Homeless advocates are searching for answers after an elderly homeless man was issued a citation on March 5 by the police for eating pizza at a San Francisco bus stop. The man brought the citation — which simply read “PC 640 (b)(1) Eating in the shelter” — to the Coalition on Homelessness, where the confusing note was leaked to the media.
To be clear, although food and drink are technically not allowed on San Francisco’s public transportation system, Muni, it is not illegal to eat in a bus stop, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency confirmed with the San Francisco Examiner that such a citation is not listed in their fee schedule. The San Francisco MTA further confirmed that commuters are “rarely” cited even for eating food on a train or trolley. The original law states that violators may be cited for “eating or drinking in or on a system facility or vehicle in areas where those activities are prohibited by that system.”
Police stated that the citation was issued soon after a stabbing at a nearby homeless shelter and that “concerned officers” were trying to get the man to “move along.”
Kelly Cutler, a staffer at the Coalition on Homelessness who originally tweeted out the citation, told SFGate that the elderly man who originally approached them had a “good attitude” about the whole thing. “He laughed about it. He kept saying he bought the pizza for his friend on her birthday.”
The citation originally stated that he was due in court on Wednesday, but Cutler expected the case would likely be dismissed because of the man’s homeless status.
“Whose quality of life are you talking about?” Cutler told SFGate. “The officer can say, ‘Move along, move along.’ The problem is, there’s nowhere to move along to.”