Photo of the Month: January 2016

This month’s photo captures San Francisco’s mass displacement of the homeless in order to accommodate Super Bowl City.


With the Superbowl crawling closer in the next few days, San Francisco has thrown the city’s approximately 7,000 homeless residents into a state of fear and vulnerability. Super Bowl City has been erected along the Embarcadero, where many homeless typically spend the day or night.

Despite Mayor Ed Lee’s assurances that the homeless would be provided alternative shelter, more reports have surfaced of police and city workers disassembling tents and forcing homeless population displacement with no clear alternative. The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong reports from San Francisco, talking to Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness:

We’re hearing over and over from homeless people that they’re being cleared out and told to leave during the Super Bowl,” said Friedenbach. “Folks are already in crisis because they’re homeless. It’s really destabilizing for them to have to move somewhere else or feel threatened. Balil Ali, a homeless resident of San Francisco, said: “I don’t even call it the Super Bowl, I call it the toilet bowl. We’re throwing a penalty flag on Ed Lee for unnecessary roughness on the homeless.”

Many residents and officials have been outraged that the city of San Francisco is footing the bill for nearly $5 million to host the Super Bowl festivities that precede the actual sporting event, hosted in Santa Clara, 45 miles south. As tax payers note that their hard-earned income is being funneled towards the party, a government budget analysis noted that the NFL’s 2013 revenues of $9.2 billion exceed San Francisco’s total budget. Yet, the money, instead of from the NFL, is coming from Silicon Valley’s pocket. Time Magazine’s Katy Steinmetz writes on the protests:

You can spend $5 million on a big half time party. You can spend $5 million on a big show. But you can’t feed homeless people?” a protestor named Joshua Shrader shouted through a megaphone, wearing a T-shirt that said “Tackle Homelessness."

Steinmetz also notes the side of the story that is often ignored in the news:

City officials like Mayor Ed Lee, an unpopular figure at the protest, have argued that the city stands to earn much more than it has spent on the Super Bowl — in hotel taxes, broader economic impact and the publicity the Bay Area is getting from hosting one of the world’s most high-profile sporting events. He and other local lawmakers have spent millions — $167 million was earmarked for homeless services in the last city budget — and proposed that the city spend millions more, on affordable housing and centers to help homeless people get off the street and into beds. We’re definitely not saying the city is doing nothing,” says Friedenbach. “We just need them to step it way, way, way up.”

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