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SF: No longer taking bad homeless behavior lying down?

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POSTED October 6, 2010 2:20 a.m.
Are some homeless becoming too aggressive?

Voters in San Francisco - arguably the ultimate bastion of tolerance when it comes to the homeless - will weigh in on that issue in the Nov. 2 election.

San Franciscans are voting on the so-called “sit-lie” ordinance that bans sitting or lying on city sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

It was the outgrowth of the frustration of residents and merchants in Haight-Ashbury of all places. The Haight, as anyone over 40 will recall, was where The Summer of Love took place in 1968. It is also where being a street person was OK - until the last few years. That’s when a more aggressive breed of panhandling homeless - so-called young “travelers” - started taking up residence.  

Arthur Evans - a self-described former hippie who has been a Haight resident for 35 years - is among those with no love for the new breed of homeless. The Wall Street Journal reports the fact the homeless linger and sleep on sidewalks and ask for money doesn’t bother Evans. It is how aggressive they have become that makes him feel unsafe on the streets.

That is what prompted the push by the San Francisco Police for the “sit-lie “ordinance that a poll in February showed 71 percent of city residents supported. It was backed by Mayor Gavin Newsom but tanked by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

It was subsequently put on the Nov. 2 ballot.
There is a lesson to be learned from San Francisco’s experience. You can only do so much to address the homeless issue before you have to say enough is enough.

Yes, the homeless in order to survive have to break some low-level laws. Being homeless, however, isn’t license to up the ante to getting drunk, acting extremely belligerent or intimidating law-abiding citizens to the point that it was reported one young group of “travelers’ spit in the 14-month-old baby of a woman who refused to give them money.

This past summer a woman was viciously attacked by pit bulls in Golden Gate Park. Those pit bulls were bred and owned by homeless in a park encampment.

Throwing money and “government humanity” at the homeless problem doesn’t pay off. San Francisco spends $175 million addressing homeless issues. That translates into $26,865 for the city’s 6,514 homeless.

The homeless - especially young travelers - are drawn to San Francisco because of its reputation as an open city in terms of tolerance of the homeless.

That policy is now paying dividends of the wrong kind. Homeless sleep on the streets, aggressively panhandling residents and tourists, and create ongoing problems that are costing taxpayers beyond just housing and other basic services. Other abuses include an individual who is picked up by ambulance over 100 times in a typical year as he gets sick from drinking and passes out on the street.

Tolerance is one thing. Accommodating unacceptable behavior is another.

Manteca does need to do what it can to address the homeless needs of those who basically want to play ball. In other words, if you want to get off the streets or stay off the streets that means you can’t have things your way.

That is why the HOPE Family Shelter has a 70 percent-plus success rate with families and single moms that they have dealt with for the past 20 years.

HOPE Ministries would like to take the next step and help single men who are homeless using the same criteria - no drugs enforced by drug tests and a requirement that you’ve got to abide by the rules.

Once in place, the city should turn up the notch on unacceptable illegal behavior of the homeless.

Such a program would address some of the single male homeless problems in Manteca.  Manteca should not under any circumstances encourage a general shelter for single men.

And if people think that is small town intolerance, they’d better keep an eye on San Francisco.

Should the “lie-sit” ordinance pass at the ballot box on Nov. 2 it will be clear that even those with a reputation of being extremely tolerant of the homeless have a breaking point.
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