Saturday, November 03, 2007

Is San Francisco Calcutta, or East St. Louis? And is it The Chronicle's Fault?

Yesterday, in their endorsement of Mayor Newsom for re-election, the Chronicle chided him for failing to have the fortitude to combat institutional resistance to implementing reform of homelessness policy, such as enforcing Laura's Law. However, after reading today's incomprehensible opinion piece by Callie Millner, I have come to the following conclusion: that all of the hand-wringing about homelessness in the Chronicle, whether it be the meretricious sensationalism by Sports Guy, the presumably reasoned unsigned editorials, or today's hysterical hallucination, is essentially crocodile tears.

In her editorial, Millner deliberately confabulates homelessness with gun violence, conjuring terrible images of armed homeless people just itching to shoot at overentitled white-acculturated yuppies such as herself. She compounds the injury further by contrasting these images with her tourist trip to Calcutta, stating essentially that while the homeless of Calcutta may be worse off, they at least make her feel safer because they are less likely to blow her away.

Quite frankly, if Ms. Millner was less likely to be blown away by a homeless person in Calcutta than by one in San Francisco, it would have more to do with the acceptance of homelessness in India's culture than anything else; gun ownership is legal in India, albeit tightly controlled, and let us not forget that Calcutta is a mere hop, skip and a jump down the Grand Trunk Road from Peshawar, Pakistan, where you can buy almost any sort of small arm which can be made or resold.

It's also hardly likely that the average homeless person in San Francisco, or any other US city, carries a gun. After all, they're too busy spending what money they get on drugs and booze in order to afford to buy a gun, whether at retail price or street. Most homeless people in San Francisco, however, do carry knives. They tend to use them on each other, however. Any streetwise San Franciscan knows that while they are very likely to be accosted and annoyed by a homeless person, the likelihood of being actually physically attacked by one is about the same as being eaten by a bear at Yosemite.

The bizarre hysteria exemplified by Millner and her article insults the intelligence of the public. So much so, that it becomes easier for ordinary citizens to accept the equally disengenous rhetoric of NGOs like the Coalition on Homelessness and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, whose primary business is using shrill elitists like Millner as straw men in support of public policy designed to keep people on the streets and in slums - and keep thus these very entities in business.

Homelessness does indeed present a threat to public safety. However the threat is an environmental one, not a direct one. Where homeless people are allowed to congregate, the streets become dirty, property values fall, businesses leave, and real criminals come in to take the easy pickings. The same homeless people are just as likely to be victimised by those criminals as they are to commit any crimes themselves. We've seen it again and again, just as we've seen the Chronicle fail to adequately cover the corruption of homeless-oriented NGOs.

Maybe the Chronicle editorial board thinks that coverage of that process, and why it should be stopped, is simply too complicated for its readership to comprehend, and so they've come up with this bogeyman of the machinegun-toting homeless person ready to incite an Urban Armageddon. If that's the case, they are underestimating their readers. This imagery is far more likely to drive the average person into the arms of the opposition, and as such we will be stuck with the same problems.

Which leads us tio thinking the unthinkable: maybe the Chronicle actually has no interest in helping the public frame the homelessness issue with the goal of solving or ameliorating it; instead, they simply wish to provoke a more organized backlash against homeless policy reform by San Francisco's Progressives and corrupt, self serving NGOs. This, in turn will destroy reform politically forever and keep San Francisco's urban blight and street crime intact as a source for further sensationalist coverage which the Chronicle can continue selling to its newer, disinterested suburban readership.

Of course, that does nothing for San Franciscans who continue to put up with homelessness and dirty streets, and the resultant increase in street crime.

Then again, most San Franciscans don't read the Chronicle anymore, either.