Proyecto Dignidad
Homeless encampment on Shotwell. May 2021. Photo by Lydia Chávez

The Latino Task Force today proposed two-month effort to rid the Mission of dozens of encampments in an initiative called Proyecto Dignidad, or Project Dignity.

The multi-week plan would be carried out over longer periods of time than encampment clearings presently, and would involve assessing the needs of unhoused residents, connecting them with social services, and offering them permanent shelter.  

“We are not here to talk in theory,” said Francisco Herrera, a member of the Latino Task Force and its Street Needs Committee, which conducted the report. “We want this report to be active, and to find solutions.”

Herrera said this differs from how unhoused residents say they’re being treated presently — as an “eyesore,” and not as neighbors. “The big difference is really, this identification of a person and their needs, and low-barrier access to resources and support,” he said. 

Under the plan, an entire week would be spent on building a “health profile” of a person and understanding their backstory alone, compared to encampment clearings now, which remove residents, clean up trash, and offer shelter within hours.

The proposal follows a two-day assessment in which 80 volunteers surveyed 110 unhoused Mission residents. Volunteers found the top needs included housing, food, and resources in Spanish or indigenous languages.

Proyecto Dignidad, he said, is taking a page from a successful homelessness effort in 2012, when the city found shelter for 60 unhoused residents who lived in an encampment on King Street, or 100 percent of the encampments’ residents. The residents were ordered out following an encampment fire. 

With the aid of multiple city departments and organizations like the Coalition on Homelessness, which is also involved in Proyecto Dignidad, all 60 residents moved into permanent housing or shelter within six weeks. The move didn’t require extra funding, said Bevan Dufty, who led the 2012 King Street effort as San Francisco’s top homelessness official. 

Instead, it required more time to connect people to shelter and available resources, and the presence of community members who unhoused residents recognized and trusted. “Its success is due to understanding humanity,” Dufty said. Unhoused residents are “people just like us.” 

Similarly, Proyecto Dignidad envisions a two- to eight-week process to move residents out of encampments and into shelter. On week one, encampment residents would receive a two-week notice that their camp will be cleared, giving them time to adapt to the change. 

By the second week, an unhoused resident would have already undergone a clinical and needs assessment with a professional. In week four, residents would leave the encampment and move into temporary shelter, while city departments clear trash and clean the former encampment. 

In weeks five to fight, residents would be placed in permanent housing. 

The report, released Thursday by the Latino Task Force, said their plan contrasts sharply with sweeps in which homeless residents feel abused, lose their belongings and simply end up moving to another street and forming another encampment. 

“We recognize that housing is a human right,” said Susana Rojas, executive director of Calle 24 and a Latino Task Force member who spoke at the press conference. “We do not punish our houseless neighbors by making their circumstances worse.”

Organizers are also asking the mayor to pay for two “human rights monitors,” to oversee camp clearings for this process.

Funding and housing remain the challenges to any proposal. It’s unclear how much funding Herrera’s proposal would need. Moreover, shelter beds and permanent housing remain scarce.   

A Coalition on Homelessness report showed the city had only half the shelter bed capacity needed when offering residents shelter earlier this year. At a press conference Thursday, Rev. Monique Ortiz with the San Francisco Night Ministry noted how much easier it was to obtain shelter years ago. 

“Now, with all these barriers, it’s impossible. It’s such a horrible feeling to have our hands tied and to not be able to truly get families, children, elderly, one night to rest their weary bodies,” Ortiz said.

At present, the Mission’s St. Mary and St. Martha Church has 53 available beds, which are not new. Herrera said the Latino Task Force is engaging with churches and other community groups to fill the need. On Thursday, Herrera spoke to a Mission day laborer looking for a place to sleep. Herrera hadn’t located an available one by the end of their conversation.

Still, city officials tried to be optimistic. 

“I don’t find it to be terribly unrealistic,” said Sam Dodge, the director of Healthy Streets Operation Centers, which is a team that currently executes encampment clearings. “I think it just needs to be flexible to accommodate a wide variety of acuity and situations. There’s a lot of complexity about what happens on the street.”


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REPORTER. 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 on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. I wish progressives would stop coming up with terrible slogans. Housing is not a right. Healthcare is not a right. A right is something that everyone can access without cost. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to marry who you want to. You can exercise these rights at no cost to society.

    Things like housing and healthcare are not rights. If you want healthcare or housing, someone has to provide those goods and services, so by definition, there is a cost, and because there is a cost, there are limits. I absolutely believe that we as a society should provide healthcare and housing to everyone, but it’s not a right and there are rules. If you want subsidized healthcare, there is Medicaid and you better believe there are rules and limits. If you want subsidized housing, there are rules and limits too.

    Everyone should have access to housing, but it might not be the location or quality that you want. It’s not a right. Trying to say everyone has a right to live in SF is ludicrous.

  2. This is an absolutely terrible idea. What we have left in the Mission is virtually all crime camps – chop shops, drug sales, etc. And the campers are constantly getting into fights with knives and guns. The Latino Task Force is nothing more than a front for a very narrow point of view that is way out of step with Mission residents, who are fed up with this gaslighting empire-building by greedy non-profits just wanting to expand their control.

