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Friday, September 4, 2015

Chronicle Columnist Endorses Harassing Homeless And Forcing Them to Work for Free

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 10:44 AM

click to enlarge FRED NOLAN
  • Fred Nolan
As the Chronicle's Summer of Shitty Opinions transitions into a Fall of No Compassion, token conservative Debra J. Saunders continues to press her grievance against the beleaguered.

Following a late August trip to New York City, Saunders compared her olfactory experiences in the Big Apple to those in her home town, and found Manhattan smelled sweeter. 

According to Saunders, the reason for the disparity is pride (and Republican leadership). New Yorkers are proud of having shiny sidewalks, while San Franciscans are proud of not being dicks (or something). Saunders cites approvingly the response to the less-fortunate of ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani: 
Giuliani recently made news when he visited his local police precinct to complain about a homeless man camping on his block. Giuliani told WNBC the man had been urinating and defecating at a nearby stoop: “Do you know when people lived on the streets and didn’t use bathrooms inside? It was called the Dark Ages.” Giuliani also expounded on his approach to the homeless in the 1990s: “You chase ’em and you chase ’em and you chase ’em and you chase ’em and they either get the treatment that they need or you chase them out of the city.”
In a follow-up to her column, Saunders published a letter from reader Marc Vandenplas. 

Vandenplas, who apparently traverses the Financial District in a Brioni suit everyday, enjoys telling people on the street "just how disgusted" he is with their existence. He also proposes a "tried and successful solution" to homelessness: "Confront them and make them leave." (Vandenplas doesn't seem to care that that's not a solution to homelessness. That's a solution to him having to see something that disgusts him while he walks around in his Brioni suit.)

Vandenplas, who apparently loves to share tales of being a dick with local papers, "systematically played good Samaritan" to a homeless man by waking him up every time he saw him sleeping in a park and telling him to pick up the trash (i.e. do a job that the city employs people to do, for free). He also recorded these encounters, presumably without the consent of the people he was harassing. 

Here's his full letter:
As much as I love SF, this city has got its nose too far in the air. Everyday, I pass the same people in the same states of recline and decline, on my way from one side of the FiDi to the other. There’s Gary (who is not really declining but more or less static within a range), there’s the magic black man on the corner of Battery and California every evening with his cup and his Giants hat, the meth-addled man in the wheelchair in front of Starbucks on Clay and Battery. Walking past the service alleys is a real treat.

Fact is, I’ve sometimes verbally “engaged” the mendicants, indicating just how disgusted I am when I see a man sitting on the sidewalk shaking a cup at passing women. Why does the citizenry tolerate that? I think it’s because we have improperly framed the problem, which leads us to unworkable solutions, which means There’s Nothing That We Can Do.

The problem is not that we have a street population in need of a global Jubilee, the problem is that they are begging for money, sleeping in our parks, defecating on our sidewalks, and generally privatizing public spaces – in ways that would land me a stern talking-to by the SFPD if I were to do the same while wearing a Brioni suit.

But here’s my tried and successful solution – confront them and make them leave. I’ve done it successfully. As a experiment to my hypothesis (see, I systematically played good Samaritan to a mid-thirties man sleeping daily at 11 am in Sue Bierman park – oh, gee fella are you ok (what the Hell are you waking me for?!); just concerned – in fact, I’m so concerned that I will wake you every time I see you AND insist that you do your bit by keeping the trash picked up. (F*** you!) Here, let me turn on my phone’s video camera. After several encounters, he was suddenly gone – and other urchins were keeping the park cleaner. Pretty spiffy.

If, instead of scooting over to the gym after work, enough men simply confronted street beggars with enough lawful pressure – presto – no more street beggars here (they’re now over “there”) which is a very good thing.
Even Debra Saunders says that she doesn't have "the brass" to be quite that big of a dick, but she does think Vandenplas is "on to something" with his approach. 

I might suggest that Saunders and Vandenplas should worry about being woken up themselves by some nagging doubts about whether harassing total strangers, judging them for their situation, and yelling at them to do work for free is really the best use of their time, but who am I kidding. They probably sleep like babies. 

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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