by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia
“This (conservatorship law) sounds like slavery to me,” reported Memphis, houseless poverty skola reporter for POOR Magazine’s RoofLESS radio after a terrifying town hall on SB1045, the new anti-poor people conservatorship legislation that was just signed into law by then-Gov. Brown and will be enacted as a “demonstration” in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
“SB1045 expands who can be ‘conserved’ in three counties in California,” said Susan Messner with the ACLU, who spoke at a town hall on this law recently held in San Francisco. “It is targeted,” she said, “at homeless people with psychiatric and/or addiction issues.”
Beginning with the “ugly laws” at turn of the century, law after law has been passed that made it illegal to be unhoused and disabled in public, laws which were rooted in the pauper laws brought here with the “Stealing Fathers” (aka Founding Fathers) in the beginning of the occupation of this indigenous territory. These are laws that literally incarcerate people for being poor, for not having money to pay illegal taxes to the rich and/or for having outstanding debt – a reality which still exists in many cities today.
These violent anti-poor people laws were an extension of indentured servitude and the enslavement, rape, murder and land theft of First Peoples and stolen African peoples. Then, as you travel down the path of paper violence and politricksters, you end up with the conservatorship laws across the U.S. related to the supposed “care” – read “forced treatment” – of disabled children and adults and elders supposedly unable to care for themselves.
‘Without you there would be no me’
“Without you there would be no me,” said Scott Sloan, about his 97-year-old mama, Beatrice Sloan, as the Alameda Country conservatorship program attempted to “conserve” – read “incarcerate” – his mama and steal the one asset she had worked for her entire life, a little wooden home in North Oakland. I reflected on this horror story that POOR Magazine had re-ported and sup-ported on and in struggle to fight as advocates for literally the whole year of 2002-03 as I sat listening to the new anti-poor people conservatorship legislation.
Like most of the colonizer laws, the conservatorship laws enable and support the buying, selling, stealing and pillaging of poor people’s assets, bodies and homes. They are rooted in Western hetero-patriarchal, agist, ableist diagnoses of mental and physical health, while at the same time providing an ongoing population and need for a multi-million dollar industry of elder ghettos, group homes, nursing homes, mental hospitals etc. And through the conservatorship law already on the books, poor elders and their families can lose their only assets, lose their ability to take care of themselves and owe the state thousands of dollars, a debt that follows them to the other side of the spirit journey.
So now, in addition to the hundreds of laws already in place that make it illegal to sit, stand, sleep, lean, lie, put a backpack down, put up a tent, or eat while houseless in cities across California, we have a new one. A new law that takes the criminalization, incarceration and harassment of poor folks to new, violent, sci-fi movie level.
“If you are homeless and have been taken in on eight consecutive 5150 violations, you could be subjected to this conserving,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness at the town hall.
And oddly, just like the ugly laws, which worked with the settlement houses, known as the saviors and social workers, this law is supported by neoliberal politricksters like San Francisco’s mayor, who claim this is “the solution to homelessness.” And just like Care Not Cash of the early 2000s put into law by poltrickster Gavin Newsom, this is another way for the state to steal aka “conserve” poor people’s resources, because once you are conserved, every asset, belonging, thing you have will be seized by the state, ensuring that not only will we be incarcerated for being seen, we will also be unable to survive outside of the institution.
“Does this law expand the Lanterman Act, which gives services to disabled people in California?” my brother and revolutionary in disability and economic justice at POOR Magazine and founder of Krip Hop Nation asked, and sadly no one on the panel could answer. Leroy worries the impact on disabled communities of this conservatorship law will weaken the Lanterman Act, which is the only way disabled poor Californians get resources.
What we do know is what POOR Magazine has been rep-porting and sup-porting on for years since our inception in 1996, our lives as poor and unhoused peoples are continually under attack, our bodies and belongings are equated with trash and we are incarcerated and harassed for the sole act of being unhoused, we now have yet another law that makes it illegal to be poor in this occupied land.
To hear Memphis and other poverty skola reporters for RoofLESS radio and POOR Magazine, go to PoorNewsNetwork on YouTube or www.poormagazine.org. To contact Tiny, go to her website www.lisatinygraygarcia.com and to find out about an upcomg county-wide action by RoofLESS radio, POOR Magazine and Krip Hop Nation on this violent law, email email@example.com. Tiny is also the author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America.”