Even staff at the historic worker-owned Rainbow Grocery have had enough. Located at 13th and Folsom near "Tent City," a sprawling homeless encampment, members of the co-op have seen worsening conditions and are speaking out. Hoodline reports that workers have posted signs at checkouts to decry the situation.
"We Need Public Toilets," begins a list of demands on the flyers, "we need hypodermic needle clean ups.... we need mental health professionals here on the street.... if San Francisco can afford over $4 million to host a football game, we should be able to afford to improve the deplorable conditions of our poorest and most vulnerable residents."
Sure, when a newcomer to San Francisco declares that he "shouldn't have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people" on his way to a tech economy job, we might shake our heads. But here, when Rainbow — Rainbow! — is fed up, we may have to shake our heads some other way.
Now, to be fair, there has been a response to the tent encampment, and it's been rather swift. Yesterday, the Department of Public health declared the nearly mile-long "Tent City" a health hazard that needed to be cleared within 72 hours. The Department of Public Works which has been conducting regular needle clean-ups and other works for over a year here along with SFPD and CHP officers have been on hand performing sweeps of the area since Tuesday, and 48 Hills has footage of those from videographer Peter Menchini.
Glancing at the situation with Rainbow, Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon told CBS 5 that “People who have to walk through here. People with businesses are saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ And we’re hearing that.”
Mayor Ed Lee reportedly added that “We’re going to encourage people to get out of that situation and persuade them... And persuasion generally means a back-up by people who will say, ‘You can’t be here.'”
The problem of course is the issue of free will many don't want to be in a shelter and the perceived criminalization of homelessness. As one homeless man said, “The cop told us to move. And we said, ‘Where are we supposed to go?' Basically, the cop told us if we don’t move, we’re going to jail.” Yesterday, SFPD Chief Suhr dodged questions as to whether or not his officers would make arrests of those who refused to leave the area.
Lee hopes that the campers will seek shelter at Pier 80, where the Chronicle writes that 98 people slept on Monday night, a sizable uptick. Room for 25 more people was added yesterday.
“This place is nice, it’s clean, it’s comfortable, and it’s drug-free,” said one new Pier 80 inhabitant, a 56-year old man who has been homeless for four years. “They don’t treat you like a bug here, you know what I mean?”
But others say they won't be heading to Pier 80. “I’m going to go across the street, and then come right back,” one homeless man on Division Street said. “That’s what I’m gonna do.”