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Living under a tarp next to Facebook HQ: ‘I don’t want people to see me’

The sprawling Silicon Valley campus has cafes, bike repair services, even dry cleaning. But across the road a homeless community epitomizes the wealth gap

In a patch of scrubland across the road from the Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley, a woman named Celma Aguilar recently walked along some overgrown train tracks. She stopped where a path forked into some vegetation, just a few hundred yardsfrom the tourists taking photos by an enormous image of a Like icon at the campus entrance.

Welcome to the mansion, Aguilar said, gesturing to a rudimentary shelter of tarps hidden in the undergrowth.

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The campsite is one of about 10 that dot the boggy terrain, and are a striking sight alongsidethe brightly painted, low-slung buildings housing the multi-billion-dollar corporation. The contrast epitomizes the Bay Area wealth gap.

Harold Schapelhouman, a fire chief whose department has dealt with conflagrations on the land, said he was struck by the disparities. Their employees are very well taken care of. They have on-site medical facilities, dry cleaning, bicycle repair, they feed them and there are restaurants that are there. Its amazing what Facebook does for its employees. And yet within eyeshot it really isnt that far there are people literally living in the bushes.

Schapelhouman said he was not blaming Facebook, though it is true that the success of technology companies has driven up real estate prices in the area. As a whole, California is one of the lowest-ranking US states for the availability of affordable housing, and has one-fifth of Americas homeless population. Irrespective of the utopianism that imbues Silicon Valley culture, the tech campuses are not immune to these broader social problems.

An aerial view of the Facebook campus on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The land that the homeless encampments are on lies across the main road. Photograph: Noah Berger / Reuters/Reuters

Aguilar, 44, said she was aware of the Facebook HQ, though she wasnt quite sure what happened there as it always seemed so quiet. Can I get a job there? So I can get out from here.

The land where the encampments are located belongs largely to the state and private owners, and it takes 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Aguilar pointed out a pond, covered with scum, at which she said she sometimes washed. One campsite spills out from a huge clump of marshy greenery. Another is reached via a railway sleeper slung across a strip of water where a number of bike frames are submerged.

Salvadorian by birth, Aguilar said she once worked in nursing homes and at Burger King, and had four children. She said she had been homeless for about three years as a result of a crystal meth addiction, and thought she suffered from mental illness. Can you see how the trees move? she said as she sat on the rusted train tracks. I like to think theyre talking to me.

Friend requests and instant messages presumably zing back and forth on the other side of the street christened Hacker Way, but Aguilar said she had lost her Facebook password. No matter what I do they dont want to give it back to me.

A man named Rafael Barajas Ortiz, living in a lean-to amid mud and trash, said that, like Aguilar, he had no phone. Another resident opened the door of his shelter, which was blocked off by fencing made of woven branches, and said I dont use Facebook, before declining to be interviewed further.

Passing by on his bike, a local named Jesus said he did log on to the site, but he faced a problem familiar to many homeless people: he had nowhere to charge his phone. (He showed the Guardian his profile. The public pictures offered no hint he was on the streets.)

A homeless encampment near Facebook headquarters. Photograph: Alastair Gee for the Guardian

Although it is not widely known, phone ownership and even social media usage are relatively common among homeless people, even if not those living next to Facebook. One Bay Area survey of around 250 homeless people found that 62% had phones. A study of homeless youth in Los Angeles indicated that more than three-quarters used social media.

Devices and service plans are readily available because the federal government offers subsidized cellular service to low-income Americans. It is known as the Obamaphone program both to its users and its rightwing critics, but in fact it originated as a landline subsidy during the Reagan era. The minimum standards specify 500 minutes per month of talk time or 500 megabytes of 3G data, and consumers can get a combination of them.

They use the phone for exactly the same reasons we use it, said Allan Baez, who launched a program that involved giving hundreds of free, Google-donated phones to homeless people. The cameras are particularly popular. They are individuals, they have kids, they have friends, they have good moments, and you take pictures.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the encampments, though he noted that the companys investments in local affordable housing include an $18.5m commitment announced late last year. Otherwise, the county provides an array of homeless services, and its homeless numbers have dipped a moderate amount, according to a 2015 count.

