bureaucracybusters

I LEFT MY BUM IN SAN FRANCISCO

In Bureaucracy, Law, Politics on March 2, 2012 at 12:30 am

Yes, welcome to San Francisco–home of cable cars, Ghiradelli Square and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Oh, and thousands of stinking, disease-ridden, lice/bedbug-infested, drug-addicted, alcohol-soaked, often psychotic men and women whom city officials politely refer to as “the homeless.”

Privately, many of the police, social workers and paramedics who wrestle with this population have another term for them: DDMBs:   Druggies, Drunks, Mentals and Bums.

Thanks to its mild climate and social programs that dole out cash payments to virtually anyone with no residency requirement, San Francisco is often considered the homeless capital of the United States.

Although the city spends $200 million a year on “honeless” services, the population surges between 7,000 and 10,000.  Of these, 3,000 to 5,000 refuse shelter.

Yet mere statistics don’t capture the true intensity of the problem.  To do that, you must confront its realities at the street level.

One of those realities can be seen every Sunday, when many stores on Market Street close for lack of workday traffic.  Stroll along the street and you’ll find it crowded with passed-out drunks/druggies, ranting psychotics and aggressive panhandlers.

Another such reality is Suzie Wong, 66, who goes by the name Ling Ling.  A resident of the Nob Hill District, Wong daily gives residents and tourists a sight to remember her by.

She alights from the 27 Bryant bus from the Mission and halts at the nearby bus stop.  Then she drops her drawers to leave a yellow or brown deposit on the sidewalk.

Finally, she crosses the street, and catches the 1 California bus for Chinatown.

When she doesn’t relieve herself on Nob Hill, she often does so on Stockton Street in Chinatown.  Then she heads to her usual spot to panhandle.

Children and pets often step in her feces.  So do adults, who are preoccupied with their cell phones.  Parents vainly try to shield their kids from the disgusting sight.

Residents have lodged scores of complaints about Wong’s repeated defecations.  The Department of Public Works has sent crews to clean up her messes at least 44 times in the past six months.

Police have scooped up Wong at least seven times for a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold at San Francisco General Hospital.  But doctors usually release her before the cops even get back to the station.

Under a 5150 designation, people can be held at the hospital for up to 72 hours to determine:

  • Are they gravely disabled?
  • Are they mentally ill?
  • If they are mentally ill, do they pose a danger to others or themselves?

But authorities have repeatedly determined that Wong doesn’t fit any of these criteria.  The reasons:

  • She has a mental health case worker at a North Beach clinic.
  • She’s arranged housing and food services through the city.
  • She can use public transit.

Chalk up another win for the DDMBs.

San Francisco officials have effectively washed their hands of the problem. If local residents must put up with repeated violations of the most basic sanitation laws, that’s their tough luck.

What matters to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors is this:

The “rights” of those whose filth poses an immediate threat to public health take precedence over those of tax-paying, law-abiding San Franciscans.

San Francisco residents can be fined for feeding pigeons–but not for feeding street bums.

During the Mayorship of Willie Brown (1996 – 2004), Hizzonor proposed what he thought was a brilliannt way for residents to “contribute” to street people. Those who were somehow certified as “homeless” would be issued special electronic “cash cards.”

When someone wanted to make a “donation,” s/he would swipe a credit card against the one owned by the street bum, for whatever amount s/he wanted to donate.

But before the program started, someone at City Hall realized a blunt truth: Residents–especially women–weren’t likely to whip out their credis cards in front of a ranting, foul-smelling, probably disease-ridden street bum.

* * * * *

It’s long past time for San Francisco–and other cities–to stop catering to the druggies, alcoholics, mental cases and bums who prey on the guilt or fear of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

The same laws that protect citizens against patients with highly communicable diseases like typhoid and cholera should be vigorously applied to those whose filthy habits threaten similar public contagion.

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