AP: Operation Matrix

Marcus L. Endicott (mendicott@igc.apc.org)
Thu, 21 Oct 1993 14:59:00 -0700 (PDT)

AP Online

AP 10/21 13:31 EDT V0696

Copyright 1993. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Tired of the homeless?
Bust 'em.
That's the thrust of a nearly 3-month-old program imposed by Mayor Frank
Jordan. Nickname: Operation Matrix.
The mayor says the program works, and argues that critics are outnumbered by
ordinary residents who have had enough from the city's estimated 10,000 street
"I think we needed to get a better handle on it," Jordan said. "San
Francisco is a very open and inviting city. But the system was not working."
Since Aug. 1, when 18 police officers were assigned to neighborhoods with
large homeless populations, about 1,400 people have been cited or arrested for
misdemeanors including blocking sidewalks, trespassing and urinating in public.
"Instead of finding a viable solution to homelessness, they're arresting the
homeless. We need to create more jobs," said Robert Weber, 32, a homeless man
who sleeps outside a church.
Beside the homeless themselves, the crackdown had targeted a group that
distributes free meals without a permit.
"The police have taken our buckets, spoons, cups and our vehicles," said
Keith McHenry of Food Not Bombs. "But you have to be willing to be arrested.
This is an emergency, and we're going to fight as hard as we can."
McHenry, arrested at least seven times in the past two months, says 73
people affiliated with the group have been arrested since Aug. 1.
About 200 people protested Oct. 6 outside the mayor's home, bringing more
than two dozen arrests although the mayor wasn't home. One banner read,
"Homelessness is not a crime."
But Jordan said many merchants and city residents were cheering. In the week
ending Oct. 1, he said, 71 percent of calls to his office favored the
He also pointed to crime statistics that showed a 20 percent drop in serious
crime in August. In September, it dropped 8 percent more, he said.
Police say it is impossible to attribute the decline to any specific factor.
Perhaps in reaction to criticism, Jordan recently added a new dimension to
the anti-homeless program, teaming social workers with police to help find
shelter, welfare, and other services for the homeless.
Critics dispute the notion that traditionally tolerant San Francisco
attracts hordes of homeless.
"Some people believe San Francisco has become a magnet for homeless people,"
said Dave Grace, a Food Not Bombs volunteer jailed for five days last month.
"But that's simply not true. Go to any small town in middle America and there
are homeless people and poor people. Arresting them is not going to solve

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