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

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
SF to ramp up clearing unhoused encampments: officials
Mayor London Breed announced San Francisco is stepping up efforts to clear homeless encampments.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Homeless encampments, a familiar site across San Francisco, could become a little less common in the coming weeks.

On Monday, Mayor London Breed announcing the city is stepping up efforts to clear encampments.

The move coming after local leaders said they received clarity from a federal court about an injunction which limited their clearing response.

It's just the latest development in a months-long legal battle between the city and homeless advocates.

MORE: Drug users must enter treatment to get SF County cash assistance, Mayor Breed announces

Drug users must enter treatment before they can get San Francisco County cash assistance, according to a proposed rule announced by Mayor London Breed.

"This lawsuit and this injunction has put the city in an impossible situation," said David Chiu.

Chiu is the San Francisco City Attorney.

He says the court gave the city the okay to clear encampments as long as they first offer shelter to those living on the streets.

MORE: Hundreds rally for judges to remove injunction blocking SF from clearing homeless encampments

The issue of homelessness in San Francisco went before three federal judges on Wednesday.

Chiu believes it's a step in allowing the city to enforce its own laws.

"San Francisco has really tried to balance providing compassionate services and shelter to unhoused individuals with maintaining healthy and safe streets. But that balance was really upset particularly as over half of the folks who have received offers of shelter would turn it down," he said.

Others, though, have concerns.

MORE: 'Not just Dreamforce': SF mayor responds to Benioff's claim that city transformed for conference

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff asks why San Francisco can't be clean and safe every day after increased patrols for Dreamforce conference.

That includes Jennifer Friedenbach, the director of the Coalition on Homelessness - the group suing the city.

"Our whole intent of the lawsuit is really to get more folks off the streets," she said.

Friedenbach claims even before the court's clarification, the city was never prohibited from cleaning up encampments.

However, she worries the increased sweeps could lead to the city violating its own rules on clearing encampments.

Friedenbach specifically pointed to policies prohibiting the destruction of homeless people's property- which she says can be counterproductive.

"Criminalization in general does not lead to an exit out of homelessness, and it in fact usually lengthens homelessness," Friedenbach said.

VIDEO: SF crews making a difference cleaning homeless encampments, but here's what's slowing them down

Members of the SF Department of Emergency Management helping the homeless say they've sheltered over a thousand people in 2023, but have run into roadblocks preventing them from doing more.

The legal battle is far from over though, with more trial dates on the issue set for the months ahead.

Until that time comes, Friedenbach says, she wants real solutions.

"We're looking for a much more thoughtful response that has increased number of people getting off the streets."

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live