Homeowners last night complained to Mission Station officers about encampments like this one, photographed on Oct. 5 ,2016 between Folsom and Harrison. Officers responded that they do not possess ready legal means to clear such encampments. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Supervisor David Campos announced on Monday that within four months, all of the homeless encampments in the Mission District would be dismantled.

“Our plan, and my commitment to you, is to remove all Mission encampments within the next four months, in an effective and humane manner,” said Campos in a press release addressed to Mission District residents and businesses.

“I am glad to report that the process for encampment removal is already underway,” he added, saying a new “Encampment Resolution Team” would be targeting tent cities in the northeastern section of the Mission District, from 16th to 19th streets between South Van Ness Avenue and Bryant Street.

Later on Monday at a community meeting, Campos, Jeff Kositsky — the head of the newly-created Department of Homelessness — Captain Daniel Perea of the Mission District police station, and other city officials spoke to a dozen Mission District residents about the encampments and confronted complaints that the city was doing nothing to help property owners.

“This neighborhood is an absolute travesty,” said Mark, who did not give a last name. “You should be ashamed of yourselves. It’s disgusting.”

“We pay the highest rents. We pay the highest property taxes in the country,” said David Garcia, another resident. “We deserve better.”

Other residents suggested erecting barricades on the sidewalks to prevent camping, as the city did after the crackdown on encampments on Division Street. Another resident said police officers should be empowered to dismantle tents and move people along.

Captain Perea, for his part, said it was against the law to forcibly displace people.

“We issue citations, we make arrests for warrants,” he said. “We can’t tell people to move. We have to follow the law.”

And Kositsky said that though his department would be focusing on encampments, there were a limited number of shelter beds — 1,300 beds for the 3,500 people on the street on any night — and that he would only be breaking up encampments if residents were given somewhere to stay.

“We cannot come in and just move people [without an offer of shelter],” he said. “It’s inhumane, ineffective, and against the law.”

Nevertheless, the city is making an effort to break up encampments and move residents from the street to the Navigation Center, the city’s flagship transitional homeless shelter at 16th and Mission streets, as well as to other shelters.

Notices have been posted around the Pacific Gas and Electric Company building at 19th and Folsom streets warning residents that the homeless encampment on the block would be “supported to resolve” by special teams of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. 

“Please be advised that the encampment in this area is being supported to resolve by the Encampment Resolution Team,” read the notice addressed to the “Pacific Gas and Electric Area Encampment.”

A list of “services offered” in the notice included a 30–60 day stint at the Navigation Center, shelter access, a bus ticket home through the city’s Homeward Bound program, substance abuse treatment, healthcare services, aid with warrants and other criminal matters, and help obtaining an identification.

Those who opt out of the services will be moved along elsewhere, said Kositsky.

“If someone says no, they’re going to be asked to take their tent down and move,” he said.

Encampments in the northeastern section of the Mission District, with the target area for tent abatement in green. Each blue marker is a tent, person, or RV counted by Mission Local on the morning of Monday, September 12.

Last week, news broke that Kositsky and other city officials had mapped out the homeless encampments in San Francisco and would begin moving their occupants and offering them services, starting with encampments in the Mission District.

Kositsky said that the Department of Public Works has a list of encampments based on size, and that his Department of Homelessness would be targeting the largest encampments first.

“We’re just going down the list,” he said, adding that the Police Department would be tasked with preventing the encampments from returning.

Kositsky said that he did not know how long the abatement of encampments in the Mission District would take, but that he was unaware of the four-month estimate given by Campos.

“He didn’t consult us on that,” he said. Kositsky estimated there were 102 homeless people in the northeastern section of the Mission District, where the department will first focus its efforts.

The notice posted on a homeless man’s tent about the impending sweep. The man, who only spoke Spanish, said he was unaware that he would have to move. Photo by Lola M. Chavez
A homeless encampment on Folsom Street between 18th and 19th streets. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Around the PG&E compound at 19th and Folsom streets, some of the residents of the dozen-and-a-half tents in the area — which are situated across the street from Lyft’s headquarters, the Mission Cliffs gym, and a fire station — had heard they would have to accept services or move along.

Others, however, had heard nothing.

“I haven’t heard about that,” said one woman, who wished to remain anonymous. She has been on the block for about a month and said city officials leave her alone, only telling her and others to bag up garbage and leave it on the corner for collection.

Asked what she would do if told to move by city staff, she said it would be like any other sweep.

“We move,” she said.

Buffie Ephrian, another homeless woman on the block, said she had heard about the sweep and was offered help in getting an ID so she could access other services, but said “they didn’t really tell us if we’ll get shelter or not.” She hoped to go to the Navigation Center when city staff came around, but said she would move if told to do so.

“I’ll just have to get the fuck up and go,” she said.

A December 2015 report released by the city found that 47 percent of those admitted to the Navigation Center found permanent supportive housing. Another 23 percent were given a bus ticket to family or friends, 12 percent were asked to leave the center, 10 percent left voluntarily, and just 4 percent were moved into a shelter.

In Monday’s press release, Campos said that the newly-created Department of Homelessness has made the Mission District a priority for the removal of tent encampments. The encampments in the northeastern section of the neighborhood would be dismantled first, and those elsewhere in the Mission District would follow, he said.

Kositsky, however, said that “did not know” whether the rest of the Mission District would be addressed immediately after the encampments.

“We can’t be drawn into political debates, we can’t make decisions based on politics,” he said.

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  1. I’ve had a lot of success sending out emails and letters with community solutions and I have one for homeless tent users that preserves their use while keeping the tents out of sight during the day while remaining under the control of the tent owners who will no longer have to carry large bags around with them.

    Just dismantling the tents is no solution at all.

  2. how about getting all the tech brains working to solve the issue of homelessness in the city instead of building apps. the problem is money..sf land is too expensive but if the tech business owners pooled some of the money they spend on perks for their employees they probably could finance a solution.

  3. Where are theses homeless people to go? There are not enough shelters and many do not want to stay in one anyway. Too restrictive. 30% of homeless people are mentally ill or have some sort of mental disability. This is not a criticism of these people. It’s a fact. Where are these people to go? What options do they have? They move up the block, over a block, to a different street 6 blocks away, but they are still there. Does the city have a place for them to go? For all of them to go? For them to be safe, and for citizens with homes to be safe? Shifting the tent people around is really not a viable answer.

    1. @Kathryn — I’m sure you have genuine sympathy for the homeless. It is embarrassing that San Francisco is now one of the wealthiest cities in the nation, but completely fails to provide basic necessities for so many. That being said, you are coming at this problem from 2,000 miles away and cannot really understand what housed folks in the Mission are dealing with on a daily basis. Property crime has increased immensely, prostitution and drug dealing is rampant. Obviously not all homeless people are criminals, but given the recent spike in crime, it’s hard not to link the two. This neighborhood has taken the brunt of what has so far proven to be an unsolvable problem. Please stop armchair quarterbacking.

      1. I am sorry my questions and comments are perceived as armchair quarter-backing. I certainly do not attempt to call the shots about this sad situation. However the questions I have asked are basically answered with the idea that I or any outsider cannot or should not comment or ask about the problems. What is YOUR plan? Where would you have the homeless literally go? Just wanting them to go ‘somewhere else’ as others have intimated is not a plan. Ending the encampments is not a viable plan unless shelter is available for all in current encampments. I am sympathetic to renters, businesses, and home owners in the mission areas. I am an outsider but have connections to recent problems there, mainly with delayed/absent emergency medical response to assumed homeless. I may continue to ask question’s just as I hope you are asking questions about plans of leaders in ward 9 and are active in voicing your concerns and demanding clear and workable answers– for you know the complexities and history. Your reprimand is misplaced. Write, call the ones who promised to fix this sad situation.

    2. My street Shotwell is feeling safer already. Lets see if the number of police reports decline and the number of Gunpoint Robbery articles on Mission Local follows suit. Ill keep a count.

  4. If you don’t like seeing homeless people everyday you shouldn’t try to live in San Francisco. Have some heart.

    1. That’s right because its always been this way and its demonstrating “heart” to just accept the inevitability of homelessness. Why bother criticizing the status quo?

  5. “Kositsky said that he did not know how long the abatement of encampments in the Mission District would take, but that he was unaware of the four-month estimate given by Campos.”

    Classic.

    Great; once again Campos is just making stuff up, not even bothering to consult with his “team”.
    What an outstanding leader.

  6. Jeff Kositsky — the head of the newly-created Department of Homelessness — estimated there were 102 homeless people in the northeastern section of the Mission District, where the department will first focus its efforts.

    But the map that MissionLocal provide shows at least 97 tents in that section. And that seems like a reasonable estimate, and a lot of the tents have multiple people living in them.

    Maybe, a lot of those tents are empty, as Kositsky’s estimate suggests, but more likely Kositsky’s playing the Willie Brown’s political game of saying the problem has largely been solved.

    Remember when we got our news from television, and on split screen they showed Willie Brown saying the homeless had been cleared out of Golden Gate Park near McDonald’s and in the other screen, they showed the people still camping there.

    This estimate of 102 people by Kositsky is the same game as Willie Brown, oh the problem is cleaned except a few stragglers, when actually the problem is not even addressed and is getting worse every day.

  7. I don’t understand how the police capitan can say, “we can’t tell them to move”. Why the hell not? How can setting up a tent on a public sidewalk be legal? It’s a nuisance. It’s loitering. It violates the sit-lie law.

    1. A business can’t even put one chair outside its establishment without being cited, but a few dozen people can erect tents and bicycle chop shops blocking the entire sidewalk for a block, and it’s illegal to ask them to move?? What was the sit/lie law supposed to be for — sounds like it’s exactly for this purpose. What law will the police be breaking to ask these people to move their tents off the sidewalk??

  8. “We issue citations, we make arrests for warrants,” he said. “We can’t tell people to move. We have to follow the law.”

    Isn’t sit/lie a law? Can’t they follow this law?

    More bullshit from folks that want to talk about the problem, but give every excuse to not solve it.

  9. Words are words, let’s see actionable steps forward. Hopefully he and others are actually going to do something about it. It’s great homeless individuals will be given options, although we need to be realistic that some do not want help and won’t take it.