The sign welcoming visitors to Facebooks campus. The company recently said it would invest $18.5m in local affordable housing. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Standing amid waving grass near a campsite, Gonzalo Apale, in a filthy jacket and work boots, described social media access as almost a marker of his progress in life. Ill try to get a telephone very soon, Ill use Facebook again, he said with optimism.

Still, he tries to avoid walking on the same side of the road as the Facebook campus because I dont want people to see me like this, he said. Because they are clean and everything.

Towards sunset, Aguilar took a path that spiraled up a small hill to a clearing littered with detritus.

Im going to make my house here, she explained, gesturing at a partially unfurled tent. The Facebook campus was visible through the tops of the bushes. Preferably, she said, it would not be.

The trees will grow and no one will see me.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/31/facebook-campus-homeless-tent-city-menlo-park-california

Berkeley’s liberal image in question amid homeless crisis: ‘The soul of our city is at stake’

Recent deaths challenge citys identity as a bastion of humanitarian values and injects urgency into debate on how to address homelessness as rents are soaring

One morning in mid-January, after days of intense rain, Tom White trudged to the back of an empty, muddy lot he owns across from Berkeley high school. He noticed a mound against the fence, next to some old tarps.

At first I thought it was another pile of garbage someone had dumped, White said. Then he looked closer. I realized thats human hair, thats a human shape. I just stood there and noticed there were no signs of life.

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A woman, clad in layers of sweaters, was soaked and doubled over in a squat. She held an empty bottle. White called 911 and the body of the woman, later identified as 55-year-old Laura Jadwin, was taken away by the coroner. She was one of at least four homeless people to die in the past few months on the streets of Berkeley, California.

The deaths, in the middle of one of the coldest, wettest winters in years, have challenged Berkeleys idea of itself as a bastion of progressive and humanitarian values. They have also injected fresh urgency into a bitter debate over how to address homelessness when rents are soaring and affordable housing is vanishing.

Literally the soul and the character of our city is at stake, said Jesse Arreguin, Berkeleys recently elected mayor. Homelessness, he said, is a humanitarian crisis and its increasing every week. We have to address this issue more effectively.

For years, Berkeley has been known to locals by one of two nicknames: the Peoples Republic of Berkeley, birthplace of both the free speech movement and the Symbionese Liberation Army; and Berzerkeley, a time capsule of hippies and head shops. A festival named How Berkeley Can You Be?, now defunct, encapsulated the milieu: it brought together naked people, anti-circumcision activists and fire-breathers.

Yet today, Berkeleys values are clashing with unyielding economic realities. In recent years, its downtown has exploded with pricey restaurants and upscale apartment buildings catering to young technologists and researchers. Nearly 900 units are now under construction or approved.

Berkeley median rents have soared more than 40% in the past three years, to $3,483 a month, according to real estate firm Zillow. Meanwhile the homeless population has grown from 680 in 2009 to probably more than 1,000 today, according to the mayor. Strikingly, this is around 1% of the citys population.

There is a direct association between how fast rents are growing and how much homelessness there is in cities, said Svenja Gudell, Zillows chief economist.

A memorial in Berkeley for 55-year-old Laura Jadwin. Photograph: Rob Waters for the Guardian

White, the man who found Jadwins body, said he has been discouraged by the nimbyish attitude of some of his fellow Berkeleyans.

They say, Why do we have to build more housing in Berkeley? They can go live somewhere else. But I dont think thats going to address the problem of homelessness. We cant build a wall and say, Go live in Nevada. Were going to have to have a community approach.

While nearly everyone in Berkeley agrees that housing costs are out of control, discussions on homelessness are among the most contentious to come before the city council.

In 2012, a measure to bar people from sitting or lying on downtown streets at night was placed on the ballot by political moderates then in control of the council, backed by business groups. The head of Berkeleys downtown association argued, approvingly, that the measure would shoo homeless people away from the citys main commercial districts.

