San Francisco Integrates “Snitch App” in Response to Homelessness

(Image credit: Wiki Commons)

John Castberg

October 13th, 2015

(Era of Wisdom) The city of San Francisco has added a new feature to their popular 311 mobile app, giving residents the ability to report homeless people.

This feature was created in response to the cities growing homelessness problem, which, under the watch of Mayor Ed Lee, has grown to nearly 7,000 people homeless.

Who are they reported to? That’s complex.

A headline from ABC News reads “San Francisco develops new app to help homeless.” According to the alarmingly biased ABC News article these departments will respond: “Is it a mental health issue? The homeless outreach team should respond. Aggressive behavior? the police. Encampments? public works.”

The suggested complaints on the city’s 311 website include violent, or disruptive behavior, reporting an encampment, panhandling, sleeping in public, trespassing, and waste – human or hazardous. The city maintains that the app is not intended to criminalize homelessness, but to improve the reach of the city’s public health program, although police are more likely to respond to reports.

The ABC News article is so incredibly biased that it forgot to mention what will actually happen when the homeless are reported. How will being reported possibly help an encampment of homeless people, when they are often uprooted or arrested?

The article continues “San Francisco has a new way for residents to help the city deal with the homeless crisis. It’s a new addition to the city’s 311 system, a phone app that will now include the homeless as a priority. When many see homeless people on the streets of San Francisco, people tend to look the other way unsure of what to do. “Do something. Help in some way and I don’t mean giving money or buying them a cup of coffee. I mean real help,” said Erica Sandberg, a San Francisco resident.

Sandberg says it’s uncaring to simply walk by. Her repeated calls to city hall caught the attention of the mayor who Thursday announced an update to the city’s non-emergency 311 system, an app for smartphones that gives people ways to list your concern and routes it to the proper department.”

Anti-gentrification groups feel that the app is unnecessary, and will lead to thoughtless persecution of the homelessness by residents who see them only as a nuisance.

“It should be driven by need, not by complaints,” said San Francisco Coalition On Homelessness spokesman Bob Offer-Westort.

The San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness also called the app silly and counter-productive, adding that it was made for people to complain about each other.

As a resident of San Francisco, I have seen firsthand the extent of the devastation and damage the homelessness causes the city, and its residents, homeless or not.

Many drug users have no qualms with shooting up in public places, and seeing people curled up under a blanket in the middle of the day is all too common.

I believe that this app, while unfortunate, in idea is an important and necessary addition to San Fran’s public works. The question is, what will the city actually do to help homeless people?

Will it be up to the the city to ensure that the homeless get access to the resources that they need (especially drug treatment), and not simply rounded up and put into jail?

Or will it be up to activists and organizations of concerned citizens?

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This article (San Francisco Integrates “Snitch App” in Response to Homelessness) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to John Castberg and Era of Wisdom.org.

Author: Era of Wisdom Staff

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