Letter from SF: People expect the homeless to be cleared with the push of a button
I went on San Francisco’s 311 app for the first time yesterday to report a giant pile of trash that’s been accumulating over the last few days on our block. I thought the app was supposed to make it easy to connect you to various city services — like asking the city to come empty out overflowing public garbage cans, clean feces off the sidewalk, report broken streetlights, things like that. And you can do all those things in the app. But it looks as if the main thing the good, caring people of San Francisco like to use it for is anonymous snitching. Aside from requests for the city to pick up garbage, half of it is people calling on the cops to ticket cars that are slightly encroaching — but not blocking — their driveway. The other half of it is people snitching on the homeless.
Cars? Well fuck cars. But this snitching on the homeless — that particularly nasty thing. Here’s one example from yesterday: Someone took a picture of three women who are clearly living on the street, and asked the city to clean them up like they were some kind of trash. “Other Loose Garbage / Debris” is the descriptive category they chose.
And here’s another one just like it: this one’s snitching on a couple of people sitting on boxes, huddling in the cold.
And here’s probably the worst one I saw that day: Someone snitching on a person sleeping rough on a sidewalk under some rags on a super cold November day, and calling it an “encampment” that needs to be cleared. No compassion, no request that the city send someone to help this person. It’s brutal.
As you can see from the screengrabs, the city rejected all three of these snitch posts, saying the department only deals with physical objects not human beings. But requests like these come in all the time: snitching on the poorest, most destitute people here and calling for the city to clear them out like they’re some kind of trash — all while remaining safely anonymous.
Just like they order an Uber or have DoorDash food servants rush to their door, I guess some people here expect their “loose human garbage” to be cleared with the push of a button. Remote control passive-aggressively fascism — that’s San Francisco for you. And really, other California cities — including places like Los Angeles — are no different.
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