Homeless “tent city” dwellers in San Francisco were ordered to pack up their tents and vacate city property by 5:00 p.m. Friday evening. The deadline to depart the encampment came and went, and while some homeless heeded the call, at least 30 tents remained in place – and city officials don’t know what to do about it.
Writes Fox News on Feb. 27: “City officials said Tuesday they were giving the tent city’s residents 72 hours to move out of the camp after declaring the area along a busy San Francisco street a health hazard. At its height, nearly 140 tents populated the area, drawing complaints from residents and businesses.”
Camps of sidewalk tents, set up under a highway overpass, dot Division Street, a multi-lane thoroughfare that runs through two areas of the city that are rapidly developing – the South of Market and the Mission districts. The dig-in by by the itinerant refusing to leave has rekindled San Francisco’s longstanding homeless problem. The city has an estimated 6,000 homeless, with 3,500 people sleeping on the streets in the Golden Gate City every night.
Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Sam Dodge, the mayor’s point person on homelessness, have targeted a small section of the tent city, because of an “accumulation of garbage, human feces, hypodermic needles, urine odors” and other unsanitary conditions, the NY Times reported. The city’s Department of Public Health declared the tent city a “public nuisance” this week.
Former nurse Elizabeth Stromer, 45, lives in a tent not far from a BMW dealership. She called it a “personal battle” between the homeless and the mayor. “I kind of want to stay put and fight it out,” she said. A homeless fellow that gave his same as Santino agreed.
“What we need is a solution,” he said, adding that he has no plans to move out of his tent. “Pushing the homeless around is going to do nothing.”
Adds the Times: “For years the homeless have been fixtures in neighborhoods across San Francisco, a jarring contrast to the tremendous wealth generated by the technology boom. City officials say the problem has become more visible as real estate development in formerly rundown areas has pushed the homeless to the doorsteps of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods. San Francisco, where average office rents are now higher than in Manhattan, has seen housing costs skyrocket in recent years.”
At a public hearing Thursday at City Hall, residents and city officials spoke out about the growing problem. A number of the city’s homeless were represented as well. Residents complained about a steep increase in break-ins in both their vehicles parked on the street and in some cases, their homes.
“It’s certainly become more aggressive,” said Malia Cohen, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “I’ve seen feces thrown, panhandlers yelling. I’ve seen homeless people rejecting food, and saying, ‘No, I only take money.’”
Retired senior Mary Ann Mills lives near the homeless tent camp. She told the hearing that her entire neighborhood has been made unsafe. “I can’t walk out my door,” she said. “We can’t keep the trash out of our area. I can’t walk my grandson down the street.”
Hector Torres, who has been living in the tent city for over a year, screamed at officials that he was thrown out “like a dog,” adding: “I couldn’t even take a shower to come over here!” he said, before being removed from the hearing by security.
According to the report by the Times, San Francisco’s budget for homeless-related spending is at $242 million this year. Over half of that gets spent on shelters and city programs that aid those facing eviction. Ironically, those in the tent city are facing just that. “It seems like a lot of resources, but it’s very limited in terms of the size of the need,” said Sam Dodge.
“I’m not going to let somebody run me out of somewhere where I’ve made my home,” said homeless camper Patrita Tripp. “Where am I supposed to go?”
Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health, said evictions and enforcement of the public nuisance order would have to be handled “on a case-by-case” basis. It’s unclear if police will be brought in to forcibly remove those who remain in San Francisco’s tent city.