Oh, let the rage-tweeting begin! A San Rafael police officer was caught on camera dropping off a homeless man and handing him his belongings in the area of Lake Street and 14th Avenue — clearly having just come across the Golden Gate Bridge to offload the man and make him San Francisco's problem.
While it may not be accurate that San Francisco is a constant magnet for new unhoused people because of the city's wealth of services, other jurisdictions have been rumored over the years to transport their unwanteds to the city in the hope that no one will notice. And that seems to have just happened a few weeks ago on 14th Avenue near Lake Street, less than a block from where Park Presidio Blvd. hits the southern end of the Presidio — i.e. one of the first residential streets you'd hit if you drove your police cruiser from Marin County into SF.
ABC 7 obtained video from a neighbor who wished to remain anonymous who recorded footage of a San Rafael Police Department SUV pulling onto the block, dropping off a man who was clearly not well, giving him his belongings, and leaving. The neighbor then reported that the man proceeded to start a small fire, throw rocks around, and then get naked in someone's driveway.
This all happened on July 30. The SF Fire Department was called in with an ambulance within a half hour, and this unnamed man became San Francisco's problem — and the City Attorney's Office is investigating.
"San Francisco is not a dumping ground," City Attorney David Chiu said to ABC 7. "It's disturbing to think that another jurisdiction would drop someone experiencing homelessness or mental health challenges in the middle of a residential neighborhood, with no services or resources around it. It doesn't make for a good outcome."
San Rafael police admit that they did this.
"We made a mistake," San Rafael Police Lt. Scott Eberle told ABC 7. "That is what we did, we dropped this subject off in San Francisco. That did cause resources [to be used] that [otherwise] would not have been tied up in San Francisco."
As the story goes, according to San Rafael police, an officer picked up this man at the Northgate Mall after he was apparently causing a disturbance and threatening a security guard. Police discussed the need to probably bring this man to a hospital for psychiatric treatment, but the man asked to be driven to San Francisco, and the officer complied — choosing this neighborhood right near the bridge.
Eberle added, "I want to extend our apologies not only to the San Francisco community, that neighborhood, but to the first responders who had to deal with this subject."
One neighbor, Michele Sahl, tells ABC 7, "It's really terrible because we shouldn't do that to another human being, number one, and why can't San Rafael take care of this? San Francisco tries to take care of its homeless people, not without challenges, but I'm very disappointed."
This harkens back to an infamous case from a decade ago, when it was discovered that the state of Nevada had illegally been "dumping" mentally ill patients in other states via Greyhound bus. The majority of some 300 individuals who were bussed from a Nevada state hospital to California ended up in Los Angeles ca. 2008, but at least 31 of them got tickets to San Francisco — and then-City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against Nevada over the state's actions in 2013. That suit was settled in 2015 for $400,000.
One wonders if that wasn't a tip-of-the-iceberg sort of case, and maybe other jurisdictions have taken similar actions in the decade since.
"We will look to hold any jurisdiction accountable that's proven to engage in this behavior," Chiu said, speaking this week to ABC 7. "Any jurisdiction that is thinking about doing this needs to think twice."
Given our own shortage of shelter beds, San Francisco itself has a program called Homeward Bound which provides bus and plane tickets to homeless individuals who seek city services and apply for them — but they are supposed to prove that they have a friend or relative who's agreed to house them elsewhere. A look at the program's successes in 2019 found that 56% of clients who took part in the program were still in stable housing in other cities a month later.