But the so-called sit/lie measure outraged civil libertarians and progressives, who denounced it for scapegoating the vulnerable, criminalizing poverty and being out of step with the citys history. After a rancorous campaign, it lost by a slim margin.

Three years later, following complaints from residents about aggressive behavior and unsanitary conditions, the council passed new measures aimed at homeless residents that opponents quickly dubbed anti-poor laws. They restrict to 2 square feet the amount of sidewalk space that can be taken up by peoples belongings, bar public urination or defecation, and require people who keep their possessions in shopping carts to move them every hour.

In response, a band of homeless activists known as First They Came for the Homeless set up a protest camp dubbed Liberty City in front of Berkeleys old city hall. It grew to about 50 people before police evicted them after a two-week stay and arrested several campers. The group has since been ejected from several more sites.

A band of homeless activists known as First They Came for the Homeless set up a protest camp. Photograph: Rob Waters for the Guardian

Mike Zint, a spokesman and organizer, said the encampments provide a way for homeless people to protest being treated as criminals because were poor. They also offer a dignified alternative to crowded shelters, where, Zint said, peoples possessions are stolen, they are exposed to infections, and they sleep poorly before being kicked out at 6 in the morning with all your gear.

Early this year, the group set up a new camp with about 20 tents on a grassy, city-owned parcel. So far it has been tolerated by authorities. The camp is a mix of newcomers such as Ariah Inlerah, 33, a transgender woman who fled anti-gay violence in Bloomington, Indiana, and longtime Berkeley residents such as Brett Schnaper, a 55-year-old former cook who has been homeless since he lost his rent-controlled, $1,100-a-month apartment early last year.

Here, I have a place to keep my gear and some reasonable hope it will still be there when I come back, he said, sitting in a canvas folding chair outside a tent.

To be fair, many Berkeleyans have great empathy for the citys homeless residents. In December, as the weather was worsening, Arreguin and a progressive majority took control of the city council and began pushing for change. The city set up an emergency operations center to coordinate crisis housing and opened a 47-bed winter shelter, for instance.

But a fight is likely looming: any proposal to provide more services is likely to provoke backlash from residents who argue they will draw more homeless people to the city.

Clearly we need fewer services, not more, said someone who wrote on Nextdoor, an online forum where residents post about neighborhood issues, under the name Eric Friedman. We need robust enforcement of our laws and criminal prosecution for violators. No camping. No crapping in public.

The contradictions inherent in liberal Berkeley are exemplified by Patrick Kennedy, a developer of luxury housing whose company donated $10,000 to support the sit/lie measure four years ago. Now he wants to build tiny studio apartments for the homeless modular units the size of shipping containers that can be stacked like Legos and sees no inconsistency in his stance.

Brett Schnaper, center, and Mike Zint, right, at the First They Came for the Homeless encampment in Berkeley. Photograph: Rob Waters for the Guardian

Its a two-pronged approach, he said. I supported the ordinance because you cant have people camping out on your sidewalks and maintain the businesses and other social activities. But I also support the city actively doing something to address the problem.

However compassionate Berkeley tries to be, some obstacles are insurmountable. Take the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, which is dispatching staff members armed with tablet computers to talk to homeless people and assess their needs.

Since the beginning of last year, the agency has placed 54 homeless people into housing, said Sharon Hawkins Leyden, the groups director of client services. Yet only three have been able to stay in Berkeley, she said. The rest have been offered homes in Oakland, Stockton and even Sacramento, a city almost 80 miles away.

Berkeley rents, Hawkins said, are just too high.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/15/berkeley-california-homeless-identity-crisis

More than one-third of schoolchildren are homeless in shadow of Silicon Valley

Tech economy is drawing new inhabitants and businesses but is contributing to dislocation, leaving families, teachers and even principals with housing woes

Every night for the past year or so, Adriana and Omar Chavez have slept in an RV parked in East Palo Alto, a downtrodden community in Silicon Valley.

