Hundreds of health care workers from around the country are expected to gather in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza this evening for a rally against the city’s proposed sit/lie ordinance.
The workers, who are in San Francisco for the 25th annual National Health Care for the Homeless Conference and Policy Symposium, will bring attention to the effect the legislation would have on homeless people, particularly those who are mentally ill.
The ordinance, proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, would prohibit sitting or lying on city sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
The proposed ordinance is meant to give police a tool for cracking down on intimidating street denizens, particularly in the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood, but opponents have said it would violate civil liberties and go against San Francisco culture.
Paul Boden, of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, which is helping organize the rally, said the issue is not often looked at from a health care perspective.
“One thing all health care providers will tell you is the proliferation of these sit/lie laws around the country have had a dramatic effect on their homeless clients, especially mentally ill clients,” Boden said.
These laws are “nuisance acts,” not criminal acts, and of the people considered a nuisance, “a disproportionate amount are mentally ill people who are written off as a nuisance or annoying,” he said.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council, a federally funded program, is made up of a variety of health care workers, from community health clinic employees and emergency room doctors to people who work in homeless shelter or substance abuse facilities, Boden said.
The rally will feature a handful of speakers, as well as some musical and spoken word performances, he said. The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at UN Plaza, located at the intersection of Seventh and Market streets.
Organizers said UN Plaza was chosen as the location for the rally because of an article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the international body ratified in 1948.
The article states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”