The homeless people who have set up camp on Division Street in San Francisco until the end of the day Thursday to pack up and find somewhere else to go. If they don't, they risk facing police, or having their camps taken down by force.
The city is stepping up its efforts to clear tents from city streets by declaring the large homeless encampment on Division a public health nuisance, city officials said Tuesday. The city has given the people who live there until Friday to find another place to live.
Supervisor Jane Kim says what's happening at Division Street is pushing people into other areas. She also wanted to remind people that this is a problem for the most vulnerable: More than 2,300 of the homeless in San Francisco are children. Kim calls this a moral and ethical dilemma.
Officials with the Department of Public Health posted notices earlier this week instructing individuals camped on Division to vacate the area between 11th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, public health director Barbara Garcia said. The area is "insanitary due to accumulation of garbage, human feces, hypodermic needles, urine odors and other insanitary conditions, and it is hereby declared as a public nuisance."
Supervisor David Campos has condemned the decision, calling it "inhumane" in a statement, and the people who have to live this reality can find no other word to describe it.
"It's kinda inhumane if you think about it," said John White, who says he's lived on the streets of San Francisco since 1989. "We don't have choice. "They're just gonna come and throw us out anyway ... There's nothing we can do. We don't have no voice."
The homeless and their advocates say all they need from the city is simple: portable toilets.
Mayor Ed Lee is touting a new homeless facility at Pier 80, three miles away, but many of the 150 beds there remain empty. Why? "They take our stuff, put it into container and I won't have access to stuff. That's basically like being in jail," White said.
Thursday morning, some living on Division Street insisted they would stay no matter what. But White says he believes otherwise.
"It's no longer just them trying to move us along," White said. "They're saying we're a health hazard now. That puts it into different dynamic, escalates from misdemeanors into felonies, so people are going to leave."
The enforcement action is similar to what happened over four years ago when city crews cleared Occupy SF from Justin Herman Plaza. That area was declared a public health nuisance and cleared by public works crews, with police standing by for security in case anyone tried to interfere.
Bay City News contributed to this report.