In a sweep of homeless encampments described by the Coalition on Homelessness, the Department of Public Works and the SFPD cleared 30 tents near San Bruno Avenue and Alameda Street on Sunday morning amid cold weather and rain. According to Kelley Cutler of the Coalition, "From what I witnessed, SFPD & DPW weren't being aggressive and were careful about not throwing people's belongings away unless given permission by the owner."

Nevertheless, sweeps like these that have Mission Local describing affairs as a "case of musical tents." The inhabitants of a 20-person tent encampment on Erie Street were moved to Division Street last month, Mission Local says, then moved off of Division Street. Now, at least some of those homeless campers have returned to Erie Street.

“Cops keep coming by," one woman told Mission Local. "They said they don’t care which way we move. Many moved one block over — It’s a big roundabout of nothing."

One woman at the San Bruno Avenue encampment, Shy Brown, penned an open letter to the SFPD and DPW officials performing the sweeps, which Brown gave the Coalition on Homelessness permission to share. That missive, which already caught the attention of the Examiner, asks authorities to simply look at Brown and her fellow homeless people with more humanity and empathy. Brown asks that they just treat her belongings, for example, however they might look, as property rather than garbage.

"To Whom it May Concern, On this date at approximately 5:30 am DPW and SFPD had us residents of Alameda and San Bruno, pack up our stuff and leave while it was pouring down rain. I understand that the homeless epidemic is out of control, but just because you don’t want to see us with our tents up and the whole nine, doesn’t mean we can’t be treated like human beings. Just like the residents of San Francisco, we too are human and have feelings as well. We got treated with such disrespect from the 2 entities (SFPD & DPW) that we are afraid to say anything to them in fear of our stuff getting taken. What you guys call junk or trash is not that to us. We hold dear to the things that matter most. So the reason for this letter is that we are asking you, our city officials, to please work with us. And to try and change your outlook upon us. Because I’m just one of the many who speak up when injustice is done to us for no reason whatsoever. The names on the following page are one’s who want to support me in asking you guys to stop the injustice towards the homeless. Like I said, we are human as well, not animals who need training. Thank you for listening and reading this letter. Sincerely yours, Shy Brown"

SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan called the Sunday clearings routine Public Works cleanup efforts: The campers on Division Street could return if they wished to, she said. That's not, however, the impression at least some of the homeless people living there had gotten, and cleanups at encampments appear to be sporadic, often unexpected occurrences.

Prop Q, which enacted a formal ban on tents on sidewalks in San Francisco, requires that 24-hour notice be given to encampments and that property storage and overnight shelter be offered to homeless campers before anyone is removed from them.

In the case of the Division Street sweep effort, one encampment resident who gave her name to Mission Local as Cooper, she "didn’t see [the Homeless Outreach] team at all... Nowhere around. The cops came in and [Public Works] had the dump truck... Then they came by one more time before leaving for the day to make sure we knew we had to move.”

Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing representative Randy Quezada disputed that claim, saying an informal warning or "heads up" had been given to at least seven people at the encampment. Two of those seven sought assistance when it was offered.

Finally, Quezada drew a distinction between more formal "resolution" of encampments and routine street cleaning. “This type of engagement is not like encampment resolution team engagement,” Quezada said, clarifying that encampment resolution engagement proceeds over the course of weeks with written notices.

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