Burned to death on the streets of San Francisco

Homelessness-in-SF-illustrating-London-Times-082921-story-‘American-Nightmare-by-Jessica-Chou-Sunday-Times-Magazine, Burned to death on the streets of San Francisco, Featured Local News & Views
This photo illustrates a recent story in the Sunday Times of London that makes this statement: “San Francisco has more billionaires per square mile than anywhere in the US. It also has more homeless people.” – Photo: Jessica Chou, Sunday Times Magazine

by Jennifer Friedenbach, Coalition on Homelessness

In the pre-dawn morning of Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, at approximately 5:00 a.m., paramedics and Mission Station police responded to a call at 25th Street and South Van Ness Avenue of an aggravated assault with fire. The injured individual reported that someone lit his sleeping bag on fire while he was asleep. He was taken to the hospital and died on Saturday from the injuries. 

All of us at the Coalition on Homelessness are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic homicide by burning of an unhoused resident of the Mission District. There are few more agonizing or brutal deaths. While the individual who died has not yet been identified, these incidents of hate against disproportionately Black, Brown and Queer unhoused community members are far too common. 

We have seen multiple incidents of this nature, most recently the attempted burning of unhoused residents living in a tent near 750 Florida St. between 19th and 20th streets. A police report was filed July 26 on the incident, which took place on the evening of July 25, 2021.

The sad fact is that this tragedy might have been prevented if the individual had a home. When one does not have a door to lock, they exist at the mercy of those around them and are easy targets for violence – violence that often occurs when they are sleeping, violence that often goes unreported. Adding to that lack of safety a home provides, far too often unhoused people experience hate-based attacks as members of a class of people who are scapegoated, typecast and vilified for their impoverished status. 

This tragic incident should remind us all of the humanity of all San Franciscans and how at risk that humanity is – for all of us. It can and should be a call to action. It can and should be a time of collective reflection. 

How we treat and talk about the unhoused community matters – as the soul of San Francisco hangs in the balance. This painful death should remind all of us in San Francisco to push forward the enduring work to ensure all the people of our city have a safe and decent place to call home. 

Coalition on Homelessness Director Jennifer Friedenbach can be reached at jfriedenbach@cohsf.org, 415-46-3740 or Coalition on Homelessness, 280 Turk St., San Francisco, CA 94102. Visit the Coalition at http://www.cohsf.org/.