Incarcerating Public Space - From Boulders to Bars

Tiny - Posted on 05 October 2019

(photo by PNNWashington Correspondent & poverty skola Lisa Ganser

Listen to podcast by Tiny @povertyskola of this story by clicking here


Spikes, Bars, Fences and Stares 

You, houseless disabled elder, can’t sit there

You can’t stand, you can’t sleep, 

you dont have the right to a bed, bench or. chair

Don’t even try to stand if u houseless on these occupied BID’ed streets- …excerpt of Incarcerated public poem by tiny 


No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t wedge my butt into the space between the spikes. Yes I said it , my butt. You see there was an abandoned window sill of a huge bank building in downtown San Francisco that had installed 6 inch spikes into each of its ground floor windows for the sole purpose of stopping unhoused people from sitting down to rest. And let’s get this straight, when I say “unhoused people” this means mostly elder and disabled unhoused residents of San Francisco, proven by the recent “homeless counts”,  for any of you that don’t “believe” us poverty skolaz and our stories and WeSearch. 


GentrifUkers might think, well they aren’t my grandma, grandpa or mama, but guess what we are someone’s mama, grandmama, aunt, grandpa, brother, or uncle. As poverty skolaz, just cause we are houseless or have dealt with the violence of eviction and gentriFUKation, it doesn’t take away from our collective humanity. We are parts of families that have been intentionally dismantled by the forces of greed, separation nation, colonial land theft and krapitalist constructs of poverty And so now as has been the case for the last several years, the krapitalists , business owners, city and county and devil-opers, are actually taking away even more so-called public spaces for disabled elders, families and humans to sit down , if even for a minute, just to rest.


The recent  San Francisco city sponsored move to install actual boulders aka giant rocks on a so-called public sidewalk in San Francisco, which also isn’t new and has happened across the country, brought these hate-based moves we poverty skolaz speak on everyday, clearer into focus for everyone. PNN Washington correspondent and poverty skola Lisa Ganser wrote a piece on violent architecture for POOR Magazine over 2 years ago, documenting the increase in the installation of spikes and rocks and all number of hard objects to inhibit the sitting, standing and being of anyone who looks/acts homeless ( whatever that is) not to mention the ongoing, incessant removal of benches, seats, bus shelters and curbs, the gating, fencing, removing, apartheid like segregating and ultimately incarcerating of grassy areas, trees, lawns, parking lots, and areas, all so-called public.


Now it must be said that this is already occupied land. These so-called public sidewalks, lawns, plazas, fountains, university campuses and parks were all and are all occupied stolen indigenous territory before they were converted into so-called private and public property. Small and big swaths of Mama earth from “business parks” with miles of lawns and empty buildings, to preserves, parks, and campuses, occupied, bought, stolen, wasted and owned. So its already odd to me that the people who stole/invaded/occupied and then create paper saying they “owned” Mama Earth, get to make the decisions about what to do with these spaces. Its also why we poor and indigenous peoples launched the Stolen Land /Hoarded Resources Tours in 2016 and the Hoarded Mama Earth report and the LiberationOfLand Trusts concepts we practicing at Homefulness. But the naming of Mama Earth as “property” is required for krapitalism to exist and Krapitalism exists because of the hoarding/stealing/extracting and incarcerating of Mama Earth rooted in how much paper colonizer dollars you are able to hoard/make or steal.. So in this way there can be inherently not enough for everyone. In this way we can have scarcity always.


And scarcity models kill.  Krapitalism is rooted in this principal. How little do I have to do to support you, and the most important thing is I got mines, my so-called “happiness” is everything and always trumps the collective communities’ safety love, support and access. There is no space for those of us not seen as “useful” there is no space for those of us deemed as a problem. There is so little space that we will take away the space, incarcerate the spaces that are there and then the people so they no longer clutter our blank space with their troubling and complicated humanity, 


Footnote to all listening/reading about the idea of hygienic metaphors describing houseless peoples ( dirty, messy, Cleaning up), this parable applies to you- Imagine if someone took the roof off your room, home or apt, and threw all your belongings in a trash can every day or week - would people stare disgustingly at your now exposed home and call you “dirty” . its called the privilege of privacy and all you housed people inherently have this privilege so please hold your hater gaze at bay.


And don’t get it twisted this isn’t just the Bay Area. From Tennessee to St Petersberg to LA to New York, violent architecture, the emptiness of space, the constant pushing, sweeping and removing of everything that makes a human comfortable, have dignity, be human, is removed. In Tennessee, the hundreds of anti-poor people laws have people standing on the street in the gutter because they aren’t allowed to lean, sit , stand or be alive while houseless. In St Petersburg and LA ( as reported before by this poverty skola- they have open air cages for houseless people so we don’t clutter up the sidewalks. And back to Oakland and San Francisco, they are constantly removing benches so god forbid if any of us need, want or try to sit down.


And then there is the actual incarceration of unhoused peoples behind the same bars. God forbid we do sit, lie or stand while unhoused, from Business Improvement Districts which create patrolled “zones” where us houseless folks can’t be otherwise we will be moved along, cited or arrested (vigilantly researched and reported by comrades at, endless laws created to incarcerate folks for just being alive and seen while houseless in so-called public spaces, often ending up with our incarceration for the crime of being houseless, like myself in Santa Rita County jail for three months for the crime of being unhoused in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco throughout my childhood and young adulthood with my mama. 


The reasons poltricksters can’t ever solve this vexing” problem”  called our homelessness is they are in office to keep Krapitalism, its violence and killer scarcity models alive and truthfully until we all slowly but surely decolonize and degentriFUK our lives as we teach at POOR Magazine’s bi-yearly PeopleSkool and practice at Homefulness and teach in the Poverty Scholarship book and Sogorea Te Land Trust teaches and practices in their multiple land reclamation projects, Homelessness and its societal enablers will rage on.


Meanwhile politricksters and haters will put down more boulders, spikes, and bars,, take away more benches, incarcerate more empty , occupied parcels of mama earth and build less and less poor people housing for all of us houseless peoples, and my but will keep hurting. 


Incarcerated Public by Tiny- 

Boulders cause there are no shoulders

No space to sit, cry, stand or be holded if u homeless

No place to be loved - less and less mama earth - always jailed and shoved 


Spikes, Bars, Fences and Stares 

You, houseless disabled elder, can’t sit there

You can’t stand, you can’t sleep, 

you dont have the right to a bed, bench or. chair

Don’t even try to stand if u houseless on these occupied BID’ed streets



Sign-up for POOR email!