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Homeless hackers head to Noisebridge for shelter (kalw.org)
58 points by bifrost 1572 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

There have been times I've wanted to read in the library at noisebridge, but all the couches are just covered in people sleeping, it's pretty frustrating. I feel for homeless people, but I don't think it should be noisebridge's problem. I know I'm more tolerant than most and it discourages me from coming, I'm sure there are many more who are driven away by it.

It sounds like what you're trying to say is that this is a problem that's bigger than Noisebridge. I think that homelessness is a huge problem in San Francisco, and I think it's a shame that it's such a problem that Noisebridge has to make these decisions.

Try the Mechanic's Library, off Market St near the Crocker Galleria.

"not my problem" might seem like a reasonable position to take, but you can extend this argument and eventually conclude it's no-one's problem. or worse, some magical "other party's" (welfare state?) problem. this "not my problem" attitude is a big contribution to income inequality. it's "not my problem" to try to develop basic living conditions in those slums, all I give a shit is about this flashy shopping centre full of non-essentials!

not a very good long-term solution for a real problem. as the article says, a more productive approach is to ask, "how do you hack San Francisco's homelessness problem?"

Yes, it's Noisebridge's problem, as well as everyone's problem: homelessness is a moral stain on our society.

But letting homeless people into Noisebridge to sleep, eat, and dispose of bodily waste is not a solution to the problem of homelessness. It just turns Noisebridge into an outpost of the Tenderloin. No one wants to work in that kind of environment, and suddenly the central justification for Noisebridge's existence would have been put aside to build an inadequate homeless shelter for the month or two before dues-money runs out and the space is closed up.

Building up communities isn't magic. It takes work, bonds of trust, responsibility, and more work. The resources used to build up an institution can't be deployed willy-nilly. Organizations centrally devoted to homelessness don't take the naive solution of letting homeless people sleep in all their offices and bedrooms: it's not only pointless but would destroy the organization. Why should Noisebridge sap its own capabilities to deal with problems that it's well-suited for solving in favor of doing something no homeless advocate would suggest?

I agree, but are you letting homeless people sleep in your house or in your office? Letting them sleep at noisebridge doesn't do much to help the problem in the large, and impairs it as a space to hang out and work on projects with like minded people, which as far as I know is the idea behind noisebridge.

>I agree, but are you letting homeless people sleep in your house or in your office?

interesting how in future, when time will weather out a lot of details, people will look back at our time and see huge amount of dwellings - offices - going empty at night while some people would sleep under bridges, on the streets, etc... Was it a personal choice of these people, were they punished, banned from the society or was it a society without empathy? One can imagine various archaeo-socio-logical PhD-s.

letting them sleep won't help much, but kicking them out without thinking about trying to solve the issue in some other way just makes things worse. then, you're just brushing dirt under the carpet.

a more sincere argument would be, "it's not my problem or noisebridge's problem, but there ought to be something to solve that problem, so let's think about how to solve it - rather than simply stating 'it's not my problem' and burying our heads in the sand".

I have thought about it and I still haven't cracked it. The best idea I've heard is the whole basic income idea. I don't know what you want me to do though.

Not sure what you're trying to say with your post. Solving homelessness is definitely not part of Noisebridge's mission.

> "you can extend this argument and eventually conclude it's no-one's problem."

Not really... it is undebatably the "government's problem" (certainly local/city, perhaps state and federal). Furthermore, it is the problem of any organization that has 'helping the homeless' in their mission statement, of which there are many.

In my opinion, all hacker spaces, co-working spaces, etc. need somebody to be the "bad cop". Building any size community requires members to participate. Tech people in particular are generally less likely to want to cause confrontation, but for the betterment of the community some policing is always needed. It really goes back to respect. Respect the community, and it will respect you back.

Definitely. Maybe Noisebridge is a cool place to be, but I hear stories like this often enough and it really makes me never want to go there.

I've been to plenty of other spaces and it can be a cool scene, but Noisebridge's reputation isn't good.

If you're in SF you should stop by sometime, it's still overall a cool place to be, it's easy to get a distorted image of the place through the mailinglist and news articles.

For the record, this is sadly one of the reasons I don't hang out there more. I can deal with bikeshedding and organizational issues, but the threat of bedbugs/violence are not things I am super interested in.

I do go there specifically to meet up with people, and I do occasionally hang out on the FreeNode IRC channel, but thats about it these days.

I still love the concept of Noisebridge and it needs to exist, but I am not really a participant there right now.

I once went there for a meeting. It's easy to miss the place because it's in a nondescript residential building in the middle of a somewhat iffy part of the Mission district.

I arrived in the middle of a confrontation that almost turned violent. I can't see how anyone could get work done in such a space but maybe I'm just an old fogie. The experience made me really appreciate what I have.

Was it during a Tuesday night weekly meeting? That's when the tribal drama peaks.

> I arrived in the middle of a confrontation that almost turned violent.

Lemme guess: Lisp vs Haskell?

My favorite tribal thing will always be MSX vs Apple II...

Yes. I'm that old.

Slide rule vs vax!


Colossal Cave versus The Great Underground Empire?

Hurkle versus Mugwump versus Wumpus for the trifecta?

eh... its been a while :)

Three easy rules would solve everything:

1. No TVs allowed on premise - Gets rid of slackers, stoners and people who don't like to work.

2. No alcohol - Gets rid of endless trouble and alcoholics.

3. People must shower on a regular basis - Gets rid of the mentally ill.

I'm inclined to say that hacker spaces should have showers. That way there's no excuse. Plus, it makes it easier to work out there as well.