  3. people are homeless for a reason – mental health, drug addiction, criminality, lifestyle choice, or simple bad luck. the last can be fixed with housing. the others will not be fixed with housing alone, nor with acceptance of sleeping in the street. those of us who actuslly behave in a socially acceptable manner, and contribute to society, ard fools for thinking the homeless are like us, and simply need s little more time. face up to the reality- if everyone chose this path, humanity would cease to exist. no one has the right to suck off the goodwill of others their entire life. if one is incapable, we should actually take care of them – even if that requires coercion at some level. but most of these folks are parasites feeding on the blood of your oblivious good will.

  4. Maybe I’m new to the whole homelessness issue, but I’ve often wondered if we could use underutilized or abandoned mall spaces that no longer have store fronts in them as temporary shelters for the homeless. It would provide plenty of space for exercise, centers for healthcare screenings and medical necessities, a food area for the community because of the food court in a central location, and if you renovated the store fronts into small living spaces or apartments it could accommodate many people in one area. Plus, most malls already have security centers set up in them. It would make it easier to monitor any crime or violence that might occur in the community rather than build someplace new.

    1. That won’t work because the drug dealers won’t go out to the abandoned malls to sell them drugs

  5. “I don’t find it to be terribly unrealistic,”
    Such a ringing endorsement.
    And what’s the rationale for no fewer than TWO monitors for clearing? Does the dignity project not expect to act with dignity?

    1. They’re relying on volunteers and city departments- seems like a good idea to have someone who is trained available to keep an eye on how they’re doing at multiple locations. The work will likely take place at least partially outside a normal 40hr work week’s hours, so they’d need two people to cover workload.

  6. Best of luck to them. I’m unsure how a volunteer staff would be able to handle the myriad of challenges they would face, but the Latino Task Force has been doing excellent work elsewhere in the neighborhood so who knows? I’d like to see more Navigation Center style services opened up, but a separate/parallel effort can’t hurt since it seems that the Mayor is, inexplicably, defunding some the Nav Centers…

  7. Nice to see something other than “be compassionate, do nothing” and “crackdown.” Let’s see if it works.

  8. Maybe if they acted like neighbors, they would be treated as such. Instead they block sidewalk with piles of junk and expect the city to clean it up. They sell drugs, they make noise all night…etc. This is true at least for the encampment @Capp and 25th.

    1. Totally agree, act like a neighbor!
      – Pick up after yourself
      – Dispose properly of your used needles, foil, pipes…
      – Throw away food wrappers
      – If you can’t find a toilet, use the gutter, not the sidewalk
      – The list goes on and on
      Try behaving like a neighbor and show some respect to the neighborhood. We too are people and treated as such, may show more sympathy to the “eyesore” on our streets.

      1. You may have noticed that in most neighborhoods, especially in the Mission, there is no place to throw away garbage. Has been true ever since Newsom took away cans. What cans remain are overflowing and Recology doesn’t pick up. Unless furniture or big items which residents leave on street, DPW doesn’t pick up garbage for 3 days, which attracts more garbage and gets blown around. The “homeless” problem began here in 1982 after Reagan eliminated housing subsidies. Since then the City has tried various forms of benign and malignant neglect. Breed campaigned against Prop C and since has dragged her feet in implementing. As in most areas of the public sector, we are experiencing the consequences of Reagan, Thatcher, Feinstein policies defunding public services. 40 years of this has led to worse conditions than ever. Easy, and delusional, to blame the victims

    2. Re-branding vagrants as “neighbors” is the actual problem. When you open your arms and welcome street dwelling, you will be overwhelmed by it and that is the problem. All these programs to coddle the vagrants are doomed to failure and even the whole city of San Francisco is now doomed to failure. Everyone one can clearly see it, but no one will admit their (housing is a human right) sacred ideology … HAS NO CLOTHES ! How has 40 years of continuous failure not taught these people anything? Just keep parroting the failed ideology and walking over the cliff…

      1. Best comment of all time.
        All politicians in San Francisco and beyond should read it every night before they go to bed. People are sick of the open air mental institute we have to slog through everyday.

      2. How sad that you’ve divided the world into those who have housing and those who don’t, then label them as “vagrants”. These people have needs that society has failed to meet and now they are being kicked to the curb.

        We need to do what Houston has done and give them places to live, then provide support services to keep them off the street. We also need to encode the right to housing in San Francisco’s charter – and then fund social housing, as well as reign in the almost unbridled greed of real estate speculators and people who buy, but do not live here and are not socially invested in our communities and our people.

        1. The right to housing should be encoded at a state or national constitutional level, if at all. That is not something a local jurisdiction could handle. People will just relocate and exploit that system, say from being homeless in Oakland to homeless in a “right to house” city. Some policies must be implemented statewide or nationwide to truly work. A major problem is that SF politicians have implemented many policies at a local level that should have only been implemented statewide or nationally, or at a minimum a regional area.

  9. Great for those 110, but what about the next 110 and the 110 after that and on and on…. the thing is the “homeless” literally are unlimited. San Francisco already has housed 20,000 + formally “homeless”, but it’s not enough and NEVER will be enough.