Sheltering while homeless: Streets in one SF neighborhood lined with tents amid pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7's Phil Matier has been covering and going into San Francisco's Tenderloin District for decades and he's never seen it in the state it was on Friday.

Walk down any of the streets, and chances are you're going to come across lines of tents and people, desperate and homeless.

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It's not just the tents. It's the garbage that builds up around them.

What are they doing here?

It's a domino effect. San Francisco, like the rest of California and the nation and the world, is in the middle of a pandemic, and have been ordered to shelter in place.

But for these people, there is no place, or at least no other place, than the street.

As for the city homeless shelters -- they can't go in there because they would be too close to one another.

So instead, nonprofit organizations are giving them tents and telling them to shelter in place.

In this case of the Tenderloin, that place is the sidewalk.

The idea is that they're contained, that they're not going to be spreading the virus and that they're going to stay in the tents, but the reality is different.

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Though they're not staying in the tents -- they're out on the streets.

With it are the other problems, the mental illness, the drugs, the other things associated with the population that are going with them.

It's one thing what you're seeing on the streets. The other thing is what you're not seeing all the time.

Those are the people that are living in the hotels and apartments that are virtually being held prisoner, because they can't go out on the streets and mingle with this.

On the streets, you'll find tents, people passed out and people on the sidewalks.

It's so bad that the University of California Hastings School of Law, which has its campus in this neighborhood, has joined together with others and filed an unprecedented federal lawsuit against the city asking for the tents to be removed for the safety of those in them and for the safety of those people who are living in it.

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The result is the mayor has ordered a cleanup of the area -- a block-by-block plan to remove the tents and take them to parking lots or open spaces wherever they can find outside, that they can set up the tents at the proper distance and monitoring them.

Whether it works or not remains to be seen.

It's going to be difficult to get the tents up and moved in a healthy manner.

It's going to take time, it's going to take manpower and it's going to take the cooperation of the people in the tents.

There's another question at play as well.

Once these tents are gone, what's to keep other tents from coming in and taking their place?

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