When The Saviors Become UnSafe- When Caring Becomes a Cage From St Petersberg to San Francisco -
To hear the Podcast from a PovertySkola of this story click here “It feels like we are back in prison, said Ronald, one of POOR Magazine’s roofLESS radio houseless reporters from the Tenderloin about the cage, I mean, “Sanctuary” aka the Safe Sleeping Village that was constructed in the Civic Center of San Francisco this week for socially distant “sleeping” of houseless people while thousands of hotel and motel rooms still sit empty.
Since 1996 when myself and my houseless disabled Mama who co-founded POOR Magazine were still sleeping in bus shelters, park benches and hoopties,(Mama and me were houseless for the majority of my childhood and young adulthood) we have been sharing food, money, tents and resources with fellow houseless and poor folks on the street. We are poverty skolaz, our knowledge comes from survival and we can’t survive without each other. Its called Interdependence. Since Covid19 began the need has increased, more people are hungry, more people are scared and so the acts of sharing have increased with us all. The RoofLESS cru is supporting up to 700 people a week on both sides of the bay with homemade food, donated food, groceries, masks, cleaning supplies, Hand sanitizers, media and more.. POOR Magazine, the magazine and then the very grassroots, poor/indigenous people-led movement of the same name, started cause me and Mama realized the inherent violence of this settler colonial system that criminalizes poverty and poor people like us and realized that one of the ways we had to fight back is with our collective voices, education, art and solutions. In addition to media and art, we also do something we call WeSearch- Poor people-led research- ie, not academic or CorpRape surveys, studies or tests. “Its like Martial Law, trying to condition us, I don’t feel “safe” staying there as a houseless person,” said Maria, houseless reporter from the Tenderloin. Yesterday on our Friday radical redistribution stops in SF we launched a WeSearch project with fellow houseless folks sleeping near or in the SSV, who we have been supporting since Covid19 shelter in place pandemic began. “I don’t trust any fences, I have been in jail too long, cant go back, I just wonder where the hotel rooms they were promising are,” said Marcus, RoofLess radio reporter from the Tenderloin, who was living in an alley three blocks away from the SSV. “I just hope they don’t use this as another excuse to take our tents, which this city has been doing even with the Pandemic. “Have you heard of cages for immigrant children? Well they have them here for homeless people,” said Pastor GW, a formerly houseless poverty skola and pastor from Mission Dei Congregation in Occupied Seminole Territory (which we call St. Petersburg). When the Cage, (Sanctuary) showed up in San Francisco this week right after we did an action on Monday about the hoarding of Hotel rooms, many of us POOR Magazine poverty skolaz, Aunti Frances Moore, Dee Allen, Leroy Moore, Muteado Silencio, Israel,Pearl Ubungen, Tiburcio and myself and others were brought back to our own experiences of jailing, criminalization and/or profiling for the sole acts of being a person of color, houseless and /or in poverty as well as a terrifying journey some of us went on to last year to Occupied Seminole Territory aka St Petersburg, Florida to present on the Poverty Scholarship- Poor People-led Theory, Art words and Tears text book, where we witnessed what Pastor Wright and Pastor GW called, The People Cages” which were actual cages of chain link fencing ( just like what surrounds San Francisco’s SSV ) on the streets of Downtown St Petersburg. People had to “check in” to the cages by 7pm and couldn’t leave until 7am, at which point they were kicked out. Now lest you believe the Public Relations campaign by the Mayor that this is sanctuary land, let me school you. The ones who spear-headed and supported the St Petersburg one were also “helping” or Charity organizations, non-profiteers, city government and several so-called advocates, not to mention poLice, sheriffs, and poltricksters. “We used to have tent cities right down this street here in St Petersburg, me and GW were the ‘street-sheriffs’ making sure folks were safe at night,” said Bruce Wright, formerly houseless poverty skola with the Poor Peoples Economic Human rights Campaign and pastor of the Refuge Ministries of Tampa Bay, pointing at the long empty dark street next to the “people cages.” “I can’t even speak,” Aunti Frances, who like me and Dee, Leroy Moore, and Tiburcio were all on the tour leading the workshops, have all dealt with endless criminalization of our unhoused, disabled and criminalized bodies, lives, belongings and spaces, and like Driver Plaza in Oakland where Aunti Frances deals with an endless amount of poLice harassment when she operates her beautiful Black-led Self-Help Hunger Program, was still completely destroyed by this scene. “This is too much and what they want to do with all of us,” she concluded. Is this Cage or is it Sanctuary? Many of us poverty skolaz are already clear that most of the “services” or “anti-social work” thats “provided” to poor people and why I re-name it anti-social work is rooted in violent scarcity, I.e., how little we can provide poor peoples versus how much is needed by a person or family to survive, and the criminalizing of our lives and actions and homes with constant inspections, evaluations, applications and assessments and the slippery slope of shelter beds and SRO’s that require check-ins, check-outs, ID’s and more. So really the 9 foot fence around a parking lot thats now called a “safe sleeping sanctuary” isn’t that different from any of the soft cages built for poor people including the ultimate cage thats now the biggest “public housing project” for 89-90% of disabled, very low-income and/or peoples of color in this occupied land, aka Prisons and jails. Nor is it any different from the hater solution to Covid19 of Las Vegas which threw its houseless people out fo the meager one shelter that town had and had them sleep in a