SF neighborhoods using planters to discourage unhoused people from setting up encampments

Lyanne Melendez Image
Friday, October 21, 2022
SF neighborhoods using planters to ward off homeless encampments
San Francisco neighborhoods use planters to keep homeless encampments from becoming a permanent fixture.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- People in some of San Francisco's neighborhoods are trying to address the never-ending problem of homeless encampments by using big outdoor planters to ward them off. It's an effective solution but is it the right one?

There are impossible to miss, huge planters next to homes and buildings. The morning sun shines upon these outdoor plants sharing a hint of lavender, along with an eye-catching view of succulents.

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But they're not necessarily here for you to admire. They are purposely positioned to keep homeless encampments from becoming a permanent fixture.

"It was really bad," expressed Terrel Joseph who is head of safety for a biotech company in San Francisco's Mission District. Their entire building is strategically surrounded by heavy aluminum planters.

"It was to the point where all this was filed up. We couldn't really walk past because there was stuff everywhere. They were doing things they shouldn't be doing. A lot of the smells came through the windows," he told us.

ABC7 News was also sent to another building on 25th and Capp Streets, completely surrounded by planters. On Thursday, there were no encampments left.

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The Mission District is said to have the most planters to deter the homeless, but the Castro isn't too far behind.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman says he sympathizes with residents.

"I think it's a reasonable response, particularly for neighbors in areas that have been repeatedly places where people have been camping," said Mandelman.

How do unhoused individuals feel about these deterrents? Are they too aggressive?

"Not at all, there are certain locations that I guess they have them and certain locations they don't," said Michael Love who told us he always finds a place to sleep.

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Brad Reiss of lived on the streets of San Francisco's Tenderloin. He survived by being shot twice and started a nonprofit to help those on the street.

We can come up with so many clichés to describe the actions taken by neighbors and businesses, "a band-aid solution," "keeping the can down the road," "an act of desperation," "a call for help," but none of these things help to solve the homeless situation.

Jim Cruz-Uoull is against having planters despite the fact that his landlord installed them next to the building.

"Sure we can put planters everywhere and say no tents here, no tents there but then where do they just pop up somewhere else? People need shelter, they have to put a tent somewhere or they die," said Cruz-Uoull.

As city officials have seen, there is no quick solution.

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"We have a massive problem that is going to take a while to dig ourselves out of this," said Mandelman.

In the meantime, Terrel Joseph has another unexpected problem.

"The problem now is that people are coming by and taking our plants out of here so we have to combat that too. You can't win," said Joseph.

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