Where did SF's homeless population go during APEC? Here's what we uncovered

Luz Pena Image
Saturday, November 18, 2023
Where did SF's homeless go during APEC? Here's what we uncovered
Where did San Francisco's homeless go during the APEC summit? Here's what we uncovered.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you've visited San Francisco in the last week, chances are you have noticed fewer unhoused people near Moscone Center and downtown.

Since APEC started, streets have been cleaner and the homeless population is not as visible in downtown San Francisco.

The San Francisco Standard captured encampment on Van Ness Avenue and Eddy Street two months ago. This week, a completely different look. Planter boxes now on the sidewalk. A mile from APEC.

Minna Street between Seventh and Julia Streets with multiple tents, two months ago. This week cleared. Less than a mile from APEC.

All this leading to question: Where did San Francisco's homeless population go? We found many of them on Willow Street.

MORE: Living room on the Embarcadero: The story of an unhoused man in SF

Luz Pena: "Where were you before being here on Willow?"

Cody Jost: "Harrison and 5th street. Down the way a bit"

Pena: "Did the city move you?"

Jost: "Yeah pretty much. They'll block off certain street and tell you to keep going. Basically they control everything. They tell you where to move and you just have to get up and go."

Before APEC, Cody had set camp two blocks from Moscone Center.

For the last week, U.S. Secret Service has been restricting access around Moscone Center. Cody said city workers showed up and offered him shelter. He took it.

Pena: "A month ahead of APEC, what did you guys notice?"

"Approximately a month before APEC began, there was intentional engagement with the city and homeless. People experiencing homelessness in south of market. Many of those folks did come to the Tenderloin and they were telling us that they were given options for shelter," said Terry Giovannini, St. Anthony's Chief Program Officer.

St. Anthony's has been keeping track of the need for shelter in the Tenderloin. It has seen an uptick this week.

"Many of the folks who were staying in SOMA on the streets have been asked to relocate. Many of those people who've been asked to relocate were offered shelter. Those who opted not to take shelter are looking for alternatives while APEC is taking place," said Giovannini.

MORE: SF to ramp up clearing unhoused encampments after court clarification, officials say

In a statement, San Francisco's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing acknowledged that when events like APEC take place efforts change:

"We want to put our best foot forward. Dedicated outreach efforts will be focused on the conference vicinity and offering safe places for people experiencing homelessness will be a priority."

Businesses in the Tenderloin are glad more homeless individuals are now in shelter, but are concerned of what will happen once APEC is over.

"We are definitely going to keep pushing. We are all the constituents. The property owners, the businesses, we are the mayors constituents we are the city of San Francisco and they need to listen to us," said Rene Colorado, executive director of the Tenderloin Merchants Association.

HSH also said that even though there was no special shelter capacity for APEC, the city did open winter shelter the day APEC started in San Francisco adding 300 beds to the shelter system.

Full HSH statement:

"San Francisco's work to address homelessness is a priority 365 days per year. We are out on the streets every day, sheltering people every night and moving people out of homelessness every day. When our community hosts events, like APEC, we want to put our best foot forward. Dedicated outreach efforts will be focused on the conference vicinity and offering safe places for people experiencing homelessness will be a priority. The SF Homeless Outreach Team will connect people experiencing homelessness with services, shelter, and housing assessments in real time in the field. HSH is not opening any special shelter capacity for APEC. We have not been budgeted to add shelter capacity during the summit. That said, we do have some already funded new capacity coming online this fall that will help support our community during APEC and throughout the winter. This includes: The Interfaith Winter Shelter that will run from November 10, 2023 - March 24, 2024, increasing shelter capacity for people experiencing homelessness during the challenging winter season. Re-expanding shelter capacity at three adult congregate shelters. This expansion was funded in the last budget cycle and is due to come online in November and December 2023 and this capacity is ongoing. We estimate that this will add 300 beds to the shelter system. As always, addressing homelessness requires a comprehensive and compassionate approach. The APEC conference provides an opportunity to spotlight San Francisco's commitment to this issue and demonstrate our City's innovation, resilience and determination to find lasting and meaningful solutions."

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