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Friday, July 30, 2010

Gavin Newsom Sweet-Talks Transbay Terminal Homeless Into Housing

Posted By on Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 5:59 PM

click to enlarge Gavin makes a new friend...
  • Gavin makes a new friend...
Before the crowds arrived for the last tours of the creaky Transbay Terminal Friday, Mayor Gavin Newsom showed up for his own private walk through ("private" in mayor's terms means followed by his spokesman Tony Winnicker, staffers, Chron reporters and us).

Along with the Homeless Outreach Team that has set up shop in the old station, Newsom was on a mission to sweet-talk some of the last homeless hold-outs into transitional housing before the building is sealed off next Friday night.

He strode through the fluorescent-lit building in his Friday business casual, though it was more of a nostalgia tour since the homeless were hustled out by the building's security a week ago. He finally found some homeless out back. But first, he went to get a cup of Blue Bottle coffee at 46 Minna. The mayor's java fix waits for no man. 

The first homeless person Newsom talked to seemed skeptical, but Newsom urged him to just say "yes" to housing: "Don't say no. Whenever you say 'yes' in life, everything is possible. Trust me, we can fast track some of this stuff." 
click to enlarge Yes, Gavin, we get that you are hot.
  • Yes, Gavin, we get that you are hot.

Then the old man pictured above whom the other homeless just refer to as "Fiji" -- his native island -- called Newsom over. It was a jaw-dropping transition: When I'd walked past him earlier, Fiji cursed me out ("Go away, bitch!"). But when Newsom showed up, Fiji turned into sweetness itself, chatting with him about Marin County in his proper British-like accent. He said he wanted to get into some housing.

Newsom then went all King Arthur on him: "Your quest shall be afforded."

"You're a good mayor," the new Mr. Fiji said. Such a gentle Fiji we had never seen.

"That's what I do. I work for you." Fiji called over the photographers to take a photo of him and Newsom shaking hands. This was turning into a campaign commercial.

"When can I get my accommodation?" Fiji asked.

"Right now," Newsom said, saying he would have his outreach team follow up with him today. He slipped the homeless man a $10 bill - or so we heard later on from a staffer who saw it. 

As Newsom walked off, Fiji declared: "God bless you all!" (Sadly, when I returned later that day, Fiji had gone back to his prior iteration: "Your face is bullshit," he told me. Alas.)

click to enlarge The mayor's coffee fix cannot wait.
  • The mayor's coffee fix cannot wait.

Newsom then chatted up this younger man named Ben Avery, who was chilling and eating a sandwich on the curb. "I don't want to be part of the system," he said. "Gotcha," Newsom replied. "If we helped you out with a job, would you be interested? ... I think you're gonna be a lot more successful in your job search if you have a place to stay."
Gimme a bite of your sandwich, kid.
  • Gimme a bite of your sandwich, kid.

"His engagement is a spark," said Dariush Kayhan, the mayor's homeless policy director and member of the morning entourage. "They'll think 'Maybe I might want to think of doing something else with my life.'" True to form, after Newsom left, the homeless coalition followed up with Fiji and started making plans to move him indoors. Potty mouth and all.

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Lauren Smiley


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