San Francisco business owners’ demands slammed by LGBTQ advocates

Business owners in the Castro are trying to take matters into their own hands when it comes to the San Francisco neighborhood’s homeless population.

The Castro Merchants Association, which represents about 125 businesses in the area, sent a letter to city officials Aug. 8 outlining three demands: 35 shelter beds for “mentally ill and drug addicted people who call the Castro home, ” a request for monthly action on services offered or provided to homeless people in the neighborhood, and a plan for what to do after people refuse services.

Dave Karraker, co-chair of the Castro Merchants Association, told SFGATE that businesses in the association will potentially stop paying taxes if all three demands are not met.

“Whatever they do, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t make a noticeable difference in Castro’s conditions when it comes to drug addicts and the mentally ill,” said Karraker, who also co-owns MX3 Fitness, a gym with two locations in the area.

Karraker said businesses in the Castro have been particularly hard hit since the pandemic began, and he believes the neighborhood’s homeless population — especially those struggling with drug addiction and mental illness — is making the problem worse.

“We just see constant vandalism, constant public drug use, people passing out on the sidewalk, people going into psychotic breakdowns, and that’s just not something a small business owner business should have to manage,” Karraker said.

He mentioned that the request for 35 shelter beds in the letter comes from a log maintained by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s office of “people who constantly cause trouble” in the neighborhood: “This list usually has 20 to 25 people, so we knew if we had 35 beds, we would be able to cover those people,” Karraker said.

In a response sent to the trade association by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, officials said it was not city policy to designate shelter beds for people in a particular neighborhood. The response also said it would be a violation of privacy laws to share information about the case status of specific people with the public.

“However, we greatly appreciate hearing from community members about what they see on the streets and will continue to work with the Castro community to improve conditions for all in Castro,” the response reads.

Karraker said he thinks the city’s response to its homelessness crisis tends to focus on neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, which he says is “driving people toward the Castro.”

But some homeless people from neighborhoods like the Tenderloin say they come to the Castro because they feel safer there as LGBTQ+ people, KTVU reported.

This is not a recent phenomenon: in 2009, the Journal of LGBT Youth published a study by Jen Reck, associate professor of sociology and sexuality studies at San Francisco State University, titled “No One Likes Street Kids – Even in the Castro”.

The study focuses on homeless gay and transgender youth of color in San Francisco, specifically a group of teenagers who have used the Castro as a place to seek safety and community.

“The Castro was particularly important to these young people because, as gay and transgender young homeless people, other public and private places did not feel safe to them,” the study said.

But the young people featured in the study also said they faced harassment and hostility from members of the Castro community. They mentioned being treated like outsiders in a place they observed to be “mostly inhabited by middle-class gay adult men”, and said they felt left out of the community since “these are the ones who want or can spend money in stores that can fully participate in the culture of the neighborhood.

Today, gathering spaces in the Castro are still largely commercial, although there are a number of community organizations in the neighborhood that provide free housing navigation services to LGBTQ+ people. The specificity of these programs could be another reason why homeless people are drawn to the Castro from other parts of the city.

It turns out that a few of these organizations, including LYRIC, a center for LGBTQ+ youth, and the SF LGBT Community Center, are part of the Castro Merchants Association.

Adam-Michael Royston, vice president of LYRIC, says the association’s letter is not representative of all the homeless people in the Castro or of the neighborhood’s spirit and history.

“The Castro has been a beacon of hope for queer people for over 30 years, and we need to constantly remember that we need to be inclusive and in community,” Royston said.

He added that as anti-transgender legislation takes off in other parts of the country, an influx of young people fleeing conservative states is heading to San Francisco — and many of them are ending up in the Castro.

“The reason so many of us ended up in the Castro is the same reason so many of our young people end up here too,” Royston said. “I think this letter, addressed to young people fleeing the crises in which they find themselves, is not encouraging.”

But business owners like Karraker believe people who openly use drugs and experience public mental health crises are hurting the neighborhood, regardless of who they are.

“No matter who it is, we cannot accept the idea that someone can come to the Castro, take drugs and be mentally ill to the point of posing a threat to themselves or a threat to residents or tourists. . This cannot continue,” Karraker said.

Related Article

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button