Homeless Displacement Reveals City’s Values
By Cassie Ordonio
The removal of the homeless on San Francisco’s Division Street demonstrates how low this city has sunk itself into a pithole—it’s disgusting.
Stretching from Division between 11th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, city officials gave the homeless a 72-hour notice to “clean up” the block after declaring the encampment a public health nuisance on Feb. 23.
What was demonstrated at the encampment was a forced migration from a homeland to nowhereland.
During the 72 hours, I had a chance to explore tent city and realized the encampment was not exactly how city officials described it.
A community was there. The residents had their own church for sanctuary and some had a stereo system. The women within the community looked out for each other.
Each neighboring individual had a unique story and one particular person stood out.
A local, who goes by the name Prophet, lived in the encampment for three months. Born and raised in San Francisco, he said he doesn’t mind being homeless.
Though he holds unusual views, he is otherwise the same as anyone else.
He spoke poetically about how the universe works and his passion for music. Inside his tent, there were some similarities to typical, indoor households.
The encampment is its own neighborhood.
One of Prophet’s neighbors came over to encourage others to protest against the city’s efforts to remove their shelters by moving the tents to the middle of the street to block incoming traffic.
“They ain’t gonna do shit,” Prophet said.
Though their protest never happened, Division Street was completely cleared on March 1.
Mayor Ed Lee got what he wanted with no guilt on his conscious.
“Mayor Ed Lee’s Super Bowl City” remained written on walls of Division Street. Barricades were placed throughout the streets, caging out any homeless who thinks about rebuilding their tents, basically treating them like animals, with nowhere to go.
There are at least 10 homeless shelters in San Francisco, and a majority of them are overcrowded.
A veteran I met two years ago moved from Maryland to San Francisco because the pay rate is higher for post-9/11. However, with misinformation and lack of research he spent all $5,000 within a month and never received the benefits he needed, leaving him on the streets of San Francisco.
Homeless for approximately two months, he managed to find shelter at Dolores Community Services. Though they helped him access many resources, as a City College student, it was a struggle for him to follow a strict curfew and deal with roommates who were doing drugs.
At the time, he said he would rather take his chances on the streets. Was this what this city was built on?
Dehumanizing the homeless and forcing them to move to wherever the city decides to allow them? What was demonstrated at the encampment was a forced migration from a homeland to nowhereland.
This was another version of the “Trail of Tears” and the aftermath of the nuclear testing near Bikini Atoll. The community was destroyed, and it is a reminder of how history seemed to repeat itself.
The city’s neglect of human life, knowing that they don’t have anywhere else to go, baffles me.
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Send an email to: Cassie Ordonio or tweet @CassieOrdonio