Homeless advocates ‘sleep in’ at Dolores Park

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)

Dozens of advocates for the city’s homeless population held a “sleep-in” at San Francisco’s Dolores Park on Monday night ahead of a Board of Supervisors vote on limiting park hours this afternoon.

Supervisor Scott Wiener has authored legislation that proposes closing most of the city’s parks between midnight and 5 a.m. The legislation moved through the board’s land use and economic development committee earlier this month.

The full will vote this afternoon on the proposal, which Wiener has said is an attempt to curb vandalism and illegal dumping in parks.

Recreation and Parks Department officials have said vandalism and dumping cost the city more than $900,000 each year to clean up.

According to Wiener, San Francisco is the largest city in the country without set park closure hours.

The homeless community is rallying against the legislation, claiming it will disproportionately affect the city’s homeless population.

Lisa Marie Alatorre, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, said that although it is already illegal to camp in city parks, the proposed law would further “criminalize” homelessness and result in more citations for the hundreds of people who use the parks as shelter.

She said a lack of housing for homeless people forces them into parks, and that this law would in turn push them onto the sidewalks, where certain subgroups — such as youth, women and LGBT members — are more likely to become the victims of crimes.

She said that of the thousands of homeless people in San Francisco, an estimated 30 percent identify as part of the gay community.

“With this particular law, if it passes, these are the folks back to the streets,” she said.

Alatorre acknowledged that parks are not the appropriate places for people to sleep, but said, “there’s no where for people to go.”

She said Wiener’s proposal ignores the need for better homeless resources and housing options. She said the money that would go toward enforcement of the new park hours should go elsewhere.

At the sleep-in at Dolores Park, organized by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Alatorre said a large group came together and discussed homelessness and other issues such as gentrification and displacement in Wiener’s district, which includes the Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park, Upper Market and parts of the Mission.

A rally by a coalition of homeless organizations is scheduled to take place at City Hall at 12:15 p.m.

The Board of Supervisors meeting begins at 2 p.m.

(Copyright 2013  Bay City News.  All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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