9 Things You Can Do

Over the past eight weeks, the San Francisco Chronicle has run a series of columns very hostile to homeless people. Many of these have associated homeless people primarily with urine and feces. The resulting discourse has been anything but productive: Much hullabaloo and hang-wringing, but almost no discussion of causes or solutions in either mainstream media or the corridors of City Hall.

In late August, a strange article suggested that San Franciscans should call City officials whenever they see homeless people. An unfortunate misquote attributed to the Coalition on Homelessness (the publisher of this paper) the opinion that people should call police. This has never been and will never be our position. This error was corrected on-line, but in the mean time, we came up our own list of things you can do that might be more useful than calling in complaints:

9 Things to Do When You See Homeless People

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Be a good neighbor: Offer a sandwich or a new pair of socks, if it seems like these are useful.
  3. If the person is in psychiatric crisis, call Mobile Crisis: (415) 970-4000. Do not call the police.
  4. If the person requests medical help or is unconscious, call 911. Make it clear that this is a medical and not a police emergency.
  5. If the person is medically compromised but not in need of an ambulance, call the HOT team at (415) 734-4233.
  6. Learn the homeless services in your area. Support the group as a volunteer or donor.
  7. Call your Supervisor and the Mayor’s Office and pressure them to double the number of homeless units in their affordable housing pipeline.
  8. If your neighborhood is short on public restrooms (and it is), call DPW and pressure them to put in “Pit Stops.”
  9. Organize your neighbors and invite a speaker to talk about real solutions to homelessness, and how San Francisco could do better. The Coalition can help.

1 Thing Not to Do

  1. Call the police. Never call the police on people who aren’t threats. Thousands of homeless people end up cited and often incarcerated every year for no offense greater than sleeping. Police contact can actually prolong a person’s homelessness.