South of Market store owner says he's under siege from violent people and considering closing shop

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The store owner in San Francisco's South of Market says he's about ready to close his business because of the constant unwanted visits from violent people.

"They come disoriented. They come high. The bathrooms are used for drugs," says Gill Desaulniers.

He and his sister Marian started the Harvest Urban Market on Eighth and Howard streets 16 years ago.

But times have changed, a lot.

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"I've found people in the bathroom here with needles in their legs."

Marian Desaulniers says she's been attacked many times. The most recent happened when she was working the cash register.

"With both hands, he pushed me against this thing," she said.

On Friday, Gil was bitten in the arm by a violent homeless man whom he tried to subdue. He also sustained bite marks in June by a homeless woman.

"A girl came in, trying to get her to exit the store and she grabbed my arm and just bit me."

He added, "We're not even running our business anymore. We're basically dealing with street people."

They're everywhere in his South of Market neighborhood, living on the street and in the numerous alleys intersecting Eighth street.

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Police and Public Works clean up crews tell the homeless to pack up and leave, but they come back hours later.

"About every fifteen-twenty minutes, somebody from the street comes in the store and tries to do something."

The thefts and attacks have become so bad, the owners are considering closing their family store.

"It's just not worth it. Yeah, you know, we pay taxes to the city. The police can't do anything. The laws have changed."

Mayor London Breed says mental health reforms and help for the homeless are her priorities and once they're achieved, they can help beleaguered store owners.

"I would say to people who have had enough to just hold on," the Mayor said. "We're working toward resolving the issue. It will take some time but we ask for patience."

EDITORIAL UPDATE: The Harvest Urban Market in SF, the subject of the story, is a corporation owned by Gill Desaulniers and two other shareholders. His sister Marian is employed at the store but is not an owner and did not open the store 16 years ago.
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