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Treating homelessness in San Francisco's District 8

by on15 June 2023

Turn off their Wi-Fi so they can't contact shelters

In San Francisco's District 8 tried to solve the problem of homeless people gathering around its library after hours by turning off its Wi-Fi.

Rather than tackle the homeless problem in a civilised way, the local government thinks it is a good idea to respond to complaints from those with houses by making life as miserable as possible for those on the streets.

Cutting off Wi-Fi was quietly implemented in mid-2022 and District 8 said that it received no complaints, presumably because homeless people were unable to get a decent signal anymore.

However, this did not make the problem disappear, and a little over seven months following the change, it got a request to reverse the policy because it was actually stopping homeless people from getting off the streets and into proper care.

One email said he was worried about his friend whom he was trying to get into long-term residential treatment.  San Francisco has shelters, but the requester said their friend had trouble communicating with the staff and has difficulty being around people who used drugs, among other issues.

Because this friend has no regular cell service, "free Wi-Fi is his only lifeline to me [or] for that matter any services for crisis or whatever else."

The resident said some of the neighbourhood’s residents "do not understand what they do to us poor folks nor the homeless by some of the things they do here."

In a phone interview, Jennifer Friedenbach of San Francisco's Coalition on Homelessness told The Verge that "folks are not out there on the streets by choice. They're destitute and don't have other options. These kinds of efforts, like turning off the Wi-Fi, just exacerbate homelessness and have the opposite effect.

Putting that energy into fighting for housing for unhoused neighbours would be much more effective."


Last modified on 15 June 2023
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