On a recent morning before sunrise, they emerged on to the empty street. Omar showed his phone to his wife: 7.07am. Shall I wake up the girls? he said, his breath visible in the freezing air.

He headed inside to rouse their three daughters, huddled together in the low-ceilinged bed just above the drivers cab, and ready them for school.

In most places, the Chavez family would be an exception. But in the school district that includes East Palo Alto, located amid the extraordinary wealth generated by the tech industry, their plight is not uncommon.

Remarkably, slightly more than one-third of students or 1,147 children are defined as homeless here, mostly sharing homes with other families because their parents cannot afford one of their own, and also living in RVs and shelters. The district is being squeezed from every side: teachers, administrative staff and even principals have housing woes of their own.

The circumstances of the crisis are striking. Little more than a strip of asphalt separates East Palo Alto from tony Palo Alto, with its startups, venture capitalists, Craftsman homes and Whole Foods.

You used to say youre on the wrong side of the tracks. Now youre on the wrong side of the freeway, said Gloria Hernandez-Goff, the hard-charging superintendent of Ravenswood City school district, which has eight schools and a preschool.

The Chavez family lost their home after Omar was injured, which prevented him from working. Photograph: Alastair Gee for the Guardian

East Palo Alto has traditionally been a center for African American and Latino communities. Its suburban houses are clustered on flat land by the bay, sometimes with no sidewalks and few trees, but residents say the town boasts a strong sense of cohesion.

Yet as in the rest of Silicon Valley, the technology economy is drawing new inhabitants and businesses the Facebook headquarters is within Ravenswoods catchment area and contributing to dislocation as well as the tax base.

Now you have Caucasians moving back into the community, you have Facebookers and Googlers and Yahooers, said Pastor Paul Bains, a local leader. Thats whats driven the cost back up. Before, houses were rarely over $500,000. And now, can you find one under $750,000? You probably could, but its a rare find.

Hernandez-Goff, who worked as a community organizer and in schools in northern California before becoming superintendent three and a half years ago, gives tech firms some credit.

Facebook recently announced it had committed $18.5m for affordable housing in the area. Meanwhile, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by pediatrician Priscilla Chan and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, her husband, has funded programs in the Ravenswood district including literacy and leadership initiatives, Hernandez-Goff said, adding that she meets with Chan or her staff monthly.

For all that, Hernandez-Goff thinks the systemic problems housing shortages, wage stagnation, inequality are beyond her. Her focus is on the immediate needs of families.

She wants to open a school parking lot to cars and RVs at night, so families with children can sleep without being disturbed; she thinks lack of sleep and stress are contributing to her districts low test scores. And she would like to install washing machines in schools for those without homes.

Gloria Hernandez-Goff thinks the systemic problems housing shortages, wage stagnation, inequality are beyond her. Photograph: Alastair Gee for the Guardian

The Chavez family lost their home after Omar was injured, which prevented him from working and then faced the areas exorbitant rent costs. Average one-bedroom rents in East Palo Alto are above $2,200, according to the city, and money is tight for the couple. Adriana earns only $11 an hour at a day care. Their tired-looking RV, with its $1,000 price tag, seemed the most logical option for them and their kids.

For them at the beginning, especially the youngest one, it was scary, Omar said.

With the dawn sun only a gleam on the horizon, he turned on a generator so his daughters could use the lights. Soon after, a very small child came to the doorway. Her jacket was zipped up and she held a blue hair clip. Ariel, six, had been watching Zootopia on the TV inside.

The RV has almost no free space. The main cabin has two beds one for the girls, and a second that converts into a table where the children do their homework. Omar cooks in a tiny kitchen, but because the refrigerator is broken there is no way to store fresh food. Bags of clothing are heaped on the floor, and the windows are sealed with aluminum tape for warmth. Omar sleeps in a back room crowded with belongings.

The shower is here, but we turned it into a closet, said Luna, five, pointing at a door. Instead, the family washes at a YMCA. They try to use the RV toilet as little as possible because the tank fills quickly.

