SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Facing a lawsuit from residents, business owners, and UC Hastings, San Francisco launched a massive effort to resolve homeless encampments in the Tenderloin earlier this month.. While that effort appears to be enough to settle the lawsuit, city leaders are now hearing from other neighborhoods.
The city had just over a month to clear 70% of the tents in this area, and they did it. Many streets reflect that, but others do not. The conditions on Willow, for example, are getting a lot of attention. And then there’s the neighborhoods beyond the Tenderloin.
“I have been here since 1973, in this neighborhood and this residence since 1988,” explains David. “It has never been this horrific.”
Stepping outside his Castro home, David walks right into the city’s homeless crisis within a block, and in just about any direction. Tent encampments, the most visible bellwether of the crisis, seem to be arriving in waves again. From the Mission and South of Market, through the Panhandle, even in the farthest reaches of the avenues.
“In the 45 years I’ve been out here I’ve never seen anyone pitch a tent on the street,” says Greg, a longtime Richmond resident.
Just this week the city removed a sizable encampment that sat on the sidewalk right behind the La Playa Safeway, right in front of Greg’s house.
“We had one of our neighbors get a petition,” Greg says of the neighborhood response. “We had over 100 people [sign it].”
The encampments create a wave of frustration as some vanish and others simply grow.
“If they can reduce that by 70% and tenderloin, why can’t they do at least that well in our neighborhood,” David asks.
“I have never seen the level of frustration as high as it is now,” says District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “I hear daily from people who say they are selling, they are leaving.”
Mandelman says years of patience is giving way to a sense that the problem is slipping away. While he supports the city’s long-term housing plans he says the short-term strategy is less clear.
“How do we manage the streets,” Mandelman asks. “How do we address the needs of people who we cannot house in permanent supportive housing, who we aren’t going to have a unit four, not today, not tomorrow, maybe not in a year or two?”
While some ground has been gained in Tenderloin and 2,000 people now shelter in hotel rooms, in other areas of the city it’s being lost and the suffering just continues.
“It has been an incredible problem for years,” Mandelman says. “But it feels to me like it’s reaching a boiling point.”