Down & Out in SF: The Homeless Face Eviction

San Francisco's Transbay Terminal is one of downtown's transit hubs: a bus station where some transit lines and Greyhound come together. It is also a scummy pit: a low slung gray building set among skyscrapers and filled with homeless men, drug dealers and other "transients" (polite society's euphemism for the dregs of the society). You could film a re-enactment of Death Wish, or any other seventies-era exemplar of urban decay, there. Good news, however, as the Terminal has a meeting with the wrecking ball as part of a major construction upgrade for the area. Of course, good news for decent people is Bad News for The Other, so we are required to feel guilty about this, according to the San Francisco Chronicle: Long Time Denizens Resist Call to Leave Terminal

Seven years from now, the downtown Transbay Terminal will be a gleaming, glass-walled showpiece of transit glory, drawing travelers from all over to its ultramodern train and bus stations.

At the moment, though, it is a decaying pit of despair for the homeless hordes who have used it as shelter for decades. For them, life is about to become complicated.

The 1939-vintage terminal will be closed for demolition, to make way for construction of the new showpiece, at one minute after midnight on Aug. 7. The complex at First and Mission streets is to be cleared of all people - which, at that hour, will mean dozens who are still clinging to vain hopes that they can keep sleeping in the hulking terminal despite daily warnings that the wrecking ball is on its way.

I'm sorry, but the City's decision - both through benign neglect and deliberate policy - to turn the Terminal over to the homeless is not the sort of thing that happens in normally functioning jurisdictions. I could say the same about the circus atmosphere at the Powell Street Cable Car terminus, UN Plaza, and other public spaces that have become little more than open-air homeless shelters. No one likes it, yet it is something we MUST abide, as a sort of human hairshirt, I guess.

The one unifying theme among the Terminal's "residents" is that they are all troubled souls. But, "compassionate" progressives prefer to have them sleep in their own filth rather than institutionalize them or otherwise curtail their "rights." Check out Cat Man"
Among them is the gray-bearded Cat Man, who mumbles angrily as he strides around the terminal all day with a huge orange cat on his shoulder. He sleeps with the cat in a coffin-size cardboard box and rebuffs all offers of help with "Go away!"
Then, there's this ambitious fellow with delusions of grandeur:

Also facing eviction is Olawaye Fabunmi, 55, who sits all night against the concrete terminal wall with his head and shoulders covered by a beige blanket that is as tattered as his clothes. He refuses all help, even dollar donations.

"I have a plan, I have a direct marketing advertising company that I run, and I am just waiting for the right business opportunity to market new things," Fabunmi said the other night before covering his head with the blanket again.

And there's this inadvertent truth teller:

"I've been sleeping in this terminal for a year, and nobody has offered me anything I want," said 44-year-old Connie Britton, slumped inside on a bench at 10 p.m. one recent night. "I have emphysema and bad depression, and I've spent half my life in jail, so I can't stand to be inside with a bunch of people in a dormitory kind of situation like a shelter.

"They say they're going to tear this place down, but I'll believe it when I see it," Britton said. "I'm staying here until something better comes along."

Yes, these worthies and others are the reasons why so much of SF's public space is dominated by bums asking for "spare" change and adding their contributions to the ever-lingering stench of urine that hovers over downtown. I don't know where the Transbay Terminal's residents are going to go, and I don't care. They've already overstayed what little welcome they've had.

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