Proposed law would allow police to clear out ‘Tent Cities’ in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The homeless problem isn’t going anywhere in San Francisco, but the ‘Tent Cities’ might be depending on a vote this fall.

A new measure that on the November ballot would allow law enforcement to clear out homeless encampments, as long as they provide written notice 24 hours ahead of time.

The city would also have to offer a bed or shelter before telling people to move along.

“We cannot police ourselves out of the homeless crisis,” said Bilal Alo, a homeless human rights advocate.

SPECIAL SECTION: SF Homeless Project

The coalition on homelessness isn’t mincing words on the measure, which was submitted just before last Tuesday’s deadline.

“This is an anti-homeless law, okay? And we’ve got plenty of those,” said Kelley Cutler, a Human Rights organizer.

Under the proposal, law enforcement could also seize personal items that belong to people in homeless camps, who would then have 90 days to claim it after relocating.

Some homeless people that spoke with KRON4 were already upset about the ‘bag and tag’ policies, even before the initiative made the ballot.

“I just can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do if I can’t abandon my stuff for a little while to even go look for a job, or, ya know, you come back, and everything’s gone,” said Joseph who is homeless.

The coalition listed several problems it has with Supervisor Farrell’s idea.

First, they say homelessness is a social issue that shouldn’t be handled by police.

They also say it’s punitive, a violation of civil and human rights. And on top of it all, ineffective.

“They’ll do a sweep, but since there’s nowhere to go, then people shift like a block away, two blocks away,” Cutler said.

Cutler says even the required offer of a bed or shelter for campers wouldn’t work because it would only take a spot away from one of the more than 800 people who are on the shelter wait lists.

So is there a better option to clean up the streets?

“I would reduce monies being spent on enforcement policy, and that money being transferred over to a policy that provides affordable and supportive housing,” said Alo.

But right now, the budget for housing and urban development still isn’t growing. But the number of homeless is.

More than 6,600 people are still living on the streets in San Francisco.