Gov. Gavin Newsom joined city workers in a homeless encampment street sweep on 19th Street near Mission and Capp streets. Photo by Annika Hom, Aug. 27, 2021.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to campaign against his upcoming recall election has taken an unforeseen turn. After Vice President Kamala Harris canceled her plans to appear at an anti-recall rally, following a massive suicide bombing in Afghanistan, the governor instead joined homeless outreach workers in clearing an encampment in the Mission on Friday.

Rather than appearing alongside Harris — or, potentially, President Joe Biden —  Newsom found himself alongside city Homeless Outreach Team workers, walking Harrison and 19th streets Friday morning and interacting with unhoused residents living in tents. Part of the street was blocked off by San Francisco Public Works trucks and a parking control officer cart, while police officers lingered nearby. 

“He got here today, and he was talking with folks like Ariel, who was living here for a year and then was convinced to at least try a couple of [housing] options,” Deputy communications director Alex Stack said. 

In fact, a man identified as Ariel, dressed in shorts and tights, was whisked off by a homeless outreach worker and taken to get resources. What services he received wasn’t disclosed to Mission Local. 

This is not the first time during Newsom’s anti-recall effort that the governor held a highly publicized event in which he was recorded clearing homeless encampments; earlier this month, he did so in the Berkeley Marina

“It’s a dog and pony show,” said Kelley Cutler, a human rights organizer with the Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco, who responds to homeless encampment sweeps on Willow Street. 

Cutler said the city’s unhoused are presently lacking resources, including adequate shelter beds. “Today was different. They may have pulled some extra resources specifically for this. It’s a photo op.”

In the Mission on Friday with Newsom was Sam Dodge, the Special Projects Manager of the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. 

Dodge said that workers arrived on Harrison Street at about 7 a.m., and three out of the six unhoused residents living there had later accepted resources and/or alternative housing. 

Then the governor and city workers moved on to 19th Street, in between Mission and Capp streets, where a couple of individuals also accepted offers of assistance. 

“Nineteenth Street has been heavily impacted on encampments,” Dodge said. “It’s not the first time we’ve come through here, helped people.”  

Newsom and Public Works employees swept the sidewalks and cleared the street of large debris. None of the tents were removed and would stay put, according to Public Works employees who didn’t provide their names.

“Sometimes people find it convenient to dump on sites where people are trying to survive,” Dodge said, pointing to large pieces of “cabinetry” they removed from the street. “Cleaning the streets kind of abates some of the health hazards.”

The governor confronts a recall election on Sept. 14, which looks to be a close race. If fewer than half of the voters opt to retain him, it will result in his removal, and likely a Republican governor.

Newsom served as mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011, and on the Board of Supervisors from 1997 to 2004. 

He did not take any questions from most of the news media; his handlers only allowed interactions with reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Following his visit to the Mission, Newsom plans to return to Sacramento, Stack said. Anti-recall campaigns will likely resume next week, though it’s unclear yet if any will occur in San Francisco. 

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Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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17 Comments

  1. It’s not too late to cancel the recall election. Not only is it unfair, it’s unconstitutional. Many judges in Cal. would agree – they’re just waiting for the spineless ‘supporters’ of the Governor to file a lawsuit for a restraining order.

    1. That’s false! A judge decided yesterday the recall election was legal. Stop spreading lies like your dictator Newsom.

  2. Ariel did not receive “help” or housing. This was strictly a photo op for the governor.
    Ariel has been on the streets in our neighborhood for 12 years now, since he lost his housing above Cancun restaurant on Mission Street.
    Outreach does a seriously poor job of getting people like Ariel into safe, long term housing.

      1. We’ve seen him for a long time, idk if its 12 years, but sounds possible.

        He was there this morning after 8,

  3. I am totally baffled by the spin on this article. The headline makes it sound as if Gavin was out there with a bulldozer mowing down tents when he was doing nothing more than social workers do every day in trying to convince the homeless to accept services that might lead them to getting off the street. Sounds like he was using his clout to convince people to take the services and to make sure those services would be provided.

    And if this was a photo op, where else was it covered? I didn’t see it in the Chronicle, or the Bee. Maybe TV cameras were there, I don’t know.

    This is exactly what we want our politicos to be doing, out there, engaging directly with problems, leading with compassion.

  4. Roughly, about $245,000 is spent per homeless person per year in SF, including federal, state, city, foundation, and religious institution funds. What is being achieved with all that money? A professional, objective, neutral evaluation is necessary. That’s enough money to buy each and every homeless person a place to live.

  5. How is it ‘clearing an encampment’ when no tents are removed but refuse ‘dumped’ – allegedly – by others is addressed? Regardless, send a crew to 25th St between Capp and Mission – the sidewalk is impassable.

  6. “It’s a significant day in San Francisco,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom, “We’re moving … toward a goal and desire not to manage but to end homelessness. It’s brilliant in its simplicity, if we have the courage to change.” He said this in 2004, 17 years ago. So his “change” was a lie, a delusion or just a throw away campaign promise ? It took 80 years to admit the “change” of marxism was a failure. When are they going to admit that the billions spent on “homeless services” is like wise, a huge failure and destructive and toxic to society? It’s a fallacy to believe all change is good. Most of it is actually unworkable and unsustainable. There are only a few societal paths that actually work. What is happening in San Francisco does not work nor will it ever work.

  7. With the Delta variation of COVID-19 soaring (almost 6000 new cases in the past 28 days in sf San Francisco), I am shocked by the appearance of the governor wearing his mask as a “chin diaper” in close proximity to others.

    After his French Laundry gaffe, one would think Newsom would be more thoughtful of the example he makes of his own behavior.

    With about 50 million dollars being spent and thousands of people being mobilized to spare the state from a recall that could make the far-right Larry Elder governor (who would do away with mask requirements all together), this is arrogant and reckless!

  8. It’s more than likely not speculation. If the resources are so bountiful we would not have a problem.

  9. Total photo op….
    Fake,…..just trying to drum up campaign point to save his job.
    Yes to recall….California is a mess in all levels

  10. Who is stupid enough to fall for this fake photo op? Everything Newsome and the rest of the democrats do to “solve” homelessness makes it worse. Is that the plans or are they really that clueless?

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