Tougher library policies would penalize homeless patrons for sleeping, body odor

|
(76)
In response to Mayor Ed Lee's concerns, the library is looking to bulk up security
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

The way homeless residents are treated in San Francisco has come under scrutiny lately, with recent reports of homeless individuals being sprayed with hoses by Department of Public Works staff who started doing early-morning sidewalk cleanings nearby Twitter’s mid-Market headquarters.

This week, much discussion has been focused on homeless individuals’ use of the city’s Main Library – and while library administrators say they are just trying to make the facility safe and enjoyable for everyone, advocates have voiced concern that the homeless are being unfairly targeted.

“We want people to use the library from all walks of life,” library spokesperson Michelle Jeffers told the Bay Guardian, saying a new set of proposed policies is not meant to be directed at homeless people in particular.

But it’s difficult to imagine who else would be bathing in the restrooms, for instance, or bringing a shopping cart into the library.

There is even a line in the code of conduct policy that forbids emitting “strong or pervasive odors.” While the policy notes that this could mean perfume, it could also mean body odor.

At a recent meeting, the San Francisco Library Commission considered bulking up security staff and imposing stricter penalties for these violations and others, such as sleeping in the library, asking for money, or bringing carts or luggage into the building.

Under proposed revisions to the library’s “Code of Conduct,” patrons could face tougher penalties for such offenses.

While those violations currently result in a simple warning, library staff recommended banning people from the premises for the rest of the day for such behavior. On a second and third offense, patrons would be banned for three days and seven days, respectively.

Meanwhile, staff recommended increasing the time that a patron could be suspended from the library for “unreasonable use of rest rooms,” including “laundering, bathing, smoking, soliciting, or clogging plumbing.”

Currently a person can be banned for three days for such behavior; staff recommended banning them for three months instead. The maximum suspension period for this offense, meanwhile, would increase from one month to one year.

“This all stems from the mayor’s visit, a few months ago,” Jeffers explained in an interview with the Bay Guardian. “He issued a letter to the library commission, saying ‘I call on you to look at more stringent policies for dealing with bad behavior.’”

On the whole, problematic incidents within the library have actually declined, according to Jeffers. The most recent data reflected a 32 percent decline in overall incidents since 2011, and an 18 percent decline since 2012.

But several high-profile incidents caused Mayor Ed Lee to issue a call to action, Jeffers said.

“A man was arrested for urinating on books,” she explained. In another incident, “A person took a hammer and broke a computer.” Someone else threw a chair at a patron.

While many of the new policy recommendations address issues such as assault, harassment, indecent exposure, or weapons, advocates of the homeless population say many of the proposed rules unfairly target a population that has few other options for being indoors during the day.

Representatives from the Coalition on Homelessness and voiced concern at the Library Commission meeting, saying the proposed rules unfairly targeted a vulnerable population and were just another example of criminalizing homelessness in San Francisco at a time when people face steeper challenges than ever to securing permanent housing.

On Wed/19, library officials met with COH director Jennifer Friedenbach and others.

Jeffers said the library is committed to working with the coalition, and noted that the recommendations will be revisited and resubmitted in coming months.

“It’s a difficult situation, because we want people to feel safe in the library,” Jeffers said. “But many people who are experiencing homelessness also want to feel safe in the library.”

Bevan Dufty, appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to help the city coordinate homeless services, said a better approach is needed.

“Years ago, when I was on the [Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee], and the library asked for a dramatic increase in security funds, I went and talked to [Chief Librarian] Luis Herrera … and said, Luis, I get it. Patrons see people doing their laundry in the bathrooms, they see problems. Why not hire a social worker?”

The library has done so, and both Jeffers and Dufty report that this program has been successful in connecting homeless patrons with services. Yet the library continues to aim for tougher regulations and enforcement, in accordance with Mayor Lee’s wishes.

“I’ve been a big advocate for Five Keys, which is the adult charter school that existed in our jails for the past 12 years,” Dufty added. “I have said to Luis, hey, this would be good. People are clearly coming here for refuge. I get that people sleeping, and doing other things are problematic, But why not have a school where people could be engaged? Some of the people may not even be literate who are sitting in the library.”

