by Tiny @povertyskola
I massaged the corners of the hefty bag
It was cool and soft like life used to feel
It was a State of Emergency in the Tenderloin
The mayor said
Mmm I wondered
Did that mean I wouldn’t
End up swept to death
From the cement so cold
the poLice taser jolt
You have to leave
No you can’t pee
This housing is full – can’t u see ?
It’s a State of Emergency in the Tenderloin
Not for u and me
It’s Not what you think
It’s for the people who cannot see
our public poverty
It’s a State of Emergency in the Tenderloin
Cuz budget cuts so deep
there is no place to sleep
Cuz migrant children slanging pills
Terrify the wealthy wite people
In the hotels
It’s a State of Emergency in the Tenderloin
and it’s not for those of us without a home
it’s a State of Emergency in the Tenderloin
Cuz poverty is only a myth so we just need to incarcerate your sorry bones
It’s a State of Emergency –
Or is it a Space of Emergency?
I hold on to the edges of a wet hefty bag
Pretending its nothing
Instead of everything I have
I look up – my eyes weary
I drink my daily dose of No’s and We can’t
No, there is no shelter bed
No, you can’t stay here if you can’t pay the increased rent
No, you can’t sleep in that tent
No, you can’t stop here –
we don’t care how wet you are
My mouth can’t edge into a scream
States of daily emergency is my everyday reality
The attempt to be ok – to make it or even to stay ok
was Swept along with everything
I’m a victim of the War ON the poor
And I’m working so hard to silence the
PTSD terrors of this State of Emergency
Horror my houseless body is always in …
The impossible states of emergency for people in poverty has been my reality for years as a houseless child of a disabled houseless adult. It has been a state of emergency every day for thousands of houseless folks living outside in the Tenderloin, the last neighborhood of San Francisco where poor people of all colors and cultures can stand, be or walk.
The settler colonial, anti-poor, anti-Black and Brown people violence called Sweeps has been happening continuously all across San Francisco intensely and endlessly for years, not letting up in a pandemic – as a matter of fact getting worse. In most areas in the Mission, Raza elders of that community who have lived there for years can’t even sit down without being “seen” and told to move.
This State of Emergency is and has never been for poor people. It is for everyone else who doesn’t want to see public poverty on the occupied indigenous streets where they live.
The lie of “safety” is being used to rationalize the poLice in all the politrickster language ‘bout this move. The same “safe” metaphor that unleased a whole gaggle of Karens to call in heavily armed killers aka police to purportedly make them feel safe again in parks, BBQ’s and suburbs.
And pandemic shelter in place mandates be damned, this mayor has not let up her assault on our poor bodies. Shelter in place motels, i.e. actual roofs and warm beds and blankets that aren’t wet were begrudgingly granted and then slowly but surely pulled away, while sweeps of tents and belongings continued,
So let’s get it real clear: This State of Emergency is and has never been for poor people. It is for everyone else who doesn’t want to see public poverty on the occupied indigenous streets where they live.
The State of Emergency would bring at least 80 more police overseers to an already over-policed neighborhood who would demand from houseless people, jail or shelter? First of all, I’m wondering how this racist, classist army would “assess” our houselessness. Based on how we look?
Mmm, also this move includes harassing street vendors. My mama and I literally survived on our street sales as many poor people do all across Mama Earth. And to that you say, well, that means selling drugs, no, most of the time, like with me and mama, it means selling art, hand me downs, survival gear. But again, you can’t have poor people economies in public.
But my question to London Breed and other politricksters across this stolen land from so-called Denver to Bellingham, Washington, is what about the houseless residents of the Tenderloin and all of these towns who are never seen as residents. We are pathologized and dehumanized and only viewed as a thing, “The Homeless Problem,” and silenced forever.
So my purpose as a formerly houseless child and single mama in poverty is not to rant; there is no more time for that. It is to demand the meeting promised to us at POOR Magazine when we did the Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources UnTourthrough the Tenderloin, when Mayor Breed launched her all-out assault with a private security force. We proposed a LandBack plan so houseless San Francisco residents could build their own solutions like we houseless folks are doing with Homefulness.
No, we don’t want more open-air prisons aka people-cages. We don’t want more temporary shelter beds. But most of all we don’t want, need or desire more poLice (as I call them).
Message to a mayor who claimed to be for Black Lives and the reduction of poLice, last year: Consider a different solution to the ongoing war ON the poor and listen to us houseless people about our houselessness.
Because like this poverty skola always says, no matter how many times you sweep me, study me or jail me, it doesn’t give me a home.
LandBack Proposal for UC Hastings and SF Mayor London Breed
This proposal was presented on Nov. 15, 2020, to Mayor London Breed, who responded by promising a meeting with a delegation from Poor, which never happened. Read the roots of the struggle over the Tenderloin in “PoLice Terror in a Pandemic: UC Hastings Demands Sweeps of Houseless San Franciscans.”
We houseless, very poor, indigenous, Black and Brown San Francisco residents hereby demand that UC Hastings, an “elite” law school located in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, which filed a lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco about its “homeless problem,” give back one of the many buildings they “bought” to houseless people so we can build our own solutions to our homelessness.
Herstory on UC Hastings and Homelessness
Excerpt from the UC Hastings College of the Law lawsuit: “The Tenderloin, always a community of tolerance and compassion, is now blighted; its sidewalks are unsanitary, unsafe, and often impassable. The conditions now prevailing in the Tenderloin constitute a violation of the fundamental civil rights of those residing and working there.”
The odd aspect of the aforementioned “conditions” listed in the lawsuit is that UC Hastings places the blame on us unhoused people for our own houselessness, when they, UC Hastings, like so many other millionaire-billionaire businesses, developers and institutions located in San Francisco are actually responsible for increased homelessness, criminalization, evictions, gentrification, harassment, theft of indigenous land and resources, eugenicist endowments, and most importantly graft-based equity through a historic combination of tax breaks, pay-offs, interest-free loans, patronage, zoning laws, white supremacy, land speculation, exploitation of the labor of Black, Brown and working class people, and the increasingly high tuition charged to all students.
After UC Hastings filed the lawsuit against people who already had nothing, they worked with the City to contract with private policing agencies to build an outdoor cage for houseless residents and to operate ongoing sweeps, power-washing, harassment, and removal of houseless humans in the Tenderloin like we are trash.
Because of all this and the fact that the law school’s only “solution” was more removal of houseless people, not to mention the fact that UC Hastings claims legal possession over two blocks of Mama Earth in Occupied Yelamu, San Francisco, we hereby propose that UC Hastings reparate one of the sites in the Tenderloin that they “bought” for the use of houseless people to build their own self-determined housing projects like the innovative model called Homefulness.
For the Mayor
Because the Mayor’s office has targeted, harassed, policed, evicted, red-lined, non-profiteered, zoned against, and gentrified the poorest mostly Black, Brown, Asian, Pacific Islander, Disabled, Elder and Family San Francisco residents through an endless series of white supremacist, pro-business, pro-corporate, anti-poor policies, laws, agendas and decisions, we demand that the City and County of San Francisco cease and desist ALL SIP evictions, give back surplus empty land and buildings, and reparate at least $5 million of the money the City has received for providing “homeless services” to houseless people so we can build our own solutions to our own problems, like the Homefulness project.
Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, aka “povertyskola,” is a poet, teacher and the formerly houseless, incarcerated daughter of Dee and mama of Tiburcio and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America” and “Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth” and co-founder of Homefulness, a homeless people’s solution to homelessness. Reach her at www.lisatinygraygarcia.com or @povertyskola on Twitter.