Photo of Jesus Barragan by Clara-Sophia

San Francisco Public Works officials wearing yellow vests and rain boots were on 20th Street near Treat Avenue and the John O’Connell soccer field around 8 a.m. Thursday morning to haul away belongings from an encampment of at least three tents — two of which had been there for six months. 

Jesus Barragan, a 44-year-old, said he had been living there for a few weeks. As he stood by with a friend, Armando, officials used rakes and shovels to load former residents’ scattered belongings into a dump truck. 

Barragan’s face was sweaty and he looked distressed. “They’re making me go to the shelter, they kind of forced us and shit. I have 10 minutes to move all this shit, ” he said. Ten minutes later, the dump truck drove away and a portion of 20th Street was cleared of Barragan’s possessions.

His friend Armando said the latter are important things collected “from the trash to try and make some money or have some hobbies.” After a sweep, “we have to start all over again.” 

Barragan adds:  “They say they’re doin’ something, but they aren’t doing nothing.”

A Public Works official who did not give his name to Mission Local, said “If the street is full of stuff and you’re pushing a stroller or wheelchair, what are you going to do then?”

The worker said he personally felt it wasn’t about homelessness, but blocking the sidewalk. “A lady in a stroller, somebody in a wheelchair, they should have access to the sidewalk,” he said.

Barragan disagrees with the worker’s summation of events.  “Before, I was not blocking the sidewalk, before you guys came and made me move all my shit. There’s no way I can move all my shit in 20 minutes without blocking the sidewalk … They even took my motherfucking bike, man.”

His friend Armando points out the Public Works officials are just doing their job. “It’s the neighbors’ fault,” he says. “I know the city is smart and knows the answer. They need to help us.”

Christopher Zupancic also had to move his things from the encampment today. Zupancic has been without a home for 10 years and had been camped on 20th street for six months.  “They told me I could go to a parking lot or something,” he said, “but I need to store some stuff.” 

According to Zupancic, he was living on 20th Street with his girlfriend, and they had two tents. The Public Works officials “took a scooter of his and some other things.” Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for Public Works, says that the encampment moving today was coordinated by the Healthy Streets Operation Center, an effort backed by the San Francisco Police Department.

Photo of Christopher Zupancic by Lydia Chavez.
Public Works employees. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.
Photo by Lydia Chavez.

Clara-Sophia Daly

Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys...

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14 Comments

  1. DPW also cleared an encampment on 22nd Street between Mission and Capp, residents had been there for 6 months without any issues. SFPD and Homeless Outreach Team members were present.

  2. Treat St at 23rd was also cleared yesterday. That would be super lame if folks weren’t given any notice that they had to move. Apparently folks were offered hotel rooms. Supervisor Ronen posted yesterday:

    Relief for the People of the Mission
    After months of work, prodding, advocacy, and planning, today the City’s Healthy Streets Center and Homeless Outreach Team are out in the Mission inviting unhoused people to move from the Street into either Shelter In Place Hotels (if especially vulnerable to COVID), the newly opened Safe Sleeping Village at 1515 South Van Ness, or one of the congregate shelters or Nav Centers that is properly socially distanced.
    Not only will this effort save people’s lives but the neighborhood as a whole will get some relief from crowded sidewalks and other public health consequences of the unhoused population sleeping in residential streets. These are long term placements – no one will be asked to leave the safer option where access to food, bathrooms, showers, and services are available.
    This is a major win. I want to especially thank Paul Monge from my office who has spearheaded this effort, the Latino Task Force for advocating to secure these essential resources, Dolores Street Community Services and its wonderful staff for operating the Safe Sleeping Village, Diana Ponce de Leon who has worked tirelessly to coordinate this important work and all the other incredible City workers from so many different departments who do this critical lifesaving work everyday.

    1. Thank you for the update! I also noticed the area had been cleared away. I hope this info is good (and accurate) and that folks truly moved into a better place.

  3. ‘A Public Works official who did not give his name to Mission Local, said “If the street is full of stuff and you’re pushing a stroller or wheelchair, what are you going to do then?” The worker said he personally felt it wasn’t about homelessness, but blocking the sidewalk. “A lady in a stroller, somebody in a wheelchair, they should have access to the sidewalk,” he said.’

    I call bullshit on this rationalization. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to walk into the street because some lazy lout parked a car blocking the sidewalk, and the city doesn’t care one bit. I’ve seen seniors struggling with grocery carts, parents with strollers, and people with disabilities all struggling to get around vehicles invading pedestrian space. Enforcement is nonexistent. Perhaps homeless advocates should distribute tents in the size and shape of an SUV to avoid sweeps.

    1. If the car remained there for weeks or months, I guarantee it would be towed. I call bullshit on your rationalization.

      saying we should not fix some problems unless all problems are fixed is just stupid. Both are issues that need to be addressed. The problem with towing cars blocking a sidewalk is that the tow company can’t get there in time before the asshole that parked illegally moves on.

      Also, you can walk so it’s not a big deal for you to walk around an obstruction. Many folks are disabled and mom’s with kids would prefer not to take there children in the middle of the street.

    2. Funny. It’s a great point — we should aggressively enforce sidewalk parking. Trying to walk through the Sunset or
      Excelsior is a nightmare.

    3. And yet, if that car/vehicle were blocking the sidewalk for 6 mths, you don’t think it would get moved?

      Granted nothing gets done in this City quickly. But getting a car moved vs getting an encampment moved … no contest.

      BOTH are a nuisance! And yet we have some City employees who seem to do nothing but cash a paycheck, So I’m mad along with ya.

    4. The city’s actually pretty good about responding to cars parked on the sidewalk. Use the 311 app to report the car and there’s a good chance they’ll ticket.

      As for the issue of blocking sidewalks, I leave near there and I’m afraid it got really, really bad. The older the camps get, the bigger the piles get and, yeah, they completely block the sidewalk.

      And then there’s the needles. You just don’t bring kids past the tents, even if you can get by, because of the needles.

  4. I wouldn’t say they were there without any issues. This guy pretty much took over the sidewalk by the high school. One morning I saw someone who was with him pissing right there and I smelled poopy caca a few weeks ago right next to his tent. I picked up a big ole log still steaming last week and it didn’t smell like it came out of a dog — there was a lot of it. It’s pretty sad — he had a girl staying with him a few weeks ago. I always wanted to talk to him and find out his life story but he mean mugged me one day and I just wasn’t sure if he was chill.

  5. Yeah, this encampment has been there for months and they were blocking significant portions of the sidewalk. Because they’re up against the school’s fence, there aren’t any curb cuts for folks with strollers or wheelchairs to easily step into the street (not that they should have to). They haven’t been on 20th the whole time, I believe they moved around the corner from Harrison, where they’d made those corners completely inaccessible to pedestrians.

    All that said, the group never seemed aggressive or threatening. I hope they get some help to get housed, but with the way things are going, I’m not optimistic.

  6. For people who are allegedly getting all their stuff stolen by the city with no notice, nearly constantly, these folks are pretty good at gearing up again — and quick!

  7. San Francisco is a cesspool. Why do the citizens keep electing crazy politicians who won’t crack down on the open drug markets and the tent cities?

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