Comments

or public defecation and urination - that's fucking elitist and sick. We must never forget our vulnerable populations who may need the libraries to use as outlets for violence and public urination.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

AFTER the arrival of Twitter. Before then I guess employees and patrons of the main branch weren't worth Ed Lee's attention.

Posted by Guest III on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 8:07 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:19 am

the state of the main library ever since it open, I wrote that Ed Lee could have cared less about the state of the main library until Twitter moved in.

Posted by Guest 3 on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 10:20 am

I don't see much of a connection there. The library is a couple of blocks from the Twitter building and tech workers do not typically have long lunchbreaks at the public library, even if it wasn't a cesspit.

You won't get far supporting the right of the fetid to pass fecal matter onto the floor

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 10:34 am

bowel movement in the floor of the library? How do you arrive that assumption from what I have written?

Even if Ed Lee was mayor for not much time before the Twitter deal, seems it took him awhile to get to the library. ( It's only a block away, you know?) Perhaps the prior mayor, Gavin, ignored the complaints of residents as well.

Posted by Guest 3 on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 11:15 am

Take a position.

Using this to score cheap shots at a popular mayor is a distraction and does not honor the residents who are complaining

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 11:29 am

and clean place for ALL San Francisco residents, I merely noted that such issues by the former and present mayor of San Francisco seemed to have gone unheeded until a big business moved into the area. It would appear to me the lack of action by Newsom and Lee would not be honoring the residents who, as by your own statement, have been complaining since the main library reopened.

Posted by Guest III on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

at a popular mayor and only said you wanted the library cleaned up when you were called out on your agenda.

The library has been kept disgusting by progressive supervisors who are too close to the poverty pimps

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

You kept insinuating things in my posts that were not there. I merely pointed that out and restated my position. If San Francisco residents have been complaining about the main branch since it reopened, why are the complaints only being addressed by the (prior and present) mayor AFTER a big business moves into the area?

Lots of people are popular, that does not mean that they are talented or competent people. I am sure you could think of a popular person who you find their talents and status as questionable.

I am not a progressive, btw.

Posted by Guest III on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

You tried to turn that into a criticism of the Mayor and I exposed that and thwarted you.

Popularity may not be perfectly correlated with talent, but popularity is how elections are won, and he won. Now he has the power, he's taking steps to fix the library.

While all you do is whine.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

He needs to go to the naughty step.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

too much credit for the put-down, as effective as it was.

I'd really prefer a challenge though.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 2:01 pm

I merely asked a question as the timing struck me as a bit suspicious, but I never claimed it was a fact. I also never claimed that I was against the main library being a safe and clean place. You insinuated it.

You wrote that people had been complaining about the main library since it opened, I asked why nothing was being done by the mayor until now after Twitter opened in the area. I commented that was an interesting coincidence, but I never stated that it was in fact a deliberate action.

I never changed my line of questioning, so I don't know how you exposed anything.

Posted by Guest III on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

out of the SuperBown. Suspicious?

Nothing was done until the America's cup was finished. Suspect.

Wow, this is fun. Connect the timing of the library cleanup to anything you want and then sit back and claim you're totally innocent.

There is zero evidence to support your claim and, personally, I think it is a good thing that Lee is stepping up.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

clearly it was my sex change that cleaned up the library

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 2:14 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

nor did I make a claim. I merely asked a question and restated it due to you insinuating my position on the library being a safe and clean place.

It's Friday. Have a drink tonight and calm down.

Posted by Guest III on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

You're the one who needs to lighten up.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

If Mayor Lee decided to clean up the library on the day a comet passed close to earth, did the comet cause that?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

Yes, Everyone knows it's no longer San Francisco, but now San Franfeces….

