SF's first "Safe Sleeping Village" opened this week at the Civic Center and was met with a lukewarm reception; it allows for only 50 tents, each set behind a flimsy fence line. Now, there's a second one in the works that will soon occupy the idle McDonald’s across from Golden Gate Park.
For the City of San Francisco, the notion of what constitutes a solid, secure night’s sleep is, apparently, subjective at best. Or, at worst, is lightly regarded. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors granted 8,000-plus hotel rooms last month to house those affected by the stay-at-place order, the vast majority of those given to help the homeless. But tent encampments continue expanding, with some surveys saying they've tripled in areas like the Tenderloin. And bovine-like containment plans are being favored to, say, more humane ones — like providing the disenfranchised with roofs over their heads that don’t bow under a strong breeze.
Last week announced our first Safe Sleeping Village in Civic Center to address the rise in tent encampments in the surrounding area.— London Breed (@LondonBreed) May 15, 2020
Today we're announcing we'll be opening the next site at the former McDonald's lot on Stanyan.
Here's a thread on why we're willing to try this:
As the Chronicle reported, the SF-owned lot at the defunct Mcdonalds off Stanyan and Haight Streets will be repurposed as the City's next Safe Sleeping Village. Though not quite fully fleshed out, space is expected to provide enough acceptable space for at least 40 tents.
The reasons for the uptick in homeless camps are as numerous as they are varied. Many believe a lack of SF-supported housing programs — and the slowing of those already in existence because of the pandemic — and adequate resources are largely to blame.
“So while in normal times I would say that we should focus on bringing people inside and not sanctioning tent encampments, we frankly do not have many other options right now,” says Mayor Breed, per the Chronicle. “Having places with resources serving people in the neighborhood is better than unsanctioned encampments.”
Though anyone — with a conscience and active nervous system — might scratch their head as to why the debate around authorized encampments is even a point of contention in one of the nation's most affluent metros.
Thanks to @LondonBreed and her team at the EOC for moving forward to establish a safe sleeping area in the Haight. This is the 2d sanctioned site in the City & we appreciate that the Haight was prioritized. We look forward to partnering with all involved to ensure its success. https://t.co/3yPNXiP1UU— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) May 15, 2020
Nevertheless, District Five Supervisor Dean Preston, who's a vocal advocate for housing in both San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood he represents, admits this isn't ideal. However, erecting socially distant places for SF's homeless populations to sleep at is a top priority right now.
“We made it clear (to the Emergency Operations Center) that there were a number of sites we wanted, and we made clear there were sites we would have preferred,” Preston said of the newly planned Safe Sleeping Site. “But we’re not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good here.”
Picked for its accessibility to power and other utilities, the site will also allow for other essential services, like COVID-19 testing and monitoring, and access to hygiene for the homeless.
“We’ll be providing access to health care and testing and overall monitoring that I think will be beneficial to the participants and the community,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of the city’s Department of Emergency Management, to the Chronicle's Dominic Fracassa.
A parking lot at Kezar Stadium was also considered, though the lot is currently used by UCSF medical workers — an arrangement that benefits the City, fiscally.
Early April saw a 70-plus-person outbreak at the Multi-Service Center South facility, San Francisco's largest homeless shelter. A few days later, the CDC awarded SF an "A+" rating in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Image: Screenshot via Google Maps