Remembering Andy Howard

by Ian James

Andrew Howard passed away at the Henry Hotel on August 29 at the age of 58, the Coalition on Homelessness has learned. Andy was a volunteer at the Coalition who helped dozens of victims of illegal property confiscation to navigate the legal system in pursuit of justice. He was also a poet, entrepreneur, mechanic and kind-hearted soul. 

I met Andy outside his tent in front of the Ferry Building in June 2022. The Coalition had heard that the City might conduct a sweep there, and we were there to monitor. At first, Andy was wary of us. He was used to harassment: Not long before, a stranger had slashed his nose with a knife. Once we started talking, though, we spoke for hours. He told me about his daughter and his brother, his plans to get into housing, and his work fixing motorcycles.

Andy was one of the first people to work with the Coalition to file an administrative claim to retrieve his property after a sweep. He had left his tent one morning to try and find help at the Tenderloin Linkage Center, only to return and find that all of his belongings had been loaded into a San Francisco Public Works truck and taken away. After meeting with the Coalition, he filed the claim against the City and presented his case to a judge in small claims court for the property damage he suffered. Andy settled with the City for $3,740, but he didn’t stop there. Andy was determined to make sure that every victim of sweeps in San Francisco had the same opportunity to tell their story to a judge and find justice.

Eventually Andy was able to get a room at the Henry Hotel. I visited him there once, down a long dusty hallway with harsh overhead lighting. His room was crammed with projects he was working on, including the administrative claims of his neighbors from the day they were swept. He helped to review and type up each one.

One of Andy’s strongest motivations for the work he did was to make his daughter proud. When the Coalition filed its lawsuit against the City for conducting illegal sweeps, he was most excited to show her that his testimony was helping to make the world a more equitable place. 

Andy was always working on a half-dozen side projects, including an app that would make it easier to find and pay for parking. He started on that after his vehicle had been towed and he had to pay hundreds of dollars to get it back. A problem solver and an entrepreneur at heart, Andy immediately started to think through technological solutions that would help other people avoid what he had been through. 

Andy often told me that he could not work for anyone else. He was fiercely independent and wasn’t afraid to take on any task on his own. If San Francisco had provided him with the support and resources to thrive instead of pushing him down, the entire city would have been a better place.