Homeless Artist Ronnie Goodman Arrested After DPW Sweep

The artist and runner has exhibited work in now-Mayor London Breed's office, and raised tens of thousands for local charities.

Google Ronnie Goodman, and you’ll find articles in SFGateRunners World, and Huffington PostThe unhoused San Francisco artist has received his fair share of press over the years, and he’s a familiar face around town. A native of the city, he attended George Washington High School before serving time in San Quentin Prison. Upon his release he became homeless on the streets of San Francisco — but not having a roof over his head didn’t prevent him from pursuing his two passions: art and running. 

The former earned him fame early on; his work has appeared in art exhibits at City Hall, the Redstone Building, the Public Library’s Main Branch, and Mayor London Breed’s office.  The latter brought him even more attention when he ran a half marathon and raised tens of thousands of dollars for Hospitality House.  

In both regards, Goodman’s fame has been used as a feel-good story of unhoused people’s ability to succeed in the face of adversity. But these days, being homeless is difficult for anyone, no matter where your work has been exhibited or how many Chronicle articles have been written about you. For Goodman, the increase in sweeps of homeless camps by SFPD and the Department of Public Works has had catastrophic effects on his archives.

“I have had my belongings confiscated 10 different times,” Goodman says. “The city has taken my original irreplaceable linocuts — over 50 plates, all of my original artwork.” This includes the pieces that used to hang in Breed’s office.

A close-up of one of Goodman’s paintings.

In the past, Goodman has paid a visit to SFPD’s storage yard in an attempt to reclaim his work, but never recovered it. So when DPW once again threw his belongings in the trash last Sunday, he knew it was his last chance to reclaim them. But when he jumped into a truck SFPD intervened. He was arrested, and charged with 647e, or “unauthorized lodging,” and felony vandalism. Both charges were later dropped by the District Attorney’s office, and he was released after spending the night in jail.

“When I saw the DPW truck once again filled with my artwork and the last of my belongings, I ran and jumped on the truck to get in back,” he says. “They arrested me. I never did get my belongings back.”

While Goodman will no doubt continue fighting to hold onto his art supplies while he lives on the streets, he says it’s creating and sharing work that keeps him going. 

“When I got out of prison, I had no choice but to be homeless,” Goodman wrote in a 2017 Street Sheet article. “I just would get a tent and a sleeping bag and do the best I could. But my art was created to bring a light to homelessness.  You just have to suck things up and try to stay healthy and focused. Being homeless is a struggle. You can be homeless, but you don’t have to be hopeless. Why I’m here now is to give. Giving my art is something that I think is important. It belongs to the people to recognize the fact that art can make a difference.”

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