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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel S.J. Scheid SCP

What is Father Dan Thinking? 4-28-24

I’m keeping an eye on the Supreme Court’s deliberation on whether and how local municipalities code and enforce people sleeping outdoors. The case before them originated in a small town in Oregon, and their decision may have ramifications for San Francisco and every other city, large and small, that has people sleeping on the streets for whatever reasons.

 

My main concern with the case before the court is the reason/s why people sleep on the street, and how public policy might have unintended (or intended, he writes cynically) consequences. The rub seems to be that if there’s an identified shelter bed available and a person refuses to take it, that person could be cited, fined, and have their belongings confiscated and dumped. But there are several compelling reasons why a person might refuse a shelter bed:


*Mental illness that makes sleeping in proximity to others unsettling or terrifying;

*Owning a dog, when most shelters don’t allow animals;

*Having a partner of the opposite sex, when most

shelters are sex-segregated;

*Not having space enough to bring their belongings in with them, especially if they come from a tent-encampment and have more stuff than fits in a bag;

*The lack of in-and-out privileges by being essentially locked in from dusk until dawn;

*Identifying as a “traveler” who wants to wander the country in such a way;

*Wishing to use legal drugs or alcohol, but being prohibited by shelter rules;

*And the overall lack of autonomy and freedom of choice that most of us take for granted.

 

I talk with a lot of people who cited the reasons above as to why they don’t like temporary shelters, even if they do use them from time to time. Shelters aren’t the solution. Adding shelter beds won’t change behavior, for the reasons I cited above and more. Permanent, supportive housing in mixed neighborhoods is one solution. Some of the people I walk with are on a waiting list for such housing, or are recently housed and grateful – even if the housing is in the Tenderloin, and they’re trying to stay off the hard drugs that surround them the minute they step outside their door. Nothing’s ever easy, is it.

 

God’s blessings and peace,

 

Dan+

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