City Dismantles Cesar Chavez Street Homeless Encampment


Yesterday, workers from the San Francisco Department of Public Works removed the homeless encampment along Cesar Chavez Street under the US101 freeway. The camp had reportedly become the largest in the city.

The San Francisco Chronicle was there:

Street cleaners, police and outreach counselors descended upon the camp about 6 a.m. and spent the morning methodically bagging up trash and flopping tents onto flatbed trucks. The counselors’ goal was to get the campers into homeless shelters or other poverty services, but the cleaners’ goal was purely to clear out what has become a smelly, messy eyesore to passersby and neighbors in recent weeks.

Camps have dotted the maze of trails, bushes, freeway-ramp ledges and dirt lots at that part of Cesar Chavez for decades. But ever since a giant encampment along Division Street was finally swept out in March the Cesar Chavez population has mushroomed into the largest street settlement in the city.  […]

“Thirty years ago you saw older people and vets with bad luck,” David Johnwell, foreman of the hotspot cleanup crew for the Department of Public Works, said as he directed the dismantlement operation under Highway 101. “Now you see a lot more younger people, women and dogs and needles.

“It’s not for us to say where they should sleep… They’ll move back in, but we did our job. Nobody has the answer. But at least when we leave here it’ll smell good.”

He said officials have been contemplating erecting fencing to keep campers out, but nothing was imminent. Fencing successfully reduced camps at a similarly longtime homeless haunt near the Caltrain station at Interstate 280 after tents were swept away from there in 2013. At that time, it was the biggest camp in the city.

That was yesterday. As of this morning, some of the tents have already been re-established.

PHOTO: Encampment under US101, February 24, 2016 by Telstar Logistics

32 thoughts on “City Dismantles Cesar Chavez Street Homeless Encampment

  1. I’ll have to swing by during a work break today and see how many have already set up shop again.

    • I drove by this morning, and there were already quite a few. Not surprising since the city does not seem to have any real plan here.

      • This is the real issue. We (too our credit, I think) are willing to devote a lot of financial resources to the crisis of homelessness in the city, but we aren’t doing so in an effective way.

  2. It actually seems like they did the major sweep a couple of weeks ago. The fenced in area along Potrero near the softball field was cleared before the end of May. There have been far fewer people staying in the area the past couple of weeks.

  3. San Francisco has never had a comprehensive for the homeless. And keep in mind that some of those homeless may at one time have been your co-workers, or could have been. We call ourselves a Christian nation but one which begrudges its charity, and the problem goes on – as it will until something is really done. Just shifting people around does nothing.

      • +1

        Also, I don’t think giving the Human Services Agency’s department of Housing & Homeless around $160 million a year is begrudging anything. And that’s just the Housing & Homeless funding. It doesn’t even get into the HSA general fund. HSA has the money. Where is it going? With that amount of money they could build a thousand low income housing units. Maybe even more. They should be held accountable for the lack of progress in dealing with homelessness, addiction and metal health.

  4. This has been a problem for the 16 years I’ve lived here, but we really need a zero tolerance policy when it comes to tents. It’s just like graffiti — if you allow one tag on your building, you just invite more and more. If you allow one tent, eventually there will be >100 like there were at Chavez.

    • A zero tolerance policy toward TENTS? I.e. A roof over people’s heads? You may need to rethink your policy there.

  5. They have been doing sweeps every few days for the past several weeks. It seems like each time they have a target area, so one day they’ll clean out the area south of Chavez, and everyone moves to the northern side, next to the softball field. The next time they’ll sweep out the northern side and everyone moves south, etc.

    Now most people have just taken to setting up on the sidewalks and paths that run through there instead of the side areas. Maybe a few people have moved on.

  6. With 825 people on the shelter waiting list, it takes weeks to get into a shelter in SF. Where are they supposed to go? The city takes their only belongings and sends them away to… Another encampment. This is a totally broken system.

    • Go into the shelter system. Period. A few weeks on a waiting list is not the issue. The issue is these folks would rather live in a tent and be free to drink, do drugs, steal from cars, run bicycle chop shops, etc than go into the shelter system. When camps are cleared, counsellors are there to offer immediate placement but most turn it down. Many of the folks have been there for years. Allowing the situation to persist is not helping them.

  7. what do you all think the city’s plan should be?
    what does “zero tolerance” for tents mean – where will the people living in these tents go?

      • San Francisco has ~3,000 shelter beds, and ~7,000 homeless individuals. so the math doesn’t add up there.

      • @Seth – Not everyone who is in the shelter system is in an emergency shelter bed. Many are in SRO’s or even low income housing. The 3,000 number is emergency shelter beds, and doesn’t count the other housing options that may be available. It also doesn’t include the Family Shelter emergency beds, which are counted separately from single adults. That’s not to say the City doesn’t need to build more emergency shelters, but I can say (based on direct information) there are ALWAYS available beds in the shelters. Some homeless just don’t want to stay there.

      • so if someone living on the street refuses a shelter bed, what should the City do? arrest the individual?

        i’m asking honestly, i don’t know the answer.

      • I think that’s the conversation that the administrators of the City should have. Personally, my feelings are that you can’t force someone into a shelter bed. You can, however, refuse to allow them to sleep on public property. They can refuse a shelter bed, but then they need to figure out their own solution that doesn’t include setting up a tent.

      • i assume by “refuse to let them sleep on public property” you are saying that SFPD would be the ones doing that enforcement. i’m just not sure they are equipped to deal with that level of service, and i know for a fact that they don’t want to be in the business of moving homeless folks around.

      • Whether we like it or not, SFPD is the agency tasked with enforcing the law. With that said, every time I’ve seen a camp cleared out, there have been members of the Homeless Outreach Team there to provide guidance & services. SFPD is there to ensure things go smoothly, but I’ve never seen a homeless person arrested for being homeless. I’ve seen them arrested for having stolen goods on them, or for having drugs on them (ie: for breaking the law), but not just for being homeless. That’s why the HOT team is there.

    • housing scarcity is a city-wide issue, not just a homeless issue. if there are too few homes for renters and homeowners, some are forced to look elsewhere. why should that be different for homeless? if the 7 x 7 city doesn’t have the capacity to shelter every homeless person, they, too, may have to look elsewhere. the right to live doesn’t necessarily include the right to live in a particular city…

      • I have a number of friends who’ve moved out of SF b/c of price; AFAIK they never considered living on the sidewalks in a tent. It sucks that they left and I miss them but they found more reasonably priced places to live elsewhere.

  8. San Francisco is the promised City for transients. I doubt many are native San Franciscans. Other cities give individuals bus tickets to S.F. Drug users do NOT have my sympathy. I have had to encounter men taking a dump and urinating in front of me on the sidewalk too, too many times. The filth and smells are disgusting and nauseating.

  9. Driving to work this morning I had to stop for someone dragging their tent back across the street to set up camp again… Several other tents were already there.

    • Driving to work this morning I saw them dismantling the tents that popped back up over yesterday and last night. We’ll see if this is just going to be a merry-go-round between the homeless and the City.

  10. Pingback: Bernal Neighbor Named Director of City’s New Homelessness Office | Bernalwood

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