San Francisco Mayor London Breed talks safety with Civic Center merchants, residents

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's Mayor London Breed toured a new craft market near Civic Center on Friday to reassure merchants the city is doing what it can to make the neighborhood safe. The area has been getting a lot of attention.

In May, BART and the Salvation Army stepped up its outreach to the homeless around its Civic Center station.

The month before, Supervisor Matt Haney introduced an action plan that included more deep steam cleaning of sidewalks.

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In March, we learned the city wanted to transform Civic Center, calling for fewer cars and new public spaces and, last fall, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced police would add more foot patrols in the area.

They say "to win the hearts and minds of the masses you must lift their spirits." The mayor knows her city, full of challenges, must also have positive outcomes.

For example, the Civic Center area is once again a designated Community Benefit District, a CBD, where local property owners tax themselves to fund improvements to the neighborhood. That money goes toward trash and graffiti removal, pressure washing the streets, more public and pedestrian safety programs and organizing events in public spaces like this one at UN plaza.

"We're not kicking anybody out, we're actually bringing positive influences and everyone is welcome to participate and engage in these activities," explained Jorge Rivas, the Deputy Director of Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

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"Our hope is that we help people. Our hope is that we change and save lives not just because people don't want to see it, but because these are actual people," Breed added.

UN Plaza is being used more and more to serve people. Those on EBT food stamps are given $5 chips to help buy more produce. There's a Farmer's Market on Wednesdays and Sundays and now on Fridays, a new craft market.

The mayor said this is all having a positive psychological effect on people. But how about Steven Knabe, a homeless man, what kind of psychological effect does this have on him?

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We asked him how he related to all of this.

"A cool place to hang out during the day," was his answer.

A series of unfortunate events led him to live on the streets, first an eviction, followed by surgery on his knee. "Things went downhill from there," Knabe revealed. He took painkillers and then heroin.

He says at least the city is trying to do something. There's a street street plaque in the plaza that reads, helping "to reafirm the faith."

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