San Rafael asking homeless to help reduce complaints


The paper map was developed by the police department and St. Vincent de Paul where hundreds of homeless people eat every day. It will be used as a tray liner. It also contains a list of things not to do.

As a man picked through trash containers along Fourth Street in Downtown San Rafael, another homeless person walked a bike with his belongings at an intersection. Those things are mild in comparison to what some homeless people have done at some places.

"Yeah, you get people who come and want to do drugs in the bathroom. They really kind of have an independent attitude out here. They kind of do what they want to do," said Louis Murillo, a coffee shop barista.

So now after complaints from residents and businesses, San Rafael has developed a map with so called "hot zones" -- areas near Fourth Street and Lincoln Avenue where police answered hundreds of calls over the past year. The city is asking homeless people to stop dumpster diving, avoid using sidewalks as a bathroom and to stop drinking alcohol in public, suggesting they go to a bar instead.

"Here's a couple of spots where we're having some issues right now. It could change. Next month, maybe it could be one of the parks where there is some more increased illegal activity or negative behaviors and to encourage people to take personal responsibility," said Margo Rohrbacher, the San Rafael Police Department spokesperson.

The hot zone maps are being used as tray liners at the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall which serves about 700 meals every day to homeless men and women, a number of whom struggle with alcohol and mental issues.

"Whether it works in terms of people not being at those locations is questionable, but the success around it is starting the conversations about what is appropriate behavior in public," said Suzanne Walker, from St. Vincent De Paul.

Residents are hoping for positive results.

"I think it is a step in the right direction cleaning up the streets. I don't know if it's going to make a great impact, but I think that if it gets in even just a little bit, then it's doing to do something," said San Rafael resident Felix Conde.

The associate director of St. Vincent de Paul says most homeless people are not causing the problems, but it's just a couple of dozen, many of whom are young and new to the area.

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