If you are reading this, it is most likely that you are concerned about human rights, you wanted to help someone who is struggling in the streets and needs some money, or you’re a media analyst reviewing the press before a major election. Election Day is to be a big thing and you, reader, have a great responsibility in many ways. There’s a lot at stake, from big nationwide politics to city propositions, but the person you bought this from is could lose (more) of his human rights if you don’t go to the polls and say NO to Prop Q.
This is what could happen if Prop Q gets approved, pushed by Marina and Pacific Heights district’s supervisor Mark Farrell:
You are living in your house paid off by your company. People living around you think you are ugly. They think you’re the one who is leaving trash around. You don’t look that well, they think you might have be doing drugs, have the flu, or something worse. They are afraid of you. They think that if they get too close they might become like you. It does not feel that good when people look at you that way, but hey, you’re in San Francisco working for a world famous company. You seem stressed all the time. Maybe it’s because you spend all your day working for AirBnB (no particular reason for choosing that company as an example, ahem) to pay the rent, the gas, your Netflix, and other Internet-based services, the Lyft and Uber rides from Valencia on Friday nights, Postmates deliveries, and all those things you need in order to survive in this crazy place. All you have is your house to get back to in order to have some sense of belonging and security.
One day you go out to work and your partner is out for a long walk with your lovely puppy. When you get back to your home after hard day in your job, you find a notice that says that you have 24 hours to pack everything and leave because you’re too ugly. But don’t worry, social workers will come and they’ll take you to a transition place so you can get a real house, not this old apartment that seems to be a health hazard. The only problem is that there’s no room for you in any of the places where they promise to take you in the 24 hours’ notice. In addition, if somehow, by some miracle, you do get a place in a shelter, you won’t be able to be there with your partner. And your dog, well, they might have to take her to an animal shelter, because if you get lucky enough to have a place in a human shelter, your pet isn’t likely to be allowed to be in there. Your family is going to be broken by the law. And all the things you earned with hard work, your Surround System, various Apple gadgets, the dishwasher, that cool rag you love, your paintings, your guitar and your bongos, your vinyl collection, all of your things, all that you can’t carry in one medium sized bag, well, they are going to take them away from you. You’ll only have 90 days to claim them from a place you’re not quite sure where to find, but if you live in the human shelter, there’s no enough space for them in there. If you don’t get the place in the shelter, you’re going to have to hit the streets for good and lose all of your belongings.
You’re not alone in this situation.
Almost ten thousand humans, just like you, are waiting for a place in the less than a thousand beds in the human shelters. Your dog is most probably going to be fine, which is great, but she’s your family, you love her because you take care of each other. Now you have two choices: either get everything you can carry and move somewhere else where you will be displaced soon enough because you’re still ugly, or you run out of time and get policed. Many peace officers are not going to like Prop Q for one reason: breaking someone’s inalienable Human Rights is not an easy thing to do. It is true that some of them might be sick of this situation and think you’re ugly. You might have to face some grim things when they come. But most of them probably are going to spend time doing something they don’t want to do, while there are real issues they’d like to solve. They might feel like this isn’t the right thing to do, but they are ordered to do it from some law that Farrell is pushing making, so people who think you are ugly too also think that he’s great by solving the ugliness problem of the city and he should get more power for his great service.
Twenty-four hours after you get the notice, time’s up. Article 2 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is broken: you no longer have freedom from discrimination; you are being discriminated from seeming to be too ugly. If you resist what you are told, you might be sent to jail, or given a fine you can’t pay. You are not going to see your partner or your dog. Your things, which is the Article 17 from the Declaration of Human Rights, your right to own stuff, is no longer yours, so you lose the right to have property. San Francisco voters already stripped you from your right to rest, Article 24 from the Declaration of Human Rights, since you can’t sit or lie on the sidewalks or you get a fine you probably can’t pay at this point of your life. Finally, your home is no longer yours. You don’t have an address, you don’t have a place in the world, your right to have an adequate living standard, your right to have a roof, Article 25 of the Declaration of Human Rights, is broken. There is no place for you in the world.
Pretty ugly situation, right? You are no longer a full human being in the face of the city law. You don’t have the same rights of the neighbors who think you’re ugly just because they think so.
The City is worldwide famous for being “the cradle of civil rights movements.” The one that brought the hippie movement to the world, the Summer of Love, the cradle of flower children and peace and love and ice cream. However, the nights can be pretty cold and foggy in the streets if you are forced to sleep in the pavement. Shelters are not always safe, and traumatic events happen all the time everywhere you don’t have the Human Right of a safe house to live; either in a refugee crisis, in a foreign country you saw in the TV or in the wealthiest and most influential country in the world. If Prop Q is approved, you can be copped lawfully just because you were forced to live on the streets.
You are a human, you are just like everybody else, but since people think that you’re ugly, well, things get ugly for you.
What I just described is of course is a fictitious account of what could happen if the law applied to people who have a house to live in. In an effort to make the reader understand the situation because the word “homeless” is often a connotation of inhumanity, I only changed a few words in the account I wrote at first about what a person without a home will face if Prop Q passes.
Prop Q would authorize the removal of tent encampments with just a 24-hour notice, without including any new housing. Nobody should have to live in a tent and without stable, safe shelter. Homelessness ends with housing, and Prop Q will add zero housing units, shelter beds, or health services.
The removal of tent encampments and other “eyesores” for the convenience of the wealthiest is not new. The “Ugly Law,” as it was called, was passed for the first time in the world seventeen years after San Francisco was founded. In 1867, the first law that outlawed people that were deemed “ugly” from the streets was passed in the city. Indeed, San Francisco has a long history of wanting to unsee the things that aren’t beautiful enough for the standards of the wealthy. The Ugly Law, which impacted veterans from the Civil War and plenty others who were visibly wounded as well as people who seemed weird or just not of the right skin tone, was a great success across the nation for many
years. It had such a broad definition that “ugly” people had to try to become invisible all the time, moving from place to place without stop or facing jail.
But you’re reading this for a reason. You don’t think that the person who sold this to you is ugly. She is not just some adjective. She is a human being. Just like you and everyone you love. And one day, if things get ugly, you might end up like her. Out in the streets, looking for shelter, seeking a way out of this situation. Perhaps if you work hard, you might get a tent and a place to stay for a while. Unfortunately, if you don’t go to the polls on Election Day and vote no on Prop Q, you won’t even be able to get that tent for more than 24 hours.
You are reading this because you want to help in some way. If you want to help even more, vote no on Prop Q. People suffering from homelessness have lost too many Human Rights already. Don’t let Human Rights be broken. Ugly Laws have never solved anything, trying to make invisible things that some people don’t like is not a solution and is not even possible. The sugar coating they’re putting in this proposition is a complete lie. There are no available shelters, the ones that might be available will break up families, there are not enough affordable houses and people living in homelessness are going to face the police more often. I believe that most cops won’t want to do it, but they’ll be forced by the law that they’re sworn to protect. But if this law is against a greater one, as the ones mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is not going to be legitimate.
You can’t close your eyes all the time you see something you don’t like. You wouldn’t stand still if someone is being assaulted and you had some way to stop it. Right now, you have a way to stop an assault on Human Rights by being an active person of the electorate. Do it for the sympathy or empathy you felt for the person who sold you this newspaper. Do it for yourself. Do it for the protection of Human Rights. Reader, it is imperative that you vote on Election Day. It’s your right, your duty, but most importantly, and never forget this, it’s a great privilege that many people before us struggled so we could get a chance to give our voice and have power on the decisions made by the powers that be.