parking lot, “socially distant” or the recent move of cleaning houseless people out of the New York subway only to have them cramped together in the lobbies of homeless shelters dangerously close together or going even further back because like I always say the Virus of poverty has been going on a lot longer than the virus called Covid19, the violent removal of houseless disabled people from the old Trans-Bay terminal in 2010 so the shiny new tech colonizers building Salesforce could be built to house more 20 something tech commuters, something POOR Magazine shed light on in our Stolen Land /Hoarded Resources Tour earlier this year. To get clear about where this comes from and why people need to resist it we have to go back to the bloody settler colonial history of when the Savior and Charity industries became Unsafe and Caring became Cages. First we must go back to the roots aka the anti-poor people HIs-story to a terrifying thing called the Ugly Laws that Leroy Moore and myself have written and reported on multiple times and a book by Sister shero Susan Schweik. Ugly laws in the United States arose in the late nineteenth century. During this period, urban spaces underwent an influx of new residents, which placed strain on the existing communities. As a reaction to this influx of people who were impoverished, ministers, charitable organizers, city planners, and city officials across the United States worked to create ugly laws for their community. People charged under the ugly law were either charged a fine or held in jail until they could be sent to the poor house or work farm. The wording in the San Francisco ordinance indicates violators will be sent to the almshouse. This connects with the Victorian Era poor law policy. The ugly laws did not restrict performances of people with disabilities for the purpose of entertainment or eliciting disgust, but rather restricted people with disabilities from mingling with the general public. Racism also played a role in the enforcement of ugly laws.In San Francisco, Chinese immigrants and their descendants were unlawfully quarantined to prevent spread of disease and epidemic The first “social workers and shelters were known as almshouses and settlement houses and in a terrifying twist of the Charity Industrial complex essentially launching /creating and crafting their own clients, residents and purpose, which happens so much to poor people, the social workers were the ones who launched the Ugly laws in most cities, working in tandem with the poLice, who would arrest poor disabled people from being poor and disabled in public and bring them to the shelters. Cages, criminalization and policing as a solution isn’t new, its just a continuation of a long process to make money off of poor peoples bodies and problems by the people who are supposedly here to “save” us, help us, house us. In the end, its why us poor and houseless people at POOR Magazine, the Poor Peoples Army/Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign,, Reclaim SF, 1st they Came For the Homeless and Where do We Go Berkeley and Moms4housing have been vehemently launching our own solutions to our own problems. Refusing the ongoing pimping, criminalizing and caging of our bodies and our problems and creating our own. It is also why POOR Magazine is working so hard to launching homeless peoples solution to homelessness we call Homefulness, with guidance and permission from 1st Nations leaders of the Ohlone /Lisjan nation at the Sogerea Te Land Trust. Evil Sheriff Joe Arpaio tried his racist hate tactics out on houseless people in Phoenix, Arizona before he began his terror on indigenous refugees from the other sides of the false borders, throwing up barricades around a two block area and telling the houseless people they couldn’t leave until the morning, hoping ultimately we would kill each other..excerpt from Poverty Scholarship- Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth “There’s enough room to put us in a hotel or SRO ( single room occupancy hotel) where they can keep us safe away from the virus. Why put us in a parking lot? That SRO could change someone’s life,” said Nick. ( in a beautiful story by Matt Leahy of 48hills) one of the residents of whats been called by poltricksters Safe Sleeping Village ( SSV) asks the question, why a parking lot when there are hotel rooms available,” “They are still “sweeping” us in the Mission,” said Miguel, RoofLESS radio reportero yesterday. If Mayor Breed wanted to continue the hoarding of hotels and not house houseless residents of San Francisco, she could have just stopped taking peoples tents and allow people to sleep houselessly without fear of arrest and belonging theft. Why put a 9 foot chain link fence with barriers up around a parking lot? (Sweeps and Belonging Theft is an ongoing struggle documented and fought by so many for so long including the warriors from the Stolen Belonging Project of San Francisco) People Cages for indigenous children or houseless, disabled adults in San Francisco, Arizona or St Petersburg aren’t ok, aren’t ever ok and can’t be normalized and like I always say, the slide into fascism isn’t because the scary wite cheeto imposes martial law, or the “army” comes to town, its much more likely to happen in a slow bleed from the people who are supposedly there to support, save, or care for us… Tune in to From Katrina to Corona - People Cages from St Petersburg to San Francisco - a web zoom series on Sunday night at 6pm PST- click here to get the zoom instructions. To reach tiny go to www.lisatinygraygarcia.com C.A.R.E. For the homeless On some street In Saint Pete Looks like A cage For people An open-air Holding cell South of Heaven, East side of Hell, A jailhouse with a dusky Ceiling full of stars, Black wrought Iron bars Surround the transients’ reality. Across the street From a trailer, S.W.A.T. monitors enclosed activity: Crouching low, Pacing around, Nine-hour Lock-down— It was animals That placed Homeless ones in captivity For no sins, away from palm trees & passers-by. A step up from sidewalk Tent-snatching. -- Excerpt of the poem People Cages by Dee Allen /Po Poets Project