San Francisco Makes New Push to Clean Up Homeless Camps in City - NBC Bay Area
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San Francisco Makes New Push to Clean Up Homeless Camps in City

A new city department with increased funding begins experimenting with encampment in Mission

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    In a new push to clear the streets of San Francisco of homeless encampments, the city turned its focus on the Mission neighborhood, where dozens of tents recently popped up. Stephanie Chuang reports. (Published Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016)

    In a new push to clear the streets of San Francisco of homeless encampments, the city turned its focus on the Mission neighborhood, where dozens of tents recently popped up.

    Police and public works crews in a couple of weeks will go in and move out the people living in those tents.

    The cleanup is an experiment by the city's newly established Department of Homlessness as it tries to find new ways to humanely clear out encampments like the one on Folsom Street, near 16th Street.

    Some residents such as Jonathan Lane are skeptical because the problem is just too big.

    "There's human feces on floor, people actually shooting up outside our door," Lane said. "Sebenty-five percent of them used to be tenants here, and they’ve got no place to be."

    The department said it's working with an increase of $29 million in funding from last year to this fiscal year.

    But even the people seeking help have their doubts. Richard Presley is new to the Folsom camp; he says two weeks ago, he was kicked out of a different spot.

    "The rest of the places, cops and people want us to move, of course," Presley said.

    Supervisor David Campos said the issue is top priority. The goal, he said, is no more homeless encampments in the Mission in four months.

    That’s the hope; that’s what we’re going to do," he said.

    In March, a homeless cleanup on Division Street moved hundreds of tents, after the city declared the encampment a danger to public health. With police supervising, public works crews took them down.

    Before the cleanup, however, outreach teams offered the homeless help, including spots at shelters as well as job and housing services at the navigation center, where the city says it has placed a few hundred people into permanent housing since March.

    Now, the city is hoping that can happen in the Mission.

    "Once that’s done - outreach is there sometime next month - we’re looking at having our crews go in and clear out encampments," said Rachel Gordon, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works. "We want to do it methodically. We want to do it with sensitivity."

    Gordon said there is more help on the way to appease frustrated residents, including an increase from three to five so-called "hotspot" crews who perform daily tasks such as steam cleaning sidewalks of human feces and disposing of drug needles.

    And the city said it’s working on bringing more permanent housing solutions, including three new buildings set to house up to 300 of the most vulnerable homeless on the streets by the end of the year.

    "I don’t want to set the expectation that there will never be a homesless person in the Mission again or tents won't reappear, but the current situation is unsustainable," said Sam Dodge, of the Department of Homelessness.

    For Dino Ruiz, a solution is near because his wife just got a job. But he doesn’t believe in the city’s plan to clear out the encampments.

    "They’ve tried that before," Ruiz said. "City tents are going to be here. There's been homeless here since Jesus days; it aint ever going to be rectified or resolved."

    The problem has worsened since last year. Public Works said crews picked up an average of 49 tons of trash and 1,900 needles a month in fiscal year 2016. Last year, the numbers were 35 tons of trash and 1,300 needles.

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