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

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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

Question for Dufty:

Why is it the library's job to hire social workers? Shouldn't the library work on things like books?

Posted by SFRealist on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 7:09 am

The library is as disgusting as was the original transbay terminal. Seriously one of the most offensive bathrooms I have ever been in. SF puts up with massive amounts of anti social public behavior in a way that no other city in the US does. I suggest those arguing against this return to normalcy open up their homes to these homeless people

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 7:42 am

People who engage in anti-social behaviors are progressives, as opposed to Googlers, who are our class enemies!

Urinating on books is much better than driving up rents!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:44 am

The DPW has been spraying homeless encampments with cleaning fluid in the North Mission along Erie and 13th Street for several years now.

Funny how the DPW never sprays down the actual human feces on C(r)app Street unless there is a movie filming like last night.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:32 am

Capp St. is just skeevy. And Capp St. is easier to avoid.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 9:00 am

Start cleaning it too much and the Uptown may get the boot.

Posted by guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 11:53 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

Will open in the area for you.

Posted by guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

and hookers on your stoop, then you have a vested interest in the squalor continuing.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 9:07 am

A couple of 2-man SFPD teams armed with flamethrowers could clear up the homeless problem in a week.

Posted by Chromefields on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:56 am

And charge people to see the entertainment.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 10:06 am

Winner gets a chicken dinner

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 10:19 am

"In response to Mayor Ed Lee's concerns, the library is looking to bulk up security"

Just another excuse and something to exploit to hate on the homeless as he and his conservative base do.

I just saw 9 cops arresting one calm person in my area. They came with sirens blaring for one calm person. It took 9 cops, 4 cop cars and 1 fire truck and then an ambulance showed up to arrest one person who was not showing any aggressive behavior? Others who witnessed this scene called it, "overblown and so typical of what this city and this country do now." They have to exaggerate and exploit everything for their going-backwards, hateful agenda.

These homeless haters are just disgusting trash.

In my area, I've seen the DPW guys (pretending to piddle around sweeping the sidewalk but with other covert intentions) bullying homeless people. That's why the DPW guys are really there now. To bully homeless people. When were they given the instructions to do this and by whom? This is something new with the DPW in the last 6 months to a year where the DPW is out day AND NIGHT as well with a little broom and dust pan pretending to be picking up little papers on the sidewalk and cigarette ends. They themselves are trying to enforce sit-lie but only the police can do that.

This city is out-of-control and it's because of this incompetent, hateful, inept and not-very-bright mayor who works entirely for the people who own him: the wealthy.

Posted by Miguel on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:28 pm

All those people show up because of SF's liberal policies you know?

When someone calls the city about a passed out wino or some such thing the city that makes every employee a social worker sends in an army employee/social workers.

It's costly and a waste and now you are complaining and blaming the cities mythic conservatives.

The paranoid mind of our "liberals" is always interesting.

Posted by guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 11:57 am

YES I BELIEVE YOU BECAUSE I HAVE SEEN IT, AND THE HATE IS 99% AGAINST WHITE MEN. BLACK SECUIRTY HATES WHITE MEN AND USES THEIR BULLSHIT PATHETIC JOBS TO ENFORCE THEIR BLACK ON WHITE RACISM, YOU SAY NIGGER AND THAT IS MUCH WORSE THAN BEATING OLD MEN. YOU DEFY THEIR RACISM AND THEY WILL DESTROY YOU. I WANT EVERYONE ASFE BUT THIS HATRED OF WHITES IS GETING OLD.

Posted by GuestJohn Smith on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 4:41 pm

The Library is using tougher security policies because library users have been assaulted there, and shelves of books urinated on.........not because people are sleeping. Please do more thorough research in your reporting. I know, because I work there.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

fairly regular for years.

I saw some old black dude being screamed at by a crazy lady for no apparent reason, the dude just sat their looking puzzled, then she started in with the racism. The poor library employee was trying to calm the situation and the lady looked like she was going to attack him. I wondered over to help out if she did attack then a guard showed up.

Saw a dude start screaming at an employee because he couldn't get the impossible help he wanted, after about 30 seconds he was yelling faggot at the employee.

Those stick out, but there has been others.

I don't quite get why Bay Guardian "progressives" think a library employee's job should include calming violent lunatics, social work and the possibility of being attacked.

Posted by guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

I have been going with my kids since it was opened. I still go. Sure I see homeless there, but I don't mind seeing poor people in the library, I remember my own childhood.

Me and the kids always have a good time and have never seen any problems.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 12:24 am

There is difference between poor people killing some time and the mentally ill going nuts.

There is a difference between library employees acting as librarians and acting as de facto social workers.

Posted by guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 1:50 am

The article starts out linking to an old article which buried in its middle contains a couple of lines about how some activists CLAIM they have heard of homeless people supposedly being sprayed by street cleaners--so we have hearsay upon hearsay masquerading as truth. Yes, I'm sure you can probably find one or two cases of someone accidentally getting spritzed, just like I've been accidentally splashed by a Muni bus once or twice, but just as my getting splashed once by a basis neither evidence of malicious intent not reason to cease all mass transit in the city, a person, homeless or otherwise, getting a bit of water spritzed at them is neither evidence of malicious intent or reason to eliminate or modify the street cleaning programs.

