Man protests SF sit-lie law with bed in parking spot

September 28, 2011 7:14:12 PM PDT
Twenty-one-year old Cricket Anthony says he's been on the road from Maine for five years. He came to San Francisco at the suggestion of his "road dog" (someone you travel with, he explains.) They arrived Tuesday night, and Wednesday he took a brief rest on a twin bed parked at a metered parking spot on Haight Street near Cole Street.

"It was really comfy," he said.

The bed has been parked there every day since Monday. Its owner, 29-year-old San Francisco advertising student Bennett Austin sets it up and feeds the meter, $2 an hour, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Why? Austin says he wants to give the area's homeless youth a way around the city's sit-lie law, forbidding sitting and sleeping on the sidewalks from 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

Austin is also raising money to buy beds for the Haight-based Homeless Youth Alliance, a youth shelter.

A bedside water bottle collects donations from passers-by. As of mid-day Wednesday, Austin said he had about $300 from the bottle and more than $400 in online donations.

"I think instead of putting laws in place to push a problem away we should put more effort into changing things and coming up with a solution," Austin said.

A woman who made a donation says she's lived in the Haight for 20 years and has mixed feelings about the sit-lie law. She didn't like the aggressive behavior of some homeless she saw before the law cleaned up the street, but she also feels for the homeless youth.

"Back in the seventies, I can remember having three kids and living in a KOA campground for several months, so I understand how that can happen," she said.

Austin says even though feeding the meter is illegal, and circumventing the sit-lie law this way could be, so far the authorities have left him and his bed, alone.

"The cops have been really nice about it. I haven't had a single issue," Austin said. "One cop asked what it's all about. I told him, and he just gave me a little salute and drove off."

Austin says he plans to come back to the spot with his bed every day until Saturday.

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