The return of tents in the Mission District has Mayor Mark Farrell promising an “aggressive” crackdown of sidewalk camps next week — and this time he’s vowing to keep them out.
“Enough is enough,” Farrell said Friday. “We have offered services time and time again and gotten many off the street, but there is a resistant population that remains, and their tents have to go.”
When it comes to tent camps, Farrell added, “We have moved as a city from a position of compassion to enabling (unacceptable) street behavior, and as mayor I don’t stand for that.”
As a supervisor in 2016, Farrell wrote the voter-approved anti-tent Proposition Q, giving city officials the right to remove tents if they give campers 24 hours notice and offer them shelter.
For the past three years, the Mission has been subject to repeated sweeps, which often result in campers simply moving a few blocks away or returning in a matter of days or weeks.
Farrell said this time will be different.
“We are going to have a dedicated team to make sure they don’t come back,” the mayor said.
Maybe, but they’ve tried that before as well, even putting up barriers along the sidewalk, but to no avail.
As in the past, city crisis teams will fan out to parts of the Mission east of South Van Ness Avenue and roughly between 14th and 20th streets, to try to coax an estimated 100 or so tent dwellers into San Francisco’s network of shelter programs. That includes the city’s much-hyped Navigation Centers created by former Mayor Ed Lee that help homeless people find jobs and deal with issues such as substance abuse and mental problems.
But those who choose to stay behind, Farrell said, won’t be shown the same compassion. Their tents will be cleared out in the coming week.
“This is all hands on deck,” Farrell said, referring to the teams of police, Public Works, Health Department and other workers that will be deployed to move the campers out and keep them out.
Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said Farrell’s move appears to be more of the same tired approach.
“Without a relocation plan, it’s just more of the sidewalk shuffle,” she said.
Friedenbach said about a third of those in the camps suffer from mental illness, with some cases too severe to go into a shelter.
“These are the people who are up all night hearing voices,” she said. “They don’t fit into a crowded situation.”
Farrell, however, is pushing on.
“The tents are a public safety hazard for the people living in them, and for the residents of San Francisco,” Farrell added. “And they are gone.”
San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross normally appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @matierandross