Mayor’s sweeps are a failure, new study shows

Complaints about encampments only increase after sweeps; 'it's like ping-pong'

Mayor Mark Farrell’s homeless sweeps have not taken people off the streets and complaints about homeless encampments have only increased since the new policy began, a new study shows.

The Coalition on Homelessness compiled statistics on 311 calls complaining about homeless encampments before and after the sweeps, which started April 25 – and the number of complaints has gone up in 10 of the 11 districts.

A tent ner Valencia and Mission: Homeless people haven’t left the streets, they’ve just ,moved around

Complaints went from 4,633 to 5,399, and only District 8 saw any decrease.

According to the press release from COH:

“The increased sweeps have neither reduced resident complaints about tents nor increased available services for people that need them,” said Joe Wilson, Executive Director of Hospitality House.” We urge the Mayor to rethink this failed approach. We need increased investments in housing, living wage jobs, and other services — real solutions to poverty and homelessness. The time is now for bold vision with a city budget that truly works for all San Franciscans.”

The sweeps have clearly moved people around, and made the lives of homeless folks worse.

I met a homeless woman and her husband yesterday, in a tent pitched in front of the Burger King on Valencia, near Mission, in an area where I have never seen tents before. They’d been there just one night, she said, because the police force people to move constantly.

“They get you up at 5:30am, you have to pack your tent and move, and they watch you,” the woman, who asked not to have her name published, told me. “They don’t care where you go, as long as you move along. Then we go somewhere else. It’s like ping-pong.”

That’s the same message that people interviewed by the Coalition gave:

Media sources released quotes from city officials who claimed to have offered services to encampment residents and cited “service resistance” as the reason they needed to engage in this action. Through visual observation and direct encounters with those impacted, we found that the city had failed to offer comprehensive services to those living in impacted tent sites leading up to the sweeps, with few exceptions. Police distributed a flyer to campers during the first day of sweeps offering a mat on the floor of the dining area at Next Door shelter for seven 7 nights, but the shelter only had room for one-third of people reportedly living in 126 separate tents. Only eight people were able to stay on these mats due, partly, because those sheltered have to forfeit most of their survival gear to stay there and many felt the short stay was destabilizing.

“I was woke up by rude cops kicking my suitcases telling me to ‘get the [expletive] up,’ telling me to move again.” said Crystale, an encampment resident.  “I ask to where and all I hear is jokes and they are basically making fun of me and the fact I’m homeless. Don’t they know I am a human being?”

I went back a few hours later to talk to the folks outside Burger King, but they had moved on.