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San Francisco | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Homes Not Jails Occupies 600 Unit Vacant Building In SF
by Michael Steinberg
Monday Oct 10th, 2011 10:36 PM
On World Homeless Action Day, the squatters collective Homes Not Jails, along with Occupy SF and other local activists, took over an empty 600 unit building in San Francisco.
San Francisco, October 10-Today is World Homeless Action Day.

In the spirit of the day, the squatter's collective Homes Not Jails, along with other community activists and members of Occupy SF, took to the streets and took over a mammoth 600 unit building in San Francisco.

Today's action began with a 5 p.m. rally in the city's Civic Center. After a quartet of horn players from the Brass Liberation Orchestra warmed up the rained-on crowd, one speaker from Homes Not Jails reported that the 2010 Census found over 32,000 vacant housing units in San Francisco, whose homeless population is said to be about 10,000.

A guitar playing bard sang, "Rob 'em like Robin Hood, Rob 'em like you and I should." A local poet asserted, "Once you get a pink slip, it's goodbye to the job, and hello to the streets." Then a chronic housing activist suggested, "Take a home, you'll be very happy."

Another HNJ organizer said that today's action was one of "34 on every continent and in solidarity with all homeless and landless people. Today we will start building a better world."

To the Streets and Inside

Then it was into the streets, as the assembled moved together across Civic Center Plaza and took over Polk Street. The people shouted "Housing Is a Human Right, Capitalism Just Ain't Right," and "Books Not Pigs, Teach Our Kids." One banner read, "1 In 50 Kids Is Homeless Every Year."

We turned left on Geary and paused at #1040, which one activist reported is empty now because Sutter Medical Group evicted 40 senior citizens from it recently.

It was now 6:40 p.m. We crossed Geary and took a right onto the entrance driveway to the former Cathedral Hill Hotel at 1101 Van Ness, just across from Tommy's Joynt restaurant.

At the entrance we stopped while banners reading "Occupy Everything" and "Homes Not Jails" appeared on the building. People explained that this gigantic structure consists of 600 empty housing units, that Sutter Medical owns it also, and has plans to demolish it, but not for two years, to then build a new gargantuan hospital in its place. And that another building across the street--formerly the home of a furniture store, a cafe, and a restaurant--is also among Sutter's collection of vacant premises.

Someone shouted, "Are we going to leave this building empty?" and ran in. Many others did too.
The sole two security guards made no attempt to stop anyone. I heard one say, "They broke the gate chain and went in," on his phone.

Soon I was inside exploring the lower floors of the derelict former hotel, which could provide housing for over a thousnd. As one woman pointed out, "This is child abuse. This place could provide homes for all the homeless families with children in San Francisco."

Other explorers I ran into on the inside reported that the upper floors were in good condition and included a meeting room/bar that had a posted capacity for 400.

Once back outside I saw that two police cars appeared at the Post end of the hotel's driveway, but made no effort to come closer.

I got on the mic and pointed out that this had been the site of other crimes. In the early 1980s it had hosted a visit by Duarte, the US puppet president of El Salvador, who presided over the US sponsored death squads, which tortured and murdered thousands in that small country in the name of democracy.

A large demonstration protesting the presence of this mass murderer was brutalized by the SFPD back then.

Now five figures appeared on the roof of the building, one waving a black flag. " We have plenty of room," another shouted out to us.

Homes Not Jails reported that people were also occupying nearby 1028-30 Geary, where they took over 17 units at 7:45 p.m.

Stay tuned.



Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Michael Steinberg
( blackrainpress [at] hotmail.com ) Tuesday Oct 11th, 2011 1:17 PM
According to Homes Not Jails, "At 8:15 p.m. on October 10, Homes Not Jails and Occupy SF occupied two more properties, at 1020 and 1034-6 Geary Boulevard in San Francisco."

This makes four properties totaling 700 units occupied on World Homeless Action Day in San Francisco yesterday.

Thus Homes Not Jails suceeded in achieving all its goals for this year's World Homeless Action Day.
by Lydia Heather Blumberg
( streetsheet [at] cohsf.org ) Tuesday Oct 11th, 2011 7:13 PM
Hey, Michael, love this article! May I run it in Street Sheet?