Tag Archive: homeless
What would seemingly be an issue of capitalism and supply and demand in any other city, or any other neighborhood in San Francisco, has instead morphed into another battle between merchants and the homeless in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood:
The McDonald’s at the corner of Haight and Stanyan streets eliminated its Dollar Menu about a month ago, making the items on it too expensive for the people who spend the better part of their day on the sidewalk in front.
Street people who for years have depended on the McDonald’s to eat say it’s become a de facto sit/lie ordinance. But the franchise owner says she’s just trying to make a little extra money.
It’s a fight over 50 cents, plus tax.
You used to be able to get a 390-calorie McDouble for 99 cents, said Nicholas Newhart, a 29-year-old with a Confederate flag tattooed on the back of his head. Without the Dollar Menu it now costs $1.49.
While that price increase may seem trivial, for Newhart and his colleagues it can mean the difference between eating and going hungry. Many homeless think taking away the Dollar Menu is the restaurant management’s ploy to get them to go somewhere else. Management locks the bathroom door and frequently calls the cops. On top of that, Mayor Gavin Newsom and several Haight Street merchants are pushing a November ballot measure that would ban sitting or lying on public sidewalks.
The menu change seems like the logical next step, the homeless say.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth, says Natalie Gonzales, the franchise owner.
“The speculation as to why I no longer offer menu items for $1 in this location is absolutely false,” she said in a statement vetted by the McDonald’s corporate office. “This was a business decision based on a number of contributing factors. And while these items are no longer available at $1, they are still available at what I believe to be a good, everyday value.”
Franchise owners frequently change the prices of certain menu items in response to customer demand, the Consumer Price Index and other factors, Julie Wenger, marketing director for McDonald’s Pacific-Sierra Region, said in a statement.
Still, people like Newhart, who moved from Tennessee to the streets of San Francisco five years ago, say they are often hungrier than usual.
“Yeah man, it … sucks,” he said Thursday while sitting foodless on the McDonald’s patio with a half dozen hungry friends. “I eat less. I have to get more money. If I don’t have a dollar and I want food, I just end up going to a trash can.”
When the cops roll through, as San Francisco police Officer John Andrews did Thursday, and tell Newhart and company that they can’t sit on McDonald’s patio unless they buy something, they have no choice but to move on. They could buy a 99-cent hamburger, but they say they would rather save the money for another more filling – but more expensive – item.