As the Super Bowl quickly approaches this Sunday, roughly a dozen drag queens banded together in San Francisco, Tuesday, to pass out food, clothing and lifeline essentials to the homeless who have started relocating beneath the 101 freeway, both proactively and under threat of arrest if failing to vacate downtown, remembering full well Mayor Ed Lee’s declaration last summer that they would “have to leave” to make way for America’s cherished event – an event, coincidentally, that year after year coincides with an enormous spike in sex trafficking. That message was compounded more recently when KQED reported as per Supervisor Scott Wiener that the homeless camps “need to go away.”
Lovely, right? Just like the World Cup in Brazil and virtually any other enormous sporting event hosted where poverty and homelessness lives every other day of the year without notice or question, paving the way for human trade, the Super Bowl is storming in, taking over the city and shooing the “undesirables” under the concrete rug so the tourists, sports freaks and johns don’t have to see anything dirtier than the sweat of their star players and the back of some trafficked person’s head. Snopes claims that’s not true, but there are plenty of more reliable sources that disagree.
Sex trafficking at this good old “American” event only serves to call into question our priorities as a culture, underlining the sense of privilege so many blatantly display, as the homeless are literally herded out of the way in order to create a Disney-like illusion of America for tourists flocking to the event. In order for all the haves to be happy and dream-walk through their Super Bowl experience (hopefully resulting in them spending a maximum amount of their hard-earned money in the process), the have-nots are removed – not aided or addressed in any positive manner, just shuffled to a different area where hopefully no one will notice them, just like every other day of the year. Folks in S.F. are used to their homeless, but the tourists are not, so get them the hell out of there so no one thinks too deeply or feels uncomfortable. Displace what little lives the homeless have left so no one has to bump against a moment where their comfort zone is challenged or their privilege is highlighted. That’s the American way!
But these San Francisco drag queens aren’t having that. They’re not okay with it, and good for them. That’s why they started laying out donations for the homeless near the SoMa StrEatfood Park, where they provided clothing, a tent, tampons and other essentials, while serving up hot, homemade food, as well.
“Some of us got together and thought, ‘Hey, let’s just do something.’ We’re hoping that this is something that keeps going,” drag queen Simone said.
Over 100 tents have popped up near 13th and Harrison, lately. With news of the homeless being swept out of the city, the queens knew they had to do something.
“I am super angry at the Super Bowl pushing the homeless where they have nowhere to go,” said Jolene, who works during the day in the tech industry, stating that she feels her industry is “partly responsible” for driving up homelessness in the city.
“We’re spending millions of dollars on what we feel is a very frivolous sporting event,” Piranha, a main organizer for the action, said pointing toward the estimated $5 million “Shaky Town” anticipates spending on the event.
The queens didn’t waste any time, either. Their idea to help the homeless had only been formulated two days before they took action. Frequently, they’d lamented “the state of our city,” making the decision Sunday night to pull together all the donations they could for the event.
“When I walk home after drag, they walk me home, they’re part of this community,” drag queen Snowflake said.
Several dozen homeless were helped as a result of the queens’ actions, filling their bellies with fresh penne, securing jackets, toiletries, socks and other clothing, even a tent. Some needed so much help a queen or two had to help them lug all their assistance back to wherever they were camped out.
As MissionLocal points out, homeless woman Anna Held immediately inquired about the one tent among the donations.
“Go for it,” was the response she received, to her great and utter relief. She told her saviors that she’d been in an abusive relationship recently and the very night before her ex-lover tore up her tent, leaving her in the rain – a potentially deadly situation for the homeless. That new, donated tent may just have saved her life.
“The fact that I’m able to have somewhere where he doesn’t know what it looks like – I’m gonna go back and cry,” Held said.
Held struck gold again before leaving as a man dropped off a nice winter jacket. She burst into tears when he handed it to her.
She hugged the coat tightly, stating, “Oh my god. When someone takes everything from you, and then strangers come and give you something – it just means a lot… You guys are awesome for that.”
Filmmaker Michael Reiner, who filmed and interviewed the homeless to give them a voice amidst the deplorable scuffle, said:
‘I wondered about the people who’d be affected by the Mayor’s plans to move the homeless away from Super Bowl City. I wanted to ensure they would be seen and heard, even if they weren’t seen during the Super Bowl. When I went out, I didn’t know what to expect from the city’s homeless. What I found is a community of good, kind-hearted people who are in a horrible situation and need support.’
You can check out Reiner’s short film, below:
Transgender homeless woman, domestic violence survivor and American veteran Kathy Scott stated of the drag queens’ donations and actions, “This is a big value. This all is really, really good. They care about us.”
Isn’t it about time San Francisco, and America as a whole, did the same? There are far better approaches to dealing with the homeless, as Utah has shown us. Like these honorable drag queens, we merely need to care enough to take action.
Featured image by Michael Petrelis via Vimeo video screen capture.