The couples third daughter, Lannette, 15, was still in bed under some blankets. She was sick with what she thought was an ear infection. Its difficult, she said of the living situation, but at least I have somewhere to sleep.

Several homeless families whose children attend local schools told the Guardian that they had considered moving to cheaper real estate markets, such as the agricultural Central Valley, but there were no jobs there.

One man shares a single room with three children, in a house where three other families each have a room. Another woman lives with her partner and five children in a converted garage.

Even teachers are not immune to such difficulties. Ten of the staff who work on early education programs one-third of the total commute two or more hours each way a day because they cannot find housing they can afford.

Amanda Kemp, 47, is the principal of an East Palo Alto school. Based on her income, she says she has no option but to share a home with three other educators. I was done with roommates in college, she said. Not once did I even think I would live with others unless it was a significant other.

Hernandez-Goff hopes to build apartments for staff on land owned by the school district. She speaks of her students and employees as an endangered species, on the verge of extinction.

Their predicament is not abstract to her. I love this place, she said. I wish I could buy a house here.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/28/silicon-valley-homeless-east-palo-alto-california-schools

Las Vegas faces wave of squatters as thousands of homes sit abandoned

Authorities are upping their game with new laws and more aggressive enforcement after a 25% leap in the last three years in calls regarding squatters

From the start, officer Scott Vaughn sensed there was something peculiar about the people living in the house on Ocotillo Mesa Drive.

He figured one thing was for sure: they shouldnt be there.

They were illegal squatters who had slipped into a vacant house in this middle class neighborhood with palm trees and well-groomed lawns. And it was his job to flush them out.

Responding to Vaughns mid-morning knock, a man in his early 20s, dressed in shorts and a tank top decorated with cacti, came to the door.

Vaughn was straightforward: how long have you lived here? Do you have a lease?

The barefooted man didnt have many answers. Sure, he had a lease right there at the ready. But everything else he said was a muddle. No, he didnt have any ID and couldnt remember his social security number. His parents had rented the place and they were at work. No, he didnt have the telephone number. The landlord was a man he knew only as Robert, and he had recently disconnected his phone.

All I can say is that we have a lease, the man offered, looking over his shoulder at an elderly woman pushing a walker past a living room crucifix. A German Shepherd barked anxiously in the side yard.

Code enforcement officer Tony Cardona investigates inside a squatter home in North Las Vegas. Photograph: David Becker for the Guardian

Vaughn, a 16-year police veteran and his departments designated anti-squatter officer, had heard enough. He knew the family had been denied water services and had forced open the line at the house. He was going to come back soon, he said, to interview the mans parents. Meanwhile, the water to the house would be switched off that day.

Listen, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, he said. You make the call.

In Las Vegas, where an up-and-down economy creates big winners and desperate losers, thousands of houses sit vacant, abandoned to the gray-area between people who could no longer afford them and banks trying to get a handle on a spiraling inventory.

Into the breach has stepped thousands of squatters, among them suspected scam artists who scheme to get utilities turned on at their chosen targets, living for free as they plot their end game: getting a bank to pay them to leave in a racket known as cash-for-keys.

Using bogus leases, the scammers bring crime. Some have run drug, prostitution and weapons sale rings from their adopted homes. Others have started fires and slowly stripped houses of all resalable items.

This scourge of illegal occupancies is the lasting legacy of the regions housing collapse of nearly a decade ago, which at the time left more than 80% of homes in southern Nevada underwater, a figure three times the national rate. Today, more than 2%, or nearly 14,000 homes, sit vacant in southern Clark County; the national average is 1.6%.

Las Vegas metropolitan police, which patrol an area of nearly two million residents, have seen a 25% leap in the last three years in calls for service regarding suspected squatters, up to nearly 5,000 annually. In North Las Vegas, a city with 200,000 residents, officers have worked to remove trespassers from 180 homes in the last year alone.

Now, authorities are upping their game with new laws and more aggressive enforcement.

