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.