In 2018 a new program called Urban Alchemy was implemented in the city. Urban Alchemy (UA) presented themselves as a group made for the purpose to get people off the street, stop drug usage and overdoses and to mediate and defuse violent interactions. Nowadays 5 years later, there are lots of UA “practitioners” patrolling and posted all over Downtown San Francisco, more specifically in the tenderloin. However, some people would argue that they are causing more harm than good.
Just recently on July 20th, 2023 a video was recorded showing an urban alchemy employee flashing an alleged knife or baton to a housless person sitting in the street. Regardless of what it was, having any weapon as an employee violates policies that UA have and it contradicts statements they make: “So far, we’ve engaged in over 6,000 de-escalations that kept the community safe without police involvement.” being one of them.
“What I heard was a bunch of yelling that alerted my attention, so then i just started recording, and then this guy he just pulls something out, i didn't even understand what i was recording at that time, within minutes I realized this guy had a machete, he pulled it out of his pants” explained Charles, a poverty skola and longtime POORMAGAZINE family member who is currently housless and who recorded the video that got published in many places including sf chronicle.
While i was searching online for more info on this incident i ended up running into countless articles on incidents caused by Urban Alchemy, some examples were, Guns being shot by UA, sexual assault allegations, and lots of stats arguing against their efficiency. I was surprised cause in the media they are shown as a solution to homelessness, apparently they house people.
“Urban Alchemy has been an invaluable partner in keeping our city safe, clean and welcoming for all. Every day Urban Alchemy's workers are out on the streets providing essential services and support for so many in our city, and we appreciate their continued partnership in bringing out the best of San Francisco.” said Mayor London breed
Some Urban Alchemy staff members did drugs on the job and sexually exploited homeless females, according to more than 10 current and past residents of the Sausalito camp who spoke to the Pacific Sun.
“It sounds good on paper,” says Couper Orona, a street medic who was homeless in San Francisco from 2016 until recently, but the reality is that UA is “another Band-Aid instead of fixing the actual problem” of homelessness. “It’s a security force that can bully people into doing what they want—but it’s OK because it’s not the police.”
Earlier this year, Orona sat down with Kelsey, an unhoused man who had spent time living in a tent city run by UA next to the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, for the first of a series of video interviews with unhoused individuals to record stories of Urban Alchemy’s maltreatment of unhoused people in San Francisco. “The guards are constantly making it hard on us living there,” Kelsey says on camera. “They steal from us. If anyone tries to speak up, like I’m doing, they bully us. There’ve been accounts of violence against people from the workers.”
Some people argue it's just the individuals. Like the bad apple in a good batch metaphor. But really in my opinion it's a flawed system. It is good how Urban Alchemy hires people who were previously incarcerated. Most of them dealt with really long sentences. But when u get people who are fresh out the cage, which is a very violent and traumatizing environment where one is in a constant state of survival, and put them institutions where they are dealing with more traumatized people in struggle dealing with extreme poverty things will pop. especially since Urban Alchemy doesn't actually do any training in situation defusing, unarmed defense or grappling techniques, psychology or really anything that would help in those incidents.
We are constantly sold and given these “solutions" when in reality UA, DPW, “affordable” housing and other forms of these programs and organizations are not solving anything. The sweeps DPW do arent house anybody, in fact it destroys the little bit of shelter people built. The bullying and abuse UA perpetuates to people in struggle and dealing with homelessness is another form of a not solution. All these affordable houses that keep coming up are way above any sense of affordability.
Which is why Poor Magazine, a media organization run and created by poor/Houseless /Black/Brown /Indigenous people, started Homefulness. Homefulness is a landless/homeless peoples solution to homelessness. Housing that doesn't charge rent, a community that holds each other in respect and accountability and a place to heal from our addictions and traumas. All this is done without city funding or grants. Resources come from people with privilege and wealth redistributing what they have. This happens by teaching people in better financial situations what its like to struggle.
The Untours that we do here in Poor Magazine are one of the ways we spread our teachings and stories. The Stolen land/Hoarded Resources Tours, loosely based on the Bhoodan Movement of India launched by Vinoba Bhave who walked through India asking wealthy "land-owners" to gift their land to landless peoples will be sharing a similar vision with SF poltricksters, akkkademik land-stealers & wealth-hoarders who are planning to evict thousands of Houseless mostly disabled, majority Black and Brown elders who are currently residing in motels onto the freezing San Francisco streets ( and 500 residents) four days before the holidaze.
"Leadership requires making space for everyone. In a time of COVID on Winter Solstice, Mayor Breed is attempting to turn people out onto the streets without a plan in place. Creating the further dehumanization of people by not acknowledging them as fellow human beings. During these eight months of shelter in place, the leadership had time to create an alternative to the hotel vouchers, if they truly wanted to "fix" the problem. There are no new shelters, no-income/low low income housing built. There is no plan... The worst kind of Grinch, the mentality that was taught out of colonization...Colonization created poverty/Greed and homelessness. Facism creates laws that throw away other human beings and US Hastings is acting just as the royalty and gentry that use laws to sweep away human made conditions. Breed and Hastings Law school are on the wrong side of history. Leaders should create a better way for ALL not create more destruction," stated Corrina Gould, Indian People Organizing for Change. While she connects early versions of colonization to our modern problems and struggles. Specifically in the San Francisco area, she also critiques london breed for prioritizing public image and money spending instead of creating or supporting actual solutions to these issues.
As poor people we know what we need and how to help ourselves.
We dont need anyone to save us, we need to be heard, listened and looked at as leaders, and people with knowledge.