A group of San Francisco "homeless advocates" are targeting a sushi restaurant in the city's LGBT Castro neighborhood over a rock they say is actually a device being used to keep homeless people from setting up camp.
The "Coalition on Homelessness" — a San Francisco group that considers itself pro-homeless and pro-transient — issued a tweet late last week with a picture of the rock, which sits in a "zen garden" alcove in front of the sushi restaurant and is painted with the "gay pride" rainbow flag.
The group accused the restaurant of using the rock to embellish its faux-progressive credentials, according to a local ABC affiliate: "When you wanna look inclusive but hate homeless people."
Latest social justice rage: In San Francisco, activist group @TheCoalitionSF sicced a mob on a sushi restaurant in the Castro after claiming the rock was part of “anti-homeless architecture.” The owner denies it was placed there to keep homeless away. https://t.co/QIb5bqFvGy pic.twitter.com/WldkJmk0VB— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) June 22, 2019
The Coalition for Homelessness claims the rock is strategically placed so that homeless people — of which San Francisco has thousands — cannot set up temporary camp outside the restaurant. The location of the rock, in an alcove in front of the building that would be just perfect for a transient or two to spend the night, is being deliberately walled off from use.
The sushi restaurant is located in San Francisco's Castro district, a longtime safe haven neighborhood for LGBT people. It has a history of being one of the most inclusive — and largest — gay neighborhoods in the country, and one of the earliest established progressive communities in San Francisco, which doesn't exactly lack progressive communities.
Not wanting to seem out of touch with the modern progressive culture, the restaurant quickly responded, explaining that while that area is cordoned off for an expression of LGBT pride, they are more than happy to allow homeless people to sleep in other locations in and around their restaurant.
"A manager at the restaurant said they put out for their Japanese Zen garden and there is a safe space in the entryway of the restaurant that homeless people can use," according to ABC 7 San Francisco.
The Coalition on Homelessness, appropriately satisfied, issued an apology and explanation on social media.
"Ya'll, we made a mistake!," they tweeted. "While rocks r a common prt of anti-homeless architecture, this particular rock is NOT. It's a Japanese garden. Izakaya Sushi is a valued member of the commnity (sic) & is supportive of its homeless neighbors. We apologize & offer deep appreciation to the staff."
While this progressive-on-progressive incident ended peacefully, it does give some insight into precisely why San Francisco is having such a difficult time handling its homelessness crisis. Although the city decries the thousands of people sleeping rough, the homeless camps, and the mess that the transient population leaves behind — including piles of human feces along streets and sidewalks — the city's government hasn't managed to make a dent in the problem, even after spending tens of millions to control and educate San Francisco's street people.
According to a report released in late April, the cost to "end" the homelessness problem in San Francisco would be close to $13 billion, and that's if the city committed to actually ending the practice of sleeping rough on its streets (and doesn't include the cost of cleaning up after the homeless encampments are removed and the transient population evicted).
That also doesn't count the cost of providing ongoing (and perhaps lifelong) services to those who are currently homeless because of addiction or mental health issues. That adds another $3.5 billion.
But those costs are largely imaginary because, it seems, San Francisco isn't interested in actually ending the problem — and wouldn't be allowed to, if groups like the Coalition for Homelessness have their way. Instead, the government is relying on stop-gap measures to keep the homeless population controlled and provided with food, water, and sanitary facilities. They're also shelling out money to keep the streets as clean as possible so as to minimize the effects on San Francisco residents.
Those programs are costing San Francisco taxpayers an astounding $72.5 million per fiscal year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and the cost will only increase. Meanwhile, the problem is getting worse: San Francisco's homeless are running out of room to sleep on the streets and some have taken to building makeshift rafts and houseboats so that they can sleep rough on San Francisco Bay.