The development specialist is kindly tolerant. The manager of a tattoo parlor has had enough.
So goes the Mission District’s views toward the homeless and pavement dwellers who Mayor Gavin Newsom has proposed reining in. His idea, which he plans to propose for the November ballot, would ban sitting or lying on public sidewalks during certain hours.
“We have to clear them out every day,” said Dairo Romero, from the Mission Economic Development Agency, about the homeless people who sleep in the doorway of the non-profit’s gleaming new headquarters on Mission at 19th Street.
Still, he adds, “We have to address homelessness differently” than sit/lie. In the meantime, he said, the organization manages its own front door. When it has big events, he said, they ask the homeless to “not block the door and to behave.”
Dennis Butler the manager at Mission Ink at 2440 Mission St. has no such patience.
“I totally support sit/lie,” said Butler. He’s yet to have any major issues with squatters or panhandlers since he’s only been open a month, but he’ll vote for the mayor’s proposal if it’s on the November ballot.
Others echoed the divergent views of Romero and Butler on the proposal that the mayor, frustrated with the Board of Supervisors, decided recently to take to the voters.
Given that there is any support for sit/lie at all here could indicate a shift since the Mission District has been historically resistant to proposals that target the homeless. When, for example, Proposition N, known as Care Not Cash, won in 2002 with nearly 60 percent of the vote, the Mission District showed the strongest opposition to the measure with only 41 percent in favor, according to the Department of Elections. Prop. N cut city assistance in favor of using the funds for housing.
This new initiative focuses on behavior rather than money and those who oppose it believe it will unfairly target day laborers and others on the street looking for work. Moreover, opponents argue, laws already exist to move belligerent people off the street and away from doorways.
The idea for the new law targeting aggressive transients originated in part in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood where the mayor lives and where residents and businesses complained about aggressive street people lodging themselves in doorways with pit bulls and attitude.
Police Chief George Gascón wrote in a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian defending sit/lie that budget cuts made it impossible “to sustain the enforcement posture required to deal with the thugs who have overrun the Haight-Ashbury and other City neighborhoods.”
Mission businesses interviewed said they had not experienced such intimidating behavior from people on the street, but said there had been a general increase in the homeless population.
“I see a lot,” more, said Mohammed Farah, at Farah’s Smoke Shop at 2345 Mission St.
On Mission Street near 24th, Ivan Lopez of Artillery Apparel, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary this Saturday, said he’s tired of picking up food from outside his store and garbage from his plants.
“It’s a disadvantage for homeless people,” he said of the proposed law, “…but it’s a good thing for the store to have the authority to tell them to leave.”
Jesse Fuente at Alberto’s Printing on Mission Street believes Newsom has done a decent job dealing with the homeless in the past. “Homelessness got better in the first half of Newsom’s Era,” he said. “I think its gotten worse in the last few years.”
When asked how he felt about sit/lie, he said he thought it was probably a good thing and then expressed other concerns. “You can kick them out, but where do they go?” he asked.
Others in the Mission District asked the same question and Erika Sarmiento, who works in the Dolores Housing Program, had an answer.
The shelter residents can only be inside from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. “During the day, people are out there on the street,” she said. “They don’t have a different place to go.”