The following speech was presented by Gloria La Riva at a San Francisco Press Conference to Demand: House the Homeless! Cancel the Rents! on May 12, 2020.
I am speaking out today to protest the City and County of San Francisco officials who have failed to do what is most urgently needed, to house all the homeless people who are forced to sleep and live in the streets. We are here near the site where the City has chalked off a few dozen spaces for people to place their tents. That is not a solution at all.
Before the pandemic, the crisis for homeless people and tenants already existed. There have been constant sweeps by the police that force the homeless off the streets, confiscate their tents and belongings. There is the abuse by the police and the laws that prohibit people sleeping in their own vehicles, criminalizing the poor.
I have witnessed and protested those raids, as people have their belongings stolen, as they are forced to pick up and move on until the next raid.
Now, the City is allowing people to remain in their tents without them being confiscated, during the pandemic. But the pandemic requires that people be able to socially distance and in healthy conditions. This means being indoors with the proper facilities, not outdoors and exposed to the elements.
The mayor and some businesses and others claim that some homeless people are not suited for being housed in a hotel, or in subsidized housing. They say they have substance issues or mental health issues, and therefore they are not appropriate for housing. Actually they are the ones who need it most.
Yes, there are those conditions among some people, but the answer is not a deliberate policy of neglect. The answer is care, the answer is more funding for rehab clinics, and housing above all.
Officials and some media say there is not enough housing. We are sitting in the middle of a housing construction boom. There is an abundance of housing. There are huge structures of condominiums and skyscrapers that are always going up and many sitting empty. The problem is not the lack of housing. The problem lies in the fact that under capitalism, housing is a commodity and an unattainable commodity for the majority of people. The very workers who build that housing cannot even afford to buy a home today.
The City and County of San Francisco officials are responsible for solving the crisis of the people who have no permanent housing, because City policy has contributed to the dire situation and crisis for the homeless. San Francisco has become a haven for billionaire corporations, Google, Twitter, Uber, Lyft and other companies that receive red carpet treatment with tax breaks and land giveaways, while working-class people suffer rents skyrocketing to the highest level in the country.
I ask the officials, when you go home after a long day at work or if you are working from home in this pandemic, don’t you feel secure when you close the door, don’t you feel comfort sleeping in a bed within four walls, with your own bathroom, a place to cook your food. Would you trade that for sleeping on the sidewalk, exposed to the cold, the rain, the potential danger that always exists when you are asleep, or even awake, to a possible attack? Why should anyone have to live that way?
The simple need of having a bathroom when you need, and a way to bathe, or even electricity that you can only have in a home, for the simple act of charging your phone, or watching TV, these are just some of the most basic necessities that are not available in . You can’t walk into public places to do that.
Previous mayors, including mayor, London Breed, foster policies that favor the super rich at the expense of the working class, including the homeless.
California and San Francisco in particular have driven the very people who make this City run, out of the city, out of their homes. Once you lose your home, there is almost never a recovery.
Today we demand Housing for All, We Demand of City, State and Federal Officials, Cancel The Rents and Mortgages, for tenants, small landlords and Small Business too! We demand housing for the undocumented as for every person. Cancel the rents the duration of the pandemic! Make the banks pay! San Francisco Should Belong to the People!