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 11:01 am

Dear SF citizens
I have been patronizing the SF Main branch for over 20 years. In the last few years the main has been a war zone, but more importantly a microcosm for America. I have witnessed more assaults than I remember and most if not all were black on white patrons. These psychos’s continue to assault, bully, harass, and thoroughly degenerate library constantly. And of course the liberal media, politicians and specially appointed city librarian are all criminal in their complete disregard for the safety and least of all comfort of the peaceful and law abiding tax payers all to appease the politically correct. And, more importantly it is the very citizens at fault for this culmination of shit we are mired in.
Alas, I write there are two distinct incidents that come to mind. One, where a black patron smashed a metal chair over a white senior citizens head the resulting puddle of blood was enormous. I could have sworn he would die. And, as much as one could argue this person (or subhuman) was apprehended, but after he nearly murdered and traumatized some poor soul and this was not a hate crime. In today’s progressive society suggesting a black beating an elderly white man over the head with a chair is a hate crime is the true hate crime. Of course being the victim was white and the assailant was black, we all know Luis Herrera, the city librarian has no interest in warning white patrons of the dangers of the main library, and does not think this is even worth pointing out. OF course he isn’t the older man being assaulted. No, he has his protection and he enjoys his politically driven accolades.
This is the society we created, where wonderful Obama voting progressive white hating mobs freely assault elderly whites. A society where if white you must be constantly strong and on guard or be murdered by the wonderful Obama voters, and those that are truly intelligent know white men are hated secretly and not so secretly by the so called minorities. Luis Herrera has no intention of doing anything that would benefit a white man. Heavens no, everything he does must be for everyone else, remember the code for white man hating is diversity. Anyone that uses the word diversity hates white men. Because the anathema of white men is universal for so called minority men, this is something they all rally around, a universal banner to pledge all, allegiance, and white men being so stupid are not aware of this hatred.
The conclusion is this, more attacks and more racism against whites is good. Nothing less will force whites to wake up. The hatred and collective racism by so called minority men only helps to galvanize whites to stop being victims. Men like me have become very strong, lean, muscular and very capable of fending off white hating mobs. Armed and aware I’m a force unto myself. Multiply me by more and more white men becoming uber men, men forced to become strong or die.
So, what is left of white men is increasingly stronger like any other organism it adapts, and eventually can take on its environment out of necessity and survival. And the eventuality comes, when white men stand up and destroy once for all their enemies. Allowing us to create, concentrate on important things like traveling the stars, building more and not wasting energy on fighting the virus that is non-white men. White men hated out of ignorance and jealousy, because there is no other explanation.

Posted by GuestJohn Smith on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

Branch and gifting the old Carnegie building to the Asian Art museum, a full service homeless outreach center could have been built nearby. Thanks Willie Brown. Thanks Ken Dowlin. Thanks Charlotte Maillard Swig/Shultz! Thanks San Francisco elites who care not one whit for San Francisco's library patrons or homeless people.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:52 pm

We spend enough on homeless services already with absolutely NOTHING to show for it. Close the shelters and start cracking down on the chronically-homeless.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 8:04 pm

help "crack down" on homelessness and what methods of addressing homelessness are you referring to when you write "crack down"?

Posted by Guest III on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 8:26 pm

down the shelters. 10 years later we're still here...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

will go back to where they came from.

Helping them just encourages more to come here.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:20 am

every nook and cranny of the USA, regardless of the level of services offered by local governments and residents.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:35 am

we throw money and services at them, whereas many other places show them the door and send them here.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:57 am

Not even Malia Cohen, Scott Wiener or Katy Tang would vote for your proposals so you obviously found the wrong city to live or invest in. Time to sell the business and/or your housing unit and move to Marin or the peninsula. You'll find lots of people there who will agree with you. The changes you suggest will probably never happen in SF, and surely not in your lifetime. You need a new cause.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 8:27 pm
Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

Can I knock the shi8 out of you for saying stupid stuff ?? I wish it was the case . The best your going to get you as* wipe is for yourself to experience this terrible tragedy. When you do and I hope it is soon than you will know what asking for help is all about .

Posted by Guest Keith Kemp on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 10:34 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 9:10 am

the design of the new main branch.

Posted by Guest III on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

Or the books that had to be thrown out because they keep getting pissed on by crazy homeless people.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 10:45 pm

Rules against pissing on the books unfairly penalize the homeless and mentally disturbed and are thus inherently unfair....

