Metropolis Staff ‘Resolved’ an Encampment. Hours Later, It Was Again

Simply hours after an encampment “decision”—town’s time period for dismantling tents and asking occupants to maneuver—a row of tents reappeared alongside a slim road alongside Van Ness Avenue, leaving locals questioning what the purpose of all of it was.  

On March 23, metropolis companies responded to Larch Avenue between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Avenue, a hotspot for encampments for the reason that pandemic—and an ongoing supply of concern for close by residents and property managers who’ve reported fires, vandalism, drug exercise and different disturbances in reference to the road circumstances.

Citing road cleansing, metropolis staff requested occupants of the alley to pack up and transfer at roughly 1:30 p.m. that afternoon. 

Metropolis staff conducting an encampment decision on March 23 on Larch Avenue between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Avenue. | Picture courtesy of Sebastian Luke

The Division of Emergency Administration, the lead company for town’s homeless outreach groups, stated that metropolis employees engaged with 12 people, three of whom accepted gives of shelter. Two declined shelter gives, whereas eight selected to not disclose private data for entry to companies, the company stated. 

By that night, not less than six tents once more lined the sidewalks of the slim road, together with a mattress, an outside range with what seemed to be containers of gasoline, and different belongings. That Sunday, the fireplace division responded to an outside fireplace within the alley.  

“I ponder why they hassle doing it,” stated John Yandell, who has lived in an condo alongside the alley for the reason that Eighties. “Everyone deserves a spot to reside and to have the ability to get therapy, however what do you do concerning the individuals who aren’t involved in that?”

The Division of Emergency Administration stated it solely responds to a selected location as soon as per enterprise day, and in addition pointed to a court docket injunction that restricts when metropolis staff can ask individuals residing on the road to maneuver. 

“Unhoused individuals who refuse companies or shelter could also be requested to maneuver quickly for cleansing actions, however in any other case, the Metropolis should enable them to stay in place supplied they don’t seem to be obstructing the general public proper of approach,” stated the company.

Final yr, the Coalition on Homelessness and a bunch of homeless plaintiffs sued town alleging that its encampment resolutions or “sweeps” violate federal precedent. Additionally they accused town of illegally destroying private property whereas clearing tents; homeless plaintiffs have since filed 1000’s in misplaced property claims. 

In December, an injunction issued by U.S. Justice of the Peace Decide Donna Ryu barred town from imposing legal guidelines towards sitting, lodging or laying on the road. Below the order, sweeps are solely permitted beneath a slim set of circumstances, comparable to road cleansing.

“Till this factor in adjudicated at a better stage, I do not assume we’re prone to see any long-term change, that’s simply my view,” stated Yandell.

Jennifer Friedenbach, government director of the Coalition on Homelessness, in her workplace in San Francisco, Calif., on December 14, 2022. | Jason Henry for The Commonplace

Metropolis Legal professional David Chiu has appealed the court docket’s injunction on the grounds that it’s overly broad and untenable, saying it places town in an “inconceivable state of affairs.” Amongst different points, Chiu w
rote that the court docket didn’t make clear what it means to be involuntarily homeless and whether or not that applies to people who don’t settle for shelter.  

Attorneys for the Coalition on Homelessness have countered that the details aren’t on town’s facet, saying that people can’t simply entry shelter of their very own volition.

In interviews with The Commonplace, unhoused people have voiced various causes for remaining exterior: Some expressed worry of being in shelters with probably erratic strangers, or stated the services lacked adequate space for storing. Others stated they merely mistrusted town’s outreach operations.

As a part of encampment resolutions, metropolis staff generally ask people for data comparable to identify, date of beginning and questions relating to shelter lodging. 

A person residing on Larch, an immigrant from Panama who gave the identify Alfonso, stated in a March 28 interview that he’d moved again onto the alley after town’s crew left final Thursday. He stated he wasn’t provided shelter, and had been on a housing ready listing for a yr since shedding his place at a shelter-in-place resort after being arrested for an impressive warrant.

“They only requested me to maneuver my tent and that’s it,” Alfonso stated. “I don’t know the place to go, to be sincere.”

Annie Gaus will be reached at [email protected]