Wednesday, April 23, 2008
For those of you who remain confused about the Mayors new sweeps protocols, the city has helpfully provided a flowchart in response to a documents disclosure request. As you see, all camping is clearly unlawful. Got that? In case anyone missed this, it's Against The Law.
We see that some unlawful camping rates notification, outreach, and services, and others do not. Where there is trash, some possibility of drug use, or someone thinks these were the guys who broke into the garage, there's just a direct police response. The whole notification/outreach thing won't work if there's trash around. Or if people use drugs. Just send in the cops, throw their shit away, and get on with things.
Beyond this, we see that the unsociable types who don't hang out in bottle gangs are pretty much screwed. No notification or outreach for them. They were probably loners in high school, and nobody liked them then either. Losers.
We see also that once Unlawful Camping reaches the magical threshold of becoming an Unlawful Encampment, then notification and services will be allowed, as well as some half-assed attempt at resource referral on the cheap.
Unless, of course, encampments reoccur within the area three times within 60 days. Then it gets permanent posting, and anyone who goes there to sleep is a criminal who has no rights, and will either have their stuff tossed without warning or be cited or arrested. Within six months to a year, more or less everywhere in the City that homeless people camp will have reached this status.
I added the indirect red line to more accurately reflect written policy. The astute observer will note that just one scenario in five is a potential path to "services and shelter."
So a year from now, where exactly will these protocols that define City responsibility be applied? Nowhere.
The Mayor had an opportunity here to move to higher ground. City rhetoric, which has been all about compassion and ending homelessness, has taken the high road. Their actions, however, have taken the low road of covert policy formulation, consistent media manipulation, and shameful avoidance of responsibility.
The Dalai Lama speaks of compassion as being more than some squishy idea that’s up for grabs by anyone capable of forming three consecutive syllables. Compassion, he says, is a verb. It is action. This action is informed by empathy and driven by personal responsibility.
The Mayor’s policy, which exempts the City from taking responsibility by denying services and basic rights to the majority of homeless campers, falls far short of this very useful definition.