Coming at It Sideways

The $50,000 project to realign some State Street benches to keep panhandlers from harassing people has some glaring signs of ineffectiveness.

First and foremost, this use of RDA funds, which happen to be at great risk of being taken by Sacramento due to the dire fiscal state of California, is irresponsible.

Secondly, if the homeless aren’t directly facing the sidewalk, they are still going to be sitting there. They will still be seen by everyone walking on State, and I’m pretty certain if the positioning of the bench is uncomfortable, they’ll find a different place to sit.

If we wanted to go with an ineffective, illogical approach, we might as well put a sit-lie ordinance—similar to the one Mayor Gavin Newsom sought to pass in San Francisco, which would fine individuals incrementally every time they sit or lie on sidewalks and streets between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.—on the 2011 ballot. People would be fined time and time again, possibly go to jail (which taxpayers pay for), fail to receive the supportive services they need, and be back on the streets within days. This could give the illusion that the problem is being addressed, although it would be an expensive illusion to maintain.

The Downtown Organization the city were on a good track with the unveiling of the Real Change Not Spare Change campaign, yet it hasn’t had the follow-through necessary. The city was also on the right track when they implemented the Safe Parking program in conjunction with New Beginnings. While these programs alone will not solve the end result of homelessness or any of the root causes, we should, for our own good, seek pragmatic solutions, or no solutions at all, but we should avoid expensive pseudo-solutions.

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