The Long Goodbye from The City

A tragic story from City Journal; though still just a proposal at this stage, actual implementation would be bad news for the once most lovely city in our country.

An excerpt.

“San Francisco’s hotels and motels are slowly emptying of the homeless people that the city placed there during the Covid-19 pandemic. The city simply can’t afford the $260 per night, per person, price tag of housing approximately 2,000 people—just a portion of the estimated 8,000 people who live on the street. Where will they go? Elected officials have come up with a new plan: turn the whole city into a network of homeless encampments.

“In June, city officials and departments developed a list of 42 potential sites that could be equipped with spaces for tents and mobile bathrooms. The urban campers, most with addiction and mental health issues, would be provided with free delivered meals and other services. Several sites were erected, including one outside City Hall and one in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. Among the other proposed locations: 25 public elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as a Boys and Girls Club, city parks, and recreation areas.

“Could San Francisco really turn school grounds and other public spaces into dozens of city-sanctioned homeless encampments? The prospect sounds inconceivable, but the ball began rolling last week, when Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced “A Place For All,” legislation that would establish Safe Sleeping Sites around the city. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services (HSH) would create the sites and figure out the funding. Although touted as a temporary measure, they would remain for two years, then reevaluated annually. The long “temporary” timeframe can be explained by the failure of a site that had already been attempted at Everett Middle School. The intended occupants wanted a more permanent place to stay, so passed on the offer.

“The idea is that every person without a home will at least have a tent. The project is superficially humanitarian. Certainly, when people are protected from the elements, they are safer and more comfortable—at least, until winter comes. No one would be turned away, whether the person has lived in San Francisco for years or arrived hours earlier. The city would thus have to accommodate not just the people currently living on the city streets but also the newcomers arriving daily. Nor would anyone be required to stay or remain in the city-run sites, so it wouldn’t prevent individual encampments from forming elsewhere.

“Each site would house up to 150 people—so if 5,000 were to be routed to tents, the city would need to build at least 33 sites across San Francisco’s small footprint. “Mandelman’s legislation, conveniently, doesn’t specify where they would be. When asked directly if schools would be part of the plan, he dodged, insisting that HSH will be responsible for determining most of the suitable locations.

“The proposal to transform what remains of San Francisco into a mass of sanctioned homeless camps has supporters. Mark Nagal, cofounder of RescueSF, a citywide coalition, supports the city’s efforts to build permanent housing and doesn’t believe that people experiencing homelessness should have to wait on the streets. “There has to be something in the middle,” says Nagal. “Where the sites will be located is very important. We strongly believe residents should be involved in that. There hasn’t been enough dialogue with the residents.”

“Such conversations either don’t happen or ignore residents’ concerns. For example, a site in the Haight, at 730 Stanyan Street, was proposed in May 2020. Supervisor Dean Preston swiftly approved it, assuring residents that it would be temporary. Today, 40 “transitional youth” (up to age 29) live inside the site of a former McDonald’s, while older people spill out in tents along the perimeter. Fighting, screaming, violent crime, drug sales, and drug use are ever-present. Tax revenue is dropping as businesses in the commercial corridor close, while renters and homeowners pack up and leave.”

Retrieved October 31, 2020 from https://www.city-journal.org/san-francisco-proposal-homeless-camps

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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