No CARE in the Courts

Invest in housing and mental health services, not criminalization

The CARE Court Governor Newsom is backing is dangerous! Senate Bill 1338 would establish “C.A.R.E. Courts’’ in California. C.A.R.E Court has a $65 million starting cost and claims to combat houselessness and support people with mental health disabilities, but provides no funding for permanent supportive housing or mental health services.

CARE Court can require participants to take medication against their will. If they refuse medication for any reason, or does not comply with any of the requirements issued by CARE Court, they can be placed under a conservatorship, in which treatment will be forced.

Can anyone among us, after watching the news for 10+ years, say, “What police need is more authority?” Are you kidding me?

I can hear the argument now, it’s only the dangerous who will be affected. Putting aside for a moment the massive ignorance concerning mental health issues that position requires, without investing in real mental health solutions there will be no support for those this plan purports to serve.

Activists gather outside City Hall on August 18th, holding signs that read Scare Courts are coercive “care” and oppression.
Photo by Dan Foldes.

I’m 52, and have never broken the law. During my third year in college, I got a ticket for speeding while trying to get to class, which I paid on time. The officer was nice, we had no problem, and that should have been the extent of my contact with police officers. But I have had at least ten very scary encounters with the police—every person of color I know had at least a few. The thought of a police officer with this level of authority is frightening, much more frightening than an increase in crime numbers.

What Governor Newsom is doing is a very old and dangerous game. Some of us are old enough to remember Bill Clinton and the new Democrats , or something like that. And our current President, Joe Biden, who was a senator at the time, sponsored the The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, known as the crime bill, and also supported the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, a welfare reform policy that required people to work to receive welfare. These bills ruined the lives of so many people of color but also did get Bill Clinton re-elected.

No candidacy is worth the lives , liberties, and happy pursuits of anyone. How many people remember this quote, “the only thing in the middle in the middle of the road but yellow stripes  and dead armadillos”? Jim Hightower said that, and never has it been more true. With all due respect Governor, what a foolish and reckless idea. Don’t throw mentally ill people under the bus just to gain political favor!

I wish we didn’t have term limits. Maybe you don’t think Obama was liberal enough, maybe you don’t like his drone policy, or his immigration policy. Maybe you thought he was too slow in accepting gay marriage, or compromised too much on taxes.But you know what else Obama always did? Win, win folks, that’s what we need to do in 2024. And this third rate attempt at getting votes is not gonna cut it! Even if it did, it’s not worth it!

Street Sheet believes in the dignity and rights of all unhoused people. I was so happy to attend an action at City Hall protesting the CARE Court legislation. We gathered to learn about the proposal and how it would harm homeless people and people with mental illnesses.

The atmosphere was inclusive and warm. It was a relatively small crowd, about 35 to 40. It was more like a family picnic than a political rally. The speakers were passionate, as was the crowd. There was really good music, and amazing food. There were burritos for vegans, as well as for meat eaters like me. The burrito was so big I put half in my pocket and ate it for dinner. I wouldn’t mind attending an action like this every day, that was fun, and informative. I moved to San Francisco in part to find community, and I certainly found it there.

James Burch, the director of the Anti Police-Terror Project spoke so passionately about the harm CARE Courts will do to those who are pulled into them. But the best part of the event was that Burch’s adorable kid led us in the chant, “Fight, fight, fight, housing is a human right!”

James Burch speaks into the mic as their young child raises a sign that reads Solutions Not Sweeps. Photo by Dan Foldes.

I also spoke with Tyler Kyser, Policy Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, after the rally. Being new to San Francisco I was naive and surprised that Governor Newsom was supporting this bill, but Tyler wasn’t.

“This is a diversion, with no long term solutions,” Kyser told me. “CARE Court will stand to cost upwards of $65 million and doesn’t fund permanent housing or permanent mental health services. This legislation will also dramatically increase involuntary holds that disproportionately harms BIPOC communities and will hand them over to the justice system.”

Governor Newsom is just trying to hide mentally ill people from view. This bill does nothing to invest in housing or treatment that our communities desperately need! We have to stop settling. We need real candidates with real solutions, not this unconstitutional nonsense!