Now, we have the same activist attacking legitimate policies aimed at reigning in unacceptable behavior in our libraries. The city provides homeless shelters and funds transitional housing. A library serves one purpose, to give the public access to research, educational, and entertainment materials. It is not a homeless shelter, and its facilities are not want to serve as one. Bathing, laundering, etc. does not belong in the library, period. Furthermore, no public facility should permit destructive behavior by anyone. Damaging plumb etc. is a crime, no matter who does it and should not be tolerated in any public facility. Most homeless people use the library as it is intended, which is as a place to read books and newspapers and use the Internet, and they are not a problem. But, those who abuse library facilities, whether homeless or housed, do not belong in it, and should be banned.

Posted by Chris on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 10:26 pm

LUIS HERRERA AND HIS CORRUPT ILK ARE TO BLAME, ALL THE STAFF AND SECUIRTY THAT HASSEL PATRONS AND IGNORE THE BLACK ELEPHANT, BLACK ON WHITE ASSUALTS EVERY DAY!! I HAVE BEEN GOING FOR OVER 20 YEARS TO BOTH LOCATIONS OLD AND NEW AND I HAVE PERSONALLY SEEN DOZENS OF ATTACKS OF BLACKS ON WHITES. THINK I'M JOKING? GO DOWN THERE, AND SPEND AWHILE AND SEE. AND WACTH SECUIRTY DO THEIR BEST TO HASSEL WHITES AND IGNORE BLACKS, COULD THIS BE CAUSE THE SECUIRTY IS MOSTLY BLACK? WHY IS THIS RACISM NOT ADDRESSED? , REMEMBER THE ATTACK OF THE BLACK PATON ON THE EVIL ELDERLY WHITE MAN? AND THE RECNT YOUNG BLACK FEMALE OBAMA VOTER WHO PUNCHED ANOTHER ELDERLY WHITE MAN? NOTHING. TRY BEING WHITE AND MERELY DEFENDING YOURSLEF THINK THE BLACK SECURITY WILL DEFEND YOU? NO THEY WILL ARREST YOU FOR BEING WIP, WHITE IN PUBLIC. YOU BETTER BLEIVE THESE CORRUPT RACIST THUGS WILL GO OUT OF THEIR WAY TO ENFORCE THE NEW AGNEDA, WHITES ARE EVIL BLACKS CAN ATACK ANYONE, ANYTIME. THINK I'M FULL OF SHIT?

KNOCKOUT GAME? DOJ HATE CRIME STATS

ALL FUCKING WHITE HATING SHIT THAT YOU VOETED FOR, SLEEP IN IT, LAY IN IT, EAT IT, IT IS YOUR FUTURE

Posted by GuestJohn Smith on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

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 survivor on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

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 survivor on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

What is the purpose of a public library?? Is it to provide information resources and literature for people who want to read and learn ..... or is it a daytime shelter for outpatients?

Who subsidizes the public libraries? Taxpayers or outpatients?

Yes, there ought to be daytime shelters for the homeless - places where they can sleep, converse, bathe, and so forth. But, no, the public libraries were not intended to be those shelters.

I have worked in libraries that were, at times, seriously overrun by homeless types. Besides the expected annoyances of some of them snoring, building little fortresses out of piles of books, and generally making more focused patrons uncomfortable, we had instances of purse snatching, destruction of books, infestations of lice, fights, and some other criminal activity.

Librarians are not trained, nor paid, to be social workers or patrol officers or psych ward orderlies. The public should feel safe and comfortable coming to a library, and bringing their children to a library, to use it as a library was intended. If the city fails to provide properly for its homeless that's not the librarians' fault and the solution should not be imposed on their shoulders.

Posted by Bernard Sussman, J.D., M.L.S. on Mar. 01, 2014 @ 8:00 am

Let me be clear. I never crapped on the library floor. In retrospect maybe I should have.
The President of the Library Commission was found guilty of Official Misconduct by the Ethics Commission and Mayor Lee never even gave a reason for why he didn't care. The City Librarian was fined by the FPPC for ethics violations, based on false statements under penalty of perjury.
The most right wing corporate sleaze-bags in the use the Friends of the Library for influence peddling with zero accountability.
Yet all the Mayor can think of to support social values and the rule of law is to use increasingly harsh police enforcement against the homeless using the "scare tactic" the case of some poor guy who urinated on the books. This sort of enforcement will not be limited to those who pissed on the books. It will be used against you and me, and we never actually crapped on the floor.
We would have a more civil society if there were some enforcement against the abuses of the donors.

NotTheBrownBomber

Posted by NottheBrownBomber on Mar. 02, 2014 @ 1:56 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

Are the librarians and administration SURE that the perp who smashed the computer, urinated on books, and threw a chair are from the homeless population? I've seen even worse behavior from the privileged at sports events.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

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