How do you know sweeps of homeless encampments have reached ludicrous new lows?
Well, my sad answer for you dear readers: The City just swept a homeless encampment while its residents ate much-needed food at a church across the street.
And no, this accusation is not just from the Usual Suspects, i.e. the Coaliton on Homelessness (which believe me, I know, is an organization that boils the blood of some frustrated locals), though they’ve cried out against the action too. There’s been a “massive increase” in sweeps lately, said Kelley Cutler, a human rights organizer with the coalition.
But no, this accusation comes straight from the Glide Foundation, the church in question, which sits at 330 Ellis Street.
Yes Glide, the beloved church that has citywide respect and admiration, from everyday citizens to Mayor London Breed, who has attended Glide’s services.
But on July 31, far less famous patrons of Glide saw their tents and belongings swept from the sidewalks in front of the church and across the street, as some waited for a free meal. Some homeless patrons already had their forks stuffed in their mouths when they heard Public Works and the San Francisco Police Department came-a-knockin’, according to Glide.
That crossed a line, said Janet Ector, assistant manager of the Harm Reduction Program at Glide Foundation.
She spoke to The City’s Local Homeless Coordinating board Monday. In a recording of the meeting I obtained, one could hear the bubbling anger in her voice.
“We think of that area in front of Glide as a sanctuary and safe haven to the most vulnerable people in The City,” she said. “When [Public Works] rolls up with SUV’s and bullhorns and aggressively threatens to hose those people down if they don’t move on, confiscate their property, nudge them with their feet, tell them they might