There, can I get a job writing for the SFBG or even -- setting my sights higher -- Jennifer F's job?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

Urinating on books is a civil right!

Who are you to be so judgmental?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 8:33 pm

How about this. If you behave yourself you get a sandwich. One a day max.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 9:06 pm

Replace sandwich with a bottle of Night Train and it might work….

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 10:57 am

Who are the homeless, lets break it down 1) street people,people that prefer living on the streets living of handouts or what they can steal, 2) mentally deranged 3) people through some form of hardships.
#3 shelter/housing, food, job training, placement assistance., until they are back on their feet #2) Laura.s Law for the ones that are incapable of caring for them selves, drug rehabs for addicts that are not to far gone. 1) this appears to be the largest group, follow what was done in Times Square New York, that will decrease this population.
There is solutions.

Posted by Some thing can be down about it on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

Dealing with #1 isn't even that hard. San Francisco is a huge case study in how to attract and retain street people. Put that knowledge to work....

All you have to do is locate the services, soup kitchens, shelters, tolerance for camping, tolerance for public drunkenness and drug use, etc, where you want the street people to congregate. Hint, it doesn't have to be downtown San Francisco. It can be anywhere. To throw a location out there, how about 30 miles south of Gustine. Put a mental facility near it. Our homeless support dollars would go much further there than here, and end up helping many more than we do now. Win win.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:29 pm

How come the BG didn't talk about how the library had to increase the size of the maintenance staff as well as increase the bathroom checks from every half hour to every ten to fifteen minutes because of the homeless people crapping everywhere, doing drugs in them, and having sex in them?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 10:51 pm

Open up a stainless steel / concrete bunker to be used at will near the library.

Don't hire any security at the bunker, just at the library.

Build showers and whatnot at the bunker, make it off limits to any city employees, let the free spirits have the run of it.

See how long it takes for the "progressives" to complain about the state of this free for all.

Posted by guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 12:26 am

people destroying pubic property, it is fair to harass people stopping in bus stops for short periods.

Posted by guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:16 pm

There are Latino dedicated sections to shit and piss in. There are black history sections to shit and piss in. There is the whole general library to shit and piss in.

Going to the library to expect a regular library experience is a effete middle class concept.

Posted by guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 12:15 am

Restrict Main Library admittance to patrons with Library cards leaving things as they are with the other branches. The Main's problems are due to it's location. Most of the homeless are there for shelter, sleep, or to escape boredom by watching movies.
A Library card is simple to get with proof of SF residence. A utility bill is usually good enough and a temp card can be issued on the spot. Genuine patrons won't object to this rule. When word gets out about such a new rule many problems at the Main will vanish overnight.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 1:12 am

There's a security guy and desk as you enter but he just sits there. Have him check for ID and library cards

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:22 am

I disagree. I want the homeless cleaned up out of there as much as anyone, but requiring it to be accessible only to residents of SF is just wrong. I sometimes go to libraries in other cities and if this rule was used there, I'd be SOL.

What needs to be done is crack down on these people who mess up the library. Three day banishments? Get real. First offense kick em out for a month, then six months, then a year, then permanently. Also include trespass orders with these suspensions which will allow SFPD to arrest the repeat violators.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

The suggested rule -- admission to the Main only with valid Library Card-- is not used elsewhere because they don't have the same problem as the Main which we all know is now close to outrage. Other cities simply wouldn't tolerate the issues and I'd bet the Main's problems are unique to SF.
Suspensions? How can you enforce that if people have no ID in the first place?
The Main is for readers, researchers, and very importantly, children. Again, to preserve the integrity of the place, require a Library Card for admission. If troublemakers truly want to improve their minds let them hike to the outer branches of the system

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

everyone in the library is at any time

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 9:08 am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Also from this author

  • Police provide explanation of Bernal Heights Park shooting at emotional town hall meeting

  • San Francisco's untouchables

    Is San Francisco trying to help the homeless -- or drive them away?

  • Draining the tank

    Students push UC system to divest from fossil fuels, joining an international movement gathering soon in San Francisco