By Melissa Culross

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— There’s been a significant increase in recent years in the number of citations issued in San Francisco to the homeless who camp out in the city’s parks and open spaces.

The San Francisco Examiner reports in 2011, 165 citations were issued. Last year, the city issued 963— a six-fold increase that coincides directly with Mayor Ed Lee’s tenure in the Mayor’s office.

Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, says it’s a matter of public safety and that the mayor had increased resources over the past few years to provide for more park patrols – to help keep parks “safe and clean.”

In addition, the Mayor’s office said that homeless outreach efforts have been increased in part by the opening of a facility to get people off the streets and in touch with services.

“We want to connect them with temporary shelter, maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks, but in that time that they’re in this facility, called the navigation center, they are connecting to the services that they need,” Falvey said.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, said those citations only perpetuate homelessness.

“People are unable to pay the fines. It goes to warrant, they do jail time, their credit is messed up and when it’s time for them to finally get a housing offer, they’re turned down because of the poor credit history because of the warrant,” she said. “It doesn’t lead people off the streets. It doesn’t get people to move to another area because they have nowhere to go. It doesn’t get them to go into shelter, because there’s no shelter beds available.”

Friendenbach called the citations a waste of city resources.

Between January 1st and mid-March of 2015, San Francisco officials cited almost 700 people for sleeping or camping in parks or for being there after hours.

“These inherent acts that people do— they sleep, they sit, things that all human beings have to do…we end up criminalizing them, citing them and using the police as a first response to what is a social issue,” Friedenbach said.

 

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