Towards a Compassionate City

This three-part series takes a closer look at homeless encampments and interim measures for addressing the homeless crisis. Through the research and experience of academics, policymakers, and advocates—including those who have experienced houselessness and those providing critical services—this series examines current initiatives, how policing and social services play out in the streets, and models from other cities.

The purpose: to prompt a more informed, compassionate citizen response as we work towards the longer-term goal of building more affordable and supportive housing. 

Listen to the podcast, peruse the Compassionate City reading list, and send thoughts and ideas to 

Interim Solutions to Homelessness in San Francisco

Sam Dodge - Deputy Director, San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing
Amy Farah Weiss - Founder, Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge along with Box City residents
Chris Herring - PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Sociology (moderator)

Our first panel explores the current state of San Francisco's shelter system and recent pilot programs such as the Navigation Center and the pop-up Pier 80 shelter. We also consider alternatives to shelters such as tiny home villages, legal encampments, and mega-shelters/campuses to help us answer how we might best address the most immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness in the city.

BETWEEN CRIMINALIZATION AND CARE: Policing and Social Service Outreach in
San Francisco's Homeless Encampments

Elizabeth Brown - Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, San Francisco State University
Dilara Yarbrough and TJ Johnston - UC Berkeley Human Rights Center and Coalition on Homelessness
Melanie B. Bien - Clinical Supervisor, San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team
Chris Herring - PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Sociology (Moderator)

This second panel examines how policing and social service outreach plays out on the streets of San Francisco on a day-to-day basis and what impact this has both on those experiencing homelessness and on the rest of the city. It also provides a historical and national context for the roles and impacts of "quality of life" laws aimed at homelessness, similar to those initiatives on the November ballot and currently operating in San Francisco. Collectively this talk provides the necessary context to understand the opportunities and limits of the interim solutions discussed on the other two panels.

EXPERIMENTS IN REFUGE: Shelter Alternatives in Portland, Seattle and Beyond

Ibrahim Mubarak - Right 2 Survive and Right 2 Dream Too, Portland
Sharon Lee, Executive Director, and Monica Joe, Project Manager - Low Income Housing Institute, Seattle
Chris Herring - PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Sociology
Tony Sparks - Professor of Urban Studies, San Francisco State University (Moderator)

Drawing together visiting panelists from Portland and Seattle, our final panel takes a look at how organized tent cities and legalized tiny home villages have developed as interim solutions to homelessness. Looking beyond the traditional shelter, how can different built environments, municipal regulations, community models, social service delivery, and mutual aid provide material and moral resources for those without access to affordable housing? We will discuss how this has been done in other cities and what the opportunities and limits of such an approach might be in San Francisco.