I haven't been to noisebridge, but I think some kind of requirement of a proactive attitude towards helping out with the space in some way, whether it be creating a banner, moving equipment, solicitation for new paid members, and cleaning would go a great way towards improving the community as well.

"I'm about to explain to the people sleeping in the bunk beds that the bunk beds are not for sleeping.

It is hard for me to type the above statement without laughing, but I persevere."


Some context for people who are not familiar with Noisebridge: the bunk beds are meant to provide a designated setting for napping.


All relevant mailing list threads are cataloged here http://shitnoisebridgesays.tumblr.com/

Housing strikes me as a pretty hackable problem. There's a lot of space between "residential hotels," Extended Stay America, and Airbnb, and there's a lot of potential especially in high-rent areas to come in under the cost of studio apartments by a lot, but still not be hovels.

If Soylent can find a market, surely there's a market for housing for hackers.

(It sounds like this isn't really quite the problem Noisebridge faces, but it's what it made me think of.)

This made wonder about the situation with a lot of houses that were foreclosed on over the years that are off the market ("owned" by banks and left in various conditions).

I wonder if someone could use the zillow api (or something in the open) in someway to deduce spaces/homes where people could invoke adverse possession and somehow work it into concepts of hackerspaces as far as funding and usage is concerned (maybe with some support of local communities as far as outreach and image is concerned), but with more lax requirements when it comes to allowing people to habitate.

IANAL, so all the specifics of how it would work out are hazy to me.

Unless you are a real estate pro, it is utter folly to rent your house out in SF due to the many provisions of the Ellis Act.


In here you will find so many overly tenant-friendly rules and rights that unless you can afford a really great lawyer to help you navigate them, it's easy for small time landlords to get screwed over hard. This probably means you.

I'm sure these rules were all instituted for good reasons, but IMO they've become an inane and insane entitlement

I witnessed their effect personally some years ago when one of the creators of bittorrent invoked the Ellis Act on an ex-girlfriend of mine who wanted to take the top floor of her house off the rental market. He nearly drove her to bankruptcy.

I'm not saying this is what always happens, but just seeing it occur once is more than enough to persuade one to never ever even consider being a landlord there.

I'm not talking about renting at all. I'm talking about "anyone, including corporations, the federal government, states, and municipal corporations, can be an adverse possessor"[0], but in this case some entity (e.g. hackerspace group ltd|org|corp|llc) that raises funds like traditional hackerspace groups in order to pay property taxes on residential homes that are being claimed in adverse possession.

This is just an idea I had in the moment though, but in my eyes, banks will give the most push back, though I'm sure some kinda of deal could be made if mutual ground can be found.

[0] http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Adverse+posses...

I don't see how you'd get around the reason those houses were abandoned in the first place: They have more debt attached to them than they're worth. Buying the house at auction means that you'd be responsible for those debts. I doubt adverse possession would change that.

Even if the above were not true, or the debts could be forgiven, the buyer would still be responsible for property taxes, which means they'd need a revenue stream to avoid the government coming to repossess the land. That could be hard to work up.

No it doesn't. Buying a foreclosed house at auction makes you responsible for the amount you bid on it (and yes, property taxes). The bank would have to eat the remainder of the debt.

From looking at this[0], in paragraphs, "actual" and "open and notorious", it seems like one can pay taxes on it without buying it in an auction, while still claiming adverse possession.

And to address the how to pay for it aspect, it would raise income like other hacker spaces through "members" (among other ideas the community who works/habitates there decides to do through whatever entity that is the claimant of adverse possession).

[0] http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Adverse+posses...

I would counter that if any such properties existed in SF, and there was an opportunity for this sort of arbitrage, it already happened. There are just too many agents scouring this market for bargains at all times for me to believe otherwise. Consider it a weak form of the efficient market hypothesis. In my own experience, any amazing(tm) bargain I encountered over the past 5 years since the crash was quickly bid up to efficient rates.

Here's my personal favorite example that I descended upon only to balk at all the offers already in place: http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2011/01/11_offers_and_27_...

That said, you never know until you know...

>I would counter that if any such properties existed in SF, and there was an opportunity for this sort of arbitrage, it already happened… Consider it a weak form of the efficient market hypothesis…

I can agree with what you are saying, but I propose that maybe (having never been/lived in SF) that the types places agents are looking for (quick flips? and off the market for reasons mentioned already) and the types of places that might be suitable for hackerspace group ltd|org|corp|llc (enclosed and with a roof and off the market for reasons mentioned already), if one were to make a venn diagram there would be at least one third agents havent been looking at (maybe less so in sf than in other areas in the country).

Or proposed another way, how many homes are being knocked down by banks[0] (and in SF to be relevant)?

I'm asking friends who are involved in real estate (not in sf), because talking about this more has got me more interested to see who else I know is up for trying something.

[0] http://www.newser.com/story/124793/why-banks-are-knocking-do...

Vacancy rate in San Francisco is quite low.

"And now they’re asking themselves a hard question: how do you hack San Francisco's homelessness problem?"

I like that "I am just hacking this sandwich."

There's a pretty large discussion going on about this on the Noisebridge mailing list, just forwarded this link.

Is it a public list? Can you post that link?

The article is alarmist, hardly anyone shoots up in the space anymore.


this is enough of an issue that someone started a 'rooster brigade' to wake the sleepers up:


If you can hack together some rent money, you can stay 2 blocks from Noisebridge at 20mission. A lot of my roommates are "hacking" life at Burning Man, but I might see if we can coordinate a Noisebridge group.


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