in spite of the dire situation at hand.