North Las Vegas has created a taskforce of police, code enforcement and utilities officials that have developed ways to red flag foreclosed vacant houses before squatters get a chance to move in.

A new law approved by the state legislature last year now brings possible jail time for such offenses as housebreaking and forcibly entering a vacant home to take up residence or letting someone else live there without the owners consent.

Victoria Seaman, a Nevada assemblywoman and real estate agent who helped sponsor the new anti-squatter law, said Nevada is leading the nation in tough new housebreaking laws.

This is a problem nationwide, but no more so than here, she said. Were hearing from other states who want to jump onboard with similar laws.

North Las Vegas police officers Alain Villanueva and Scott Vaughn investigate a possible squatter residence. Photograph: David Becker for the Guardian

Romina Wilson, business services manager for the North Las Vegas utilities department, has seen most of the tricks scammers use.

Many times, the owners name is wrong or humorously misspelled on the boilerplate lease. Other times, the leases indicate that the rent is paid to the rental address itself. Or the telephone number for the owner and renter are identical.

Wilson has telephoned so-called owners numbers with the would-be renter there in front of her.

They stand there while the phone in their pocket suddenly starts ringing, she said. They pretend its not happening. And then they try to look at you with a straight face.

Vaughn said he was investigating a suspect he believes targets longterm occupant motels in town looking for takers: For $700, he can get them into a vacant house, where they can stay rent free until a bank pays them $3,500 to vacate the premises.

Children are often unwitting victims to the scams. Vaughn arrested a mother with five children, aged two to 11, who squatted in a house for eight months, the last five without water. Neighbors spotted her jumping fences at night to steal water.

The grandmother took custody of the kids, and was flabbergasted her daughter could allow them to live this way, he said. We were both flabbergasted.

On a recent week day, Vaughn and Officer Allen Villanueva were busy.

After the stop on Ocotillo Mesa, another tip from a neighbor led the patrolmen to a house inhabited by four suspected squatters.

After questioning, two men were arrested for unrelated warrants, and the women dragged their belongings out to the street, as city workers bolted the doors behind them.

When I go home to the neighborhood Ive chosen for a safe environment, he said. Im satisfied that Ive helped provide that safe environment for someone else.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/30/las-vegas-squatters-homes-abandoned-police

Seen and not heard: homeless people absent from election even as ranks grow

In San Francisco and beyond, homelessness makes voting nearly impossible and all but ensures the issue has little visibility on the campaign trail

It is no mean feat to cast a ballot when home is a doorway or a tent beneath a freeway underpass. When your mailing address is General Delivery, or the Prison Legal Services office, or someone elses room at an SRO hotel. When the hunt for a voting precinct vies with the search for food and shelter.

Even so, the presidential contest has been front of mind at the St Anthony Foundation dining room in San Franciscos gritty Tenderloin district.

voices of america callout

The first seating at St Anthony is for families and the elderly. Lunch starts at 10am and is often the only meal of the day for people such as Tom Orrell, who is picking at his turkey dish and talking politics.

His home is a patch of sidewalk at the corner of Jones Street and Golden Gate Avenue. His party, the Democrats. His candidate, Bernie Sanders but he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, even though hes not sure America is ready for a female president. His issue is healthcare, with a dash of education.

The way I look at it, weve got to have healthy kids, says the 62-year-old former construction worker, who votes whether he has a roof or not. For two years, he has not. To get them healthy, we need to have education. Were falling down in both. To have a bright future, we need better healthcare.

Nearly half of the St Anthony diners are homeless, and the rest are extremely low income. Volunteers registered 60 diners to vote before the California primary on 7 June. Another registration drive is planned for October.

The issue of homelessness, however, has largely been absent from the campaign trail in 2016, even though it is a priority across the nation.

Throughout the primary season, the Guardian asked American voters to name matters they care about but that the packed field of Republicans and three Democratic candidates who had eyes set on the Oval Office did not address to their satisfaction. Homelessness was among them. They are not alone.

