Violence Against Homeless People

by Tracey Mixon

Recently, San Francisco has decided to add two new navigation centers, scheduled to open up later this year, in the Embarcadero and the Bayview. Both of these sites have strong opposition. The Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center has been at the center of controversy since its inception. It was approved by the San Francisco Port Commission in April of this year, despite an appeal by Embarcadero residents that was denied. These residents have now gone on to file a lawsuit and temporary restraining order to block it from being built.

What makes this situation even more troubling is the assault of a woman on July 11 by a homeless man as she was trying to enter her apartment building. I can only imagine how this woman was affected by this. As a woman, I was personally shocked by the video. However, this appears to be an isolated incident.

Housed individuals are not the only victims of violent crimes. In fact, unsheltered and other homeless people are likely to be victims of crime. On August 2 in West Oakland, a woman reported being threatened at gunpoint before her attackers set her vehicle on fire. On August 9, in Portland, Maine, a man was indicted for stabbing a homeless couple. In 2018, a San Francisco man was accused of random attacks on homeless individuals, one of which was a homicide.

The homeless have been demonized for so long that individuals who have never experienced homelessness tend to believe the false narrative that most homeless people are violent or are drug addicts. The actions of one individual should not determine whether or not these new navigation centers are opened. 

Instead of making them feel unwelcome in a city that many homeless people have called home for most of their lives, we should all do more to embrace them. They need the resources to help them achieve stable housing. Mental health treatment and substance use treatment are often due to being unstably housed.

I often wonder if the individuals that are making all of these complaints about the navigation centers have ever tried to talk to a homeless person let alone help them. I have never personally considered them a threat to myself or my family. Homeless people are not the “boogie man” in the dark ready to attack.They are human beings and deserve to be helped. Don’t fight against the homeless. Try to see if there is a capacity for you to help them find housing.