Queers rally against homeless ballot measures

Lisa Marie Alatorre of the Coalition On Homelessness spoke on the steps of San Francisco City Hall before a rally against two proposed ballot measures. Photo: Khaled Sayed
Lisa Marie Alatorre of the Coalition On Homelessness spoke on the steps of San Francisco City Hall before a rally against two proposed ballot measures. Photo: Khaled Sayed

Members of the LGBTQ community rallied on the steps of San Francisco

City Hall this week to ask that Supervisors Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell

withdraw their proposed ballot measures they say will negatively impact

queer and trans homeless people.

Farrell’s ballot measure would allow authorities to remove tent

encampments as long as they give residents 24 hours written notice and

offer shelter beds or other forms of housing. Wiener’s proposal calls for

the San Francisco Police Department to operate a neighborhood crime

unit of at least 60 officers to address increased break-ins, thefts from

vehicles, and homeless encampments.

About 50 people attended. Most of the ire at the July 18 rally was directed

at Farrell’s initiative.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca of the Housing Rights Committee said that the

ballot initiatives would disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community.

For example, offering a queer homeless person a bus ticket home is often

not an option, nor is a one-night shelter bed.

“Everything I heard today from Farrell aides led me to believe what I

believed in the beginning,” Avicolli Mecca said. “This measure is meant

to be a wedge issue to bring out the voters to support more moderate

candidates for supervisors because more moderate candidates in various

districts are going to support these measures and more progressive

candidates won’t support them.”

He and others pointed to the city’s Point-In-Time survey that revealed

nearly 30 percent of the city’s homeless population identifies as LGBTQ.

Recent studies have shown that nationally, about 40 percent of homeless

youth identify as LGBTQ.

“If they want to get housing they would have done it already,” Avicolli

Mecca said. “Farrell has been on the Board of Supervisors for many

years. He’s had every opportunity to do something to get housing for

people. This is not about getting housing. This is not about getting shelter

beds or services. This is about being a wedge issue, because what they are

supposedly addressing in this initiative, tents and encampments, is already

against the law. Why do you need a ballot initiative to address that if it wasn’t a wedge issue?”

Wiener explained that the measure requires an offer of shelter and that offer has to happen under the law.

“This law creates no criminal penalty whatsoever,” said Wiener, a gay man who is in a heated race for a state Senate seat against

progressive Supervisor Jane Kim. “You can’t get a ticket. You can’t get a citation. You can’t get charged with a crime. You won’t get

fined. There are no criminal penalties whatsoever in this measure, and it requires an offer of shelter.”

Wiener also stated that tents are not housing.

“It is not progressive, it’s not humane, it’s not safe or healthy to let people live in tents on sidewalks in neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s

critical to transition people out of the tents into shelter and housing. Every night there are spaces in our shelter system for people to

go. We absolutely need to expand our housing stock as well as navigation center capacity. There is no doubt about it.”

Avicolli Mecca said that Wiener’s crime unit initiative is another way to police homeless people.

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