Panhandler bill intensifies SF homelessness debate

SAN FRANCISCO: Newly proposed legislation concerning panhandling

has set off a flurry of public debate over the issue of homelessness in

San Francisco.



Supervisor Gavin Newsom has drafted legislation that would ban

panhandling from street medians, parking lots, public transportation

stations, ATMs and near movie theaters.



His proposal has provoked intense media coverage across the state and

interest from national newspapers. His press team said it was not

entirely prepared for such a strong reaction, even though homeless

issues are always a provocative topic in San Francisco. The Coalition on

Homelessness has publicly criticized the bill.



"I was a bit surprised. I don't think I was expecting quite as much

response as I got," said Michael Farrah, Newsom's legislative aide, who

has been handling press calls. Articles have run in the Los Angeles

Times, Reuters and numerous radio stations. National newspapers have

also been calling.



Farrah said the biggest misconception he is dealing with is that Newsom

proposed the measures in an attempt to gain publicity for a mayoral bid

when Mayor Willie Brown's term is up in two years.



Newsom's team was also concerned about his image while drafting the

bill.



"We were very concerned Newsom would come across as mean-spirited, so we

had to include this legislation with other reforms," explained

Farrah.



The bill includes ideas for improving the condition of shelters, and

making sure there are enough shelter beds and treatment services for the

homeless.



Newsom also wants to hold a regional conference on homelessness this

summer.



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