SF Castro District merchants protest in frustration of unhoused encampment

Lyanne Melendez Image
Thursday, July 20, 2023
SF Castro merchants protest in frustration of unhoused encampment
Merchants and residents from one SF's Castro District gathered on Wednesday to protest against a group of unhoused people who refuse to move.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Merchants and residents from one San Francisco neighborhood gathered on Wednesday to protest against a group of unhoused people who refuse to move. This took place in the Castro District.

Savio D'Souza is the owner of the UPS Store on Market Street. He told us he no longer walks on the sidewalk to get to his store -- instead he jaywalks across Market street.

"A: It smells. There are things that I see that I don't want to see anymore, like you can't 'unsee' stuff," D'Souza said.

Today he asked other merchants and residents of the Castro District to join him to protest the encampment located near the corner of Market and Castro Streets.

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"I have seen mattresses out here. I have seen BBQ pits out here. I have seen a lot of things that shouldn't be on the sidewalk," said Desmond Morgan, a Castro District merchant.

"It's really depressing to see what's going on and tearing down this city. I've lived here almost 30 years, and I've never seen anything like this," said a resident who did not want to be identified.

We approached the people living in this encampment. Toro Castaño is known to residents and homeless advocates because he is part of a lawsuit that has temporarily halted the city from conducting sweeps of homeless encampments, claiming it violates their constitutional rights.

LYANNE MELENDEZ: "What do you want? What do you seek?"

CASTAÑO: "Ultimately, the building of affordable housing."

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A local artist says he doesn't know what else to do after an unhoused woman set up at the back entrance of his SoMa art studio, blocking the freight elevator with debris scattered everywhere.

"I share the frustration of merchants. This particular individual has been offered different kinds of shelter, including tiny homes, and he has often declined and left the place that he has been given, because he would prefer to be on the street," said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

Castaño admitted that he has been offered shelter and even lived for four months in a temporary shelter run by the city.

We also found out that during the pandemic he sued the city after his belongings were taken. He settled with the city and received $9000.

In a statement, homeless advocate Jennifer Friedenbach said, "They are violating the law when they enforce anti-homeless laws without offering shelter first or throwing away people's property instead of storing it."

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Merchants like D'Souza say they feel like no one is listening to them.

MELENDEZ:: "So you have reached out to the city and what's been the response?"

D'SOUZA:: "Not anything positive. It's just, 'We're working on it. We hope to get something done.' That kind of thing, nothing else."

ABC7 news also found out that the federal judge who ordered that sweeps be stopped, does not live in San Francisco. Donna Ryu resides in the East Bay city of Albany where homeless camps are illegal.

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