Should homeless people in the Bay Area be forced away to please tourists? Art by Michael Joseph


Commentary by Buford Buntin

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n her San Francisco Examiner column on Nov. 8, 2011, Melissa Griffin claims that tourists are being driven away from the Bay Area because of “homelessness and panhandling,” which is why, in her estimation, Conde Nast Traveler Magazine now ranks San Francisco as the nation’s number-two destination, instead of its 18-year run as number one in tourist attraction.
Out of Griffin’s full-page analysis of everything San Francisco, about one-quarter of the page is devoted to a photo and article featuring a man holding a sign and cup, while a woman with what appears to be a designer shopping bag looks on at the man’s unfortunate dilemma.
Griffin writes that a CityBeat poll conducted by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce shows that when 500 locals were asked to list the major issues facing San Francisco, 32 percent of respondents said “homelessness and panhandling.”
In a display of analytical acumen — at least as much as can be crammed into a small portion of one newspaper page — Griffin writes that, “some speculate that the unfriendly folks listed by one-third of the respondents were panhandlers.”
“Maybe we are all less friendly because we must be bundled up in layers of stoicism just to walk down the street,” Griffin claims. For a concluding point, she says, “And nobody seems to care.”
I’ll agree with the last statement in her mini-article. No one does seem to care, except for those advocating for the homeless and poor citizens of San Francisco. I can’t make up my mind if she does or does not care herself, given the conservative nature of most of her columns in the overwhelmingly conservative San Francisco Examiner. She seems empathetic only with the mainstream citizens.
The angst expressed by Griffin, and by tourists and stout, hard-working citizens, stems from the reality that they cannot always avoid walking where poor people are trying to survive on the streets where they are not getting the help they need.
The fact that many fancy hotels are crammed into the crowded Tenderloin District and other low-income districts in the city is not the poor people’s fault. They’re just there because they have to be somewhere. They would, I’m sure, be living in a fancier neighborhood without crime or grime, if they could.
Virtually everything about capitalism says that only the one percent upper-income really counts, while the 99% who struggle for everything don’t deserve to even survive. The Occupy movement is trying to point out this flaw in a very concrete way by camping out and protesting on the front lines of the United States.
The last truly Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, carried out a good employment training program before we entered a depressing period of United States history, economically and psychologically, for a large portion of the population. Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior championed the rich and tried to completely destroy the poor, instead of providing them jobs and low-cost housing, something, of course, which continues to be a devastating problem today.
Our city’s vaunted status as number one is gone as a tourist fantasy for the middle and upper classes coming to San Francisco to enjoy the breath-taking views on the cable car of their dreams.
Now let’s get down to reality and house and feed the poor.