SFPD to arrest service-resistant homeless residents

Shy, who lives in a homeless encampment on Alameda Street at San Bruno Avenue, watches as Public Works cleaning crews sort through her belongings. Photo by Laura Waxmann

Mission Station will be working with the District Attorney on issuing warrants to arrest homeless people who have been repeatedly cited for nuisance activities and who refuse services, said Captain Gaetano Caltagirone at a community meeting at Mission Station on Tuesday.

He said that while there are fewer tent encampments, there are still individuals who are not accepting services.

“It gets tiresome for the officers who get on scene and they tell the individual to move and they say, ‘No, we’re not moving,’” Caltagirone said.

Caltagirone said the police and the District Attorney will be building cases against repeat offenders by using quality-of-life citations, such as obstructing sidewalks, urinating and defecating in public, and sleeping in illegal structures.

With a warrant, officers can arrest homeless people who have accrued enough citations. Before, he said, those citations were handed out with little effect.

“We’re going to be taking these (citations) and we’re going to be working cases on each individual case by case to see if we can create a warrant for the individual,” Caltagirone said.

The Captain said that once a person is arrested and in jail, it will be easier to find them services.

It’s unclear, however, what kinds of services — if any — jails can offer. And homeless advocates are balking at the plan.

“What he’s proposing is jailing people for becoming poor,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, which has been working to reduce law enforcement’s role in solving the city’s homeless crisis.

Friedenbach said that issuing warrants and arresting the homeless might get them off the street for several days, but they’ll likely end up back on the street — though without the possessions they need to survive.

“There will never be a ticket that leads to housing,” she said. “Housing leads to housing.”

Friedenbach said that the individuals who are most resistant to services are often the most vulnerable — often, they suffer from mental illness.

Those people, she said, are in need of more resource-intensive services like intensive care in a hospital and extended residential mental health treatment.

But, she said, “All of these options are off the table because the system is overflowing.”

Caltagirone’s plan was at odds with another homeless program discussed at the monthly meeting.

Representatives from the city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, program spoke about a project that seeks to keep homeless people out of jail.

The program is aimed at diverting repeat low-level drug offenders away from jail and into social services such as shelters, medical services, and education and employment opportunities, explained Robin Candler, a LEAD program manager with the Department of Public Health.

“The idea is to engage them in treatment instead of sending them to jail,” Candler said.

The program is being piloted in the Mission and Tenderloin police districts, with five LEAD outreach workers operating within the Mission. San Francisco received a $5.9 million grant from the Board of State and Community Corrections for the project.

If an officer catches an individual committing a low-level drug offense or prostitution, the officer can refer the individual to a LEAD outreach worker, who would then connect the individual with services.

The law enforcement agencies currently allowed to make a referral are the San Francisco Police Department, BART Police, and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.

Jared Walker, a LEAD caseworker, said that since late October, when the program began, his team has helped about four chronically homeless people into the city’s new coordinated entry system, which triages individuals into city services.

“Because of their high-priority status, they will be moving into housing most likely within six months to a year,” Walker said.

Wanted posters

In December, Mission Local reported that Captain Caltagirone’s crime strategies are decidedly old-school — and he has reinforced that notion yet again.

In an effort to fight car break-ins, Caltagirone is bringing back the “wanted” poster.

“It’s important who the public knows who we’re looking for,” he said. “And then you can contact us.”

The captain said the posters will be primarily aimed at car break-in suspects. People can expect to see them in store windows, the station’s website, and the newsletter.

“We’ve got nothing to lose to try that,” he said.

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5 Comments

  1. Juan Jose Cortes !!!

    “What he’s proposing is jailing people for becoming poor,” said Jennifer Friedenbach”

    …Predictable liberal spin as usual. Anyone who is offered services time and time again and refuses and shits and pisses outside and takes over the side walks with their tents and related issues should not receive jail time. They should be shot dead and dumped in barrels of lye that should be used to make the walls of the next navigation hotel of which there will be many. 100? 200? 300?

    Smart homeless people accept the tons of free services to get off the street. The rest who refuse service will go to jail.
    Even shithole San Francisco has its limits eventually.

    If you go to San Francisco for all the free shit and shit on the streets and sidewalks go for the criminal record as well.

    I understand the encampment on Julian and 15th in the city has refused services. They have had their encampments torn down by the city numerous times and had their camp back up the next day. They have been there at least 2 years permanently. They have certainly refused service numerous times. Start by drugging them all up and putting them in cages to roll around in their own piss and shit like the animals they are.

    Problem solved.

    • greg williams

      seek therapy Juan

    • ROBERT

      Juan: I don’t know about shot dead and soaked in lye but I get where you’re coming from. And couldn’t agree more with your comment about liberal spin. Who is this Jennifer Friedenbach? What’s she bucking for? I’ll bet neither she nor her crew have homeless living on their block. I’ll bet neither she nor her crew have an automobile that’s repeatedly been broken in to. I’ll bet neither she nor her crew have kids that navigate past homeless encampments on the way to school. Dollars for donuts she probably grew up in some comfortable middle class enclave and is clueless on what it means to be a hardworking family here on the poor side of town and have to deal with this homeless crap on a daily basis. Or maybe she has ulterior motives such as believing that by sprinkling the Mission and surrounding areas with homeless it will somehow put a damper on the increasing pace of gentrification in the City? Wrong again, grupo homelesso. It’s the longer term residents both rich and poor alike that are just plain sick and tired of you and your ilk using us as pawns for your political aims. Well spoken, Juan.

  2. greg williams

    car break burglaries ? we just saw on the news that they are a result of organized crime , not homeless people

  3. RobertSF

    I’m a self-identified socialist, far to the left of Bernie Sanders, but the way San Francisco addresses the homeless problem is ridiculous and absurd, and worse, the whole Homeless Industry (with Jennifer Friedenbach as its CEO) has become a scam worth hundreds of millions a day.

    San Francisco spends something like $200 million on a population of about 10,000 homeless. That’s $20k per homeless, which is more than our fellow citizens working fast-food and retail make. It would be better if we just cut checks directly to the homeless, but instead, we distribute the millions to a vast network of small non-profit organizations with zero accountability. And all these small non-profits are headed by a founder pulling down six-figures a year from city grants while providing a few crumbs of service through unpaid volunteers. Just ask yourself, how is it that Cecil Williams is a millionaire?

    People should be housed. People should be fed. I don’t believe in the distinction between deserving and undeserving. Even if you’re a lazy bum who refuses to do anything constructive, we shouldn’t let you die. However, we should also not allow you to live ferally.

    We should have all the sympathy and care for those who are homeless… IF they accept being taken off the streets. If not, we should have no sympathy whatsoever for them. We should return to the days when bums who wouldn’t move on were driven to the city limits and told not to return.

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