Saturday, March 12, 2011

Homelessness gets tougher in San Diego

The longstanding Spencer court injunction in San Diego was modified on Tuesday to let police issue citations "if a person is caught sleeping on the streets if there is an open bed available in one of the shelters in the area from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m."

The news is via my fellow advocate Bob Offer-Westort of the SF Coalition on Homelessness, who says local homeless service people don't sound worried enough about the injunction's new language. One San Diego program manager is quoted as assuming there will never be shelter beds available. But San Francisco advocates have learned otherwise. As Bob puts it, "there are ways of ensuring that shelter beds are empty, though inaccessible, as Care Not Cash and bureaucratic bungling have made happen in San Francisco. "

The other point being, he notes, that it's "paternalistic and insulting" to pretend shelter is the right place for everyone who lacks conventional housing.

It's sad how the role of shelters has changed. They were "emergency" extensions of hospitality in the 1980s, but now they're returning to something more like the Victorian English workhouse or the "Poor Farms" of old New England -- a place where people who lack employers and landlords, who are not allowed to be elsewhere, place themselves into the hands of keepers overnight.

For background, here's the Union-Tribune writeup on the original 2004 lawsuit, and here is a local news writeup of a February settlement that sounds like it would have led to this week's modification.

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