A group of merchants in San Francisco has banded together in a desperate attempt to force the city to solve the homeless problem that is destroying their businesses. They are threatening to withhold their taxes unless they are heard.
Emulating our Founding Fathers, the group of business owners in the city’s Castro neighborhood sent a letter to the city to explain the troubles they face. Often ignored in blue cities, these merchants, like so many others, are forced to suffer taxation without representation.
The Castro Merchants Association sent their letter on Aug. 8, asking officials to “take action” because their neighborhood is “struggling.” The merchants worried that people wandering the streets “regularly experience psychotic episodes” and have vandalized storefronts, harassed business owners and employees and kept residents and tourists away, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
“They need shelter and/or services and they need them immediately,” the merchants continued. “Our community is struggling to recover from lost business revenue, from burglaries and never-ending vandalism/graffiti (often committed by unhoused persons) and we implore you to take action.”
But the group added that there could be consequences if things don’t improve.
The association threatened civil disobedience by putting a hold on paying taxes and other city fees, co-President Dave Karraker warned. He also said the Castro group intends to reach out to other neighborhood associations to form a larger coalition to confront the city over the problems businesses face.
“We’ve reached a point where people feel like they can’t run a successful business in the Castro with this kind of barrier,” Karraker added, according to The Reporter.
The merchants went on to suggest that the city expand its shelter programs, and improve its handling of the homeless, especially those who refuse treatment.
Terrance Alan, co-president of the association and owner of Flore Dispensary and Cafe Flore, told KTVU-TV that his shop has repeatedly suffered vandalism and he has had to replace nearly a dozen broken windows.
“Every day we wake up and have to help people on the street. We have to clean up feces on the street. We have to clear our people from doorways, so we can open our businesses. It’s not fair,” Alan told KTVU.
“At this point it’s a failure of the system to help them,” he added.
“Sometimes they do get violent,” another business owner, Deen Nasher, the Castro Smoke Shop manager, told KTVU. “The city does need to take care of these people, find a place for them to stay and help businesses. When we call, they come 30-40 minutes later. You know, the police department.”
The city responded to the letter and said they are looking to expand shelter beds, but warned that they cannot reserve spaces to serve only one neighborhood.
“The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing will be opening 1,000 shelter beds over the next three months that will give people in the Castro and other neighborhoods a place to stay inside,” the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said in a statement.
The Castro group has also met with representatives of the San Francisco Police Commission and are in hopes that more foot patrols can be scheduled for the area.
California has some of the worst rates of homelessness in the country, with three of the state’s biggest cities among the top five of the nation’s worst cities for homelessness. New York tops the nation for homelessness, but the next three worst cities are all in California; San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose. But all three of the California cities top New York by far in unsheltered homeless individuals, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Homelessness Index.
By comparison, the cities of Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago and Dallas all have about half the rate or less of homelessness than those mentioned above.
America’s quest for independence really kicked in when the British Crown tried to levy the Stamp Act on the colonies in 1765. The outrage gave rise to the phrase “taxation without representation,” a slogan first seen in print a few years later in 1768. It eventually led to the Revolutionary War and our independence from tyranny. It is heartening, indeed, to see this merchant group organizing under the same time-honored American principles.
The fact that it is happening in one of the most left-wing cities in the country makes it all the sweeter.
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