The newly created Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing is set to begin the process of removing every single homeless encampment in the city — tent by tent. CBS 5 reports that the department's deputy director, Sam Dodge, laid out this goal in conversation with the channel at the same time as SFPD Northern Station Captain John Jaimerena was telling Hoodline that his officers have no plans to take down encampments as it isn't illegal to be homeless.
“We’ve seen an increase in encampments in the Mission district between 14th street and 19th street and South Van Ness and Harrison,” Dodge told CBS 5. “To try to go person by person, offer everyone at least shelter so that we can resolve an encampment.”
When pressed by CBS 5 if to "resolve an encampment" meant "taking them down," Dodge replied, "yeah, that's right."
Newly installed "homeless czar" Jeff Kositsky put it this way in a meeting with Mission residents and merchants last week: "There are 78 or 79 known encampments. We mapped them based on how dangerous they are, their size and acuity... We have a plan to keep them from recurring. We have put out the word on the street: This is not a place to camp."
It sounds as though these clearings will happen, with advance warning, with the help of the Department of Public Works, as before, and social worker Jason Albertson, whom Kositsky calls, "the best social worker I’ve ever worked with."
And it sounds like they'll be doing it without the help of the SFPD, some of whom like Lt. Mike Nevin have already signaled that they're uncomfortable with the practice.
“I would not feel comfortable directing an officer to take someone’s personal property,” Lt. Nevin told a concerned citizen, per Hoodline. “Even if we could seize tents, you would see the tents pop up again tomorrow.”
And besides, he said, putting the homeless in jail would solve nothing. “If they're homeless going in, they'll be homeless going out.”
Kositsky will look to shelters and a new triage center when it comes to housing the people in the encampments, but as he told the meeting last week, that triage center won't be open until February or March. But, he hopes, it will ultimately be able to process 100 or more people at a time.*
“These are human beings and we have to be compassionate, but we also have to be smart about it,” Supervisor David Campos tells CBS 5. “We moved them out of Division Street only to push them down the street, and that’s not a solution. We want to make sure we don’t do that again.”
Update: Mr. Kositsky of the Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing reached out to SFist to clarify matters with regard to the "resolving" of encampments, and the ongoing involvement of the SFPD. "We are working closely and cooperatively with the SFPD and they have been excellent partners. We agree with Lt. Nevin when he states that confiscating possessions and criminalizing homeless people is wrong and will not solve the problem. Also, the police do not ever take or store property as far as I know. HSH department sends social workers into encampments and resolves them without much police involvement. DPW works on cleaning up the streets (and stores possessions if folks cannot or do not want to take them with them). Once we have helped folks from encampments move indoors (so they do not just move across the street), police patrol the area so encampments do not re-form. We do not come in and tear down tents or force people to move (that would not help and besides it is probably not constitutional). This takes time and is not a perfect system but it is working better than previous efforts. I ask that you not cast aspersions on our efforts without understanding the facts."
Related: Private Social Network For Businesses Being Used To Track Homeless Encampments
*This post has been corrected to show that the triage center will not be able to process 100-200 people per day.