Friday, October 05, 2007

Sister Bernie Galvin Explains It All To You

Sister Bernie Galvin (above) is a Catholic nun and a member of the Sisters of Divine Providence who graduated from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. After seventeen years as a junior high school teacher, she turned to community organizing of low-paid laborers throughout the Southeast, and ended in San Francisco where she founded Religious Witness with Homeless People in 1993 (click here for the website).

On October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis Day, the interfaith group held a press conference in the South Light Court at City Hall decrying the expensive and counterproductive policy of aggressive police enforcement of "quality of life" ordinances. Under Gavin Newsom's "Care Not Cash" mayoral reign from January 2004 through August 2007, there have been 46,684 citations given out for everything from "Lodging in public, Open Container, Sleeping in vehicle, Vending without permit, Blocking Sidewalk, and Off path in the Park."

This hasn't made St. Francis' namesake city any less squalid. Rather, it makes life absolutely miserable for the poor and just pushes marginalized people from one rousted neighborhood to another.

In the press packet given out to a meager smattering of reporters, detailing the methodology for the study and the millions of dollars in wasted labor and city resources that occur once a "quality of life" infraction makes its way into the legal system, the most poignant piece was a series of quotes from homeless San Franciscans.

"They gave me some tickets and then impounded my car and everything in it. I had clean clothes in my car. I was able to keep myself really clean before." "If you sit down for more than a couple minutes they give you a ticket. You can't ever stop and rest. I'm always exhausted and I get sick a lot now." "I went to Project Homeless Connect and they really helped me. Two days later they arrested me for not paying my tickets." "The city has started doing some really good things now but the cops just keep doing bad things to us. It's like they help you up, then slap you down."

Sister Bernie Galvin and her group have been trying to meet with Gavin Newsom since he came to office, but the mayor hasn't even bothered to give them the dignity of a reply. Instead, he set up a competing press conference in a Tenderloin hotel at the same time as the previously scheduled press conference by the Religious Witness with Homeless People. Though they stress in their printed material that "what we see as an immoral aspect of SF's Policy on Homelessness is not about some philosophical or personal difference [with the mayor]," you could see that the religious group was completely taken aback by Newsom's thuggish behavior.

By the way, the St. Francis painting/sculpture was created by my supernumerary companion Grove Wiley (above), who was last seen on this blog with his naked back covered by the word "Sacrilege" (click here), which couldn't be any more appropriate. You can check out his "Albert's World of Artsy Fun" by clicking here.


AlbGlinka said...

Busted. The irony is interesting though.

I hope Sister Bernie will understand that your Naked Torso/"Sacrilege" photo of me was all in the name of ART. (however loosely defined, with that production of Tannhauser anyway...)

Great write-up and quotes from Religious Witness's press packet.

For me, it was an interesting glimpse into the way local politics operate-- the competing press conferences, etc. Newsom looked so smug in the coverage I saw of him on the news.

ChrisO said...

Wonderful work.

Jerry Jarvis said...

You see now I know I am not on the right e-lists.
I hold up alot of space and would of filled these Pic's.