Since last autumn, the state of Hawaii and cities along the west coast have declared homelessness states of emergency. In New York, where people have a legal right to shelter, calls to the citys 311 line complaining about homeless people rose this winter, according to the New York Times.

In Los Angeles County where the vacancy rate is less than 3% in some areas and 500,000 affordable housing units are needed officials announced in May that the number of homeless people has risen 5.7% in the last year, to 46,874. Thats nearly half the homeless population in huge, temperate California.

People form a queue outside St Anthonys dining room as they wait to get a free meal, in San Franciscos Tenderloin district. Photograph: Gabrielle Lurie for the Guardian

The latest federal count, conducted in January 2015, placed the number of homeless people in the US at 564,708. Thats almost as many people who live in the entire state of Wyoming. More than three-quarters of the countrys homeless people are of voting age.

Not that youd know it to listen to the candidates who survived longest in the mud-slinging contest to pick the Democratic and Republican nominees for president.

During a San Francisco campaign swing a month ago, Sanders voiced surprise at the prevalence of homeless people in this graceful, generous city, which spends around $200m a year on homeless services, according to the municipal budget analyst.

Just been in San Francisco for a few hours, the Vermont senator told a crowd at a union rally, and its stunning to see people sleeping out in the street.

Hillary Clinton held a May rally in an ornate historic building just a block from the St Anthony Foundation dining room; the former secretary of state backs efforts to help homeless youth and veterans, although those positions are hidden deep in her campaign website.

For his part, real estate mogul Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has no platform on homelessness, although the issue did arise in August.

Thats when two drunk Trump supporters in Boston awakened a 58-year-old homeless Hispanic man by urinating on his face. Scott Leader, 38, and Steve Leader, 30, then ripped off his blankets and sleeping bag, riffled through his belongings and beat him with a metal pipe and their fists, breaking his nose.

While he was being booked into jail, according to the police report, the older brother said it was OK to assault the victim, because he was Hispanic and homeless.

Scott also stated Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported, the police report continued, although the victim is a legal resident. Scott also said he was arrest[ed] because white people always are and never the minorities.

When asked about the assault at a press conference in New Hampshire, Trump told reporters he had not heard about it, but that it would be a shame.

Then he paused and continued: I will say the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. And they are very passionate.

Two days later, Trump revised his comments via Twitter: Boston incident is terrible. We need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect. I would never condone violence.

In May, the brothers were sentenced to state prison after pleading guilty to causing bodily injury while committing a civil rights violation, among other charges.

In a piece outlining candidates positions, San Franciscos Street Sheet called the incident Trumps worst moment on homelessness, although it noted that there are so many choices.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to emails asking about the Republicans stand on homelessness.

Felix Estrada Garcia, left, sits on the sidewalk in the Tenderloin. More than 70 people in the citys master voting list cite General Delivery as their mailing address. Photograph: Gabrielle Lurie for the Guardian

There are no good statistics on how many homeless people are registered to vote nationwide, although the National Coalition for the Homeless estimated in 2012 that only one-tenth of unhoused persons actually exercise the right to vote.

Court cases in the 1980s and 1990s established the right of homeless people to vote even if they do not have a traditional residence. Some states, including California, require a mailing address to register but allow people to use the cross streets where they normally sleep to figure out their precinct.

In the master voting list for San Francisco, for example, at least 140 people registered using the address of the plain, blocky building that houses the public defenders office and Prisoner Legal Services, among other government entities. More than 70 list General Delivery as their mailing address.

Maria Foscarinis, the executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said that in recent years new laws are making it more difficult for homeless and other poor people to vote, including requirements for photo identification.

Homeless people are among the most marginalized populations in the United States, Foscarinis said. Its really hard to get out of homelessness once youre in it. Not being able to affect the political process makes that cycle just that much harder to break.

Just ask Charles Cooper, a neat and dignified 64-year-old having lunch on Wednesday at the St Anthony Foundation dining room. He is not currently registered to vote, having just returned to San Francisco after six months in Atlanta.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/09/homelessness-us-election-2016-san-francisco-voting

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