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.
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.