Why some of SF's formerly unhoused set up tents, frequent the streets again

Saturday, May 11, 2024
Why some of SF's formerly unhoused frequent the streets again
Here's why some of San Francisco's formerly unhoused people set up tents and frequent the streets even after they find housing.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Victoria Solomon has achieved a bit of notoriety in San Francisco's Castro District. For years unhoused, according to Supervisor Rafael Mandelman's office, Solomon was given housing and lives in an SRO in the Tenderloin district.

But a few neighbors and merchants complained after she started setting up a tent again in the Castro on different days of the week.

"They want to be on the streets, even if the city provides services to them they have already gotten used to being with their own freedom," expressed Silviano Vite, a restaurant server in the Castro.

For a while, Solomon was even parking her car in the Castro, a 2008 BMW. We ran the plates and confirmed that it was registered to a Victoria Solomon. Neighbors started taking pictures of Solomon and her friends hanging out in the car. A few weeks ago, the city towed and impounded the vehicle after it was no longer running.

To be clear, to our knowledge there is nothing illegal with what she has been doing. Except that, some here say, it defies logic when you give someone a place to live and they continue to occupy a public sidewalk, leaving trash behind.

MORE: San Francisco's unhoused tent count hits 5-year low, Mayor Breed says

"I am frustrated when we do not allow ourselves to address unsafe conditions on the sidewalks, that's not OK. That's what we have to change," said Supervisor Mandelman.

In late March, we received this picture from a neighbor showing Solomon sitting on the sidewalk. We found her at the same spot a few hours later.

"What does it matter if I come out here, like it really doesn't matter. I don't understand why my personal life, why I'm doing - and I wish - can you stop recording? asked Solomon.

There are others who do the same.

The city is well aware. In fact, the Department of Emergency Management told us:

"Outreach teams are on the streets every day, sheltering people every night and moving people out of homelessness every day. Despite this effort, 10% of the people Healthy Streets Operation Center encounters, self-report they are already housed or sheltered."

MORE: The lives of San Francisco's unhoused pet owners, and the support they need

Zachary Paggett is one of them.

"Yeah, this is my family, these are my friends. I don't have any family out here. I come form Oregon and these are who I was on the streets with, you know," explained Paggett.

A recovering fentanyl user, he told us his friends stay clear of fentanyl and they make sure he does too.

Lydia Bransten, a community organizer says there's a component to this homelessness crisis that people often disregard which is, that as social beings, we need companionship and a sense of community.

"When people get housing, they don't leave their community necessarily, they keep going back to their community and it takes awhile to have that transition to a new community and new area," said Bransten of the Gubbio Project.

MORE: SF Night Navigation Team reaches out to drug users in at-risk neighborhoods

But some question the fairness of having a place to live while taking up space on the sidewalks?

Every person who lives in supportive housing contributes 30% of what they receive toward rent. The city fills in the gap. Sixty-percent of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing's $700 million budget goes toward housing.

"We are subsidizing north of 10,000 units in San Francisco that are "forever homes" for folks where they are paying subsidized rent and we're providing the subsidy - I think that's good but we also have to do something about making sure that folks can use our public spaces," added Mandelman.

One solution may be to create more community drop in centers like this one at the Gubbio Project where people stay in community.

"This is a place where people can come and hang out and those places are few and far between," said Bransten.

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