SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco faced a round of criticism last week after KCBS reported it was illegally spraying water on homeless people to keep them off their property. Many business and property owners in the city wonder what the best way is in dealing with the homeless and how to keep things clean.
For the most part, business owners are encouraged to call police if they have an issue, but it doesn’t appear they are equipped with the resources to deal with the problem. KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier reported in his Matier and Ross column that the Northern Police District— one of the most densely populated in the city, has just two homeless-outreach officers. Last month the district received 685 complaint calls and in January they got 706.
Aaron Komeni opens the gate every morning to his Market Street business. It’s meant to keep the homeless from sleeping in his alcove.
“It stops them from coming in, but it doesn’t stop them from leaning against it, peeing through, tossing their garbage inside,” he says. Still, he’s the one who ends up cleaning it up.
Seth Carter is accustomed to cleaning up after the homeless too at his nearby restaurant, Showdogs.
“I’ve been stuck by needles and had to be tested rapidly for HIV. I’ve been sick from body fluids left behind, bugs and parasites,” says Carter. “As a business owner you can’t do anything.”
But some are trying. There are lots of gates up to block alcoves. Some businesses have installed rocks by their front door and metal spikes in window stills.
Matier talked about Safeway in the Castro installing spikes on their flower planters to deter people from sleeping on them and even the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium has used irritating sound effects to keep them away.
One homeless woman discussing the situation with her partner said you could sit on the spikes for a little bit, but that it would be too painful for sleeping.
In 2010 San Francisco passed the sit/lie ordinance that prohibits sitting or lying on the sidewalk for longer than 15 minutes from the hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The city’s homeless czar Bevin Dufty says to just call the police.
“Simply call your district police station and ask to speak with the captain. Speak with him or her and say this is the situation, these are the problems that we’re facing and the captain has resources.”
Komeni says he calls all the time. “Sometimes they don’t want to deal with the homeless either.”
The homeless have said they get harassed constantly waking them up to a ticket in the morning for the sit/lie violation.
Matier says part of the problem is that the city is exploding and places where the homeless could more or less hide, are becoming populated.
“Take a look around San Francisco, there used to be Mission Bay; those were all tracks down there. There was an empty rail yard. If the homeless wanted to set up a camp down there, nobody paid them any mind. Now that’s some of the hottest real estate; high rises, hospitals, ballparks. South of Market…same thing, the warehouse district now high rises. What’s happening is more and more homeless are out on your streets, out on your doorstep and they’re a heck of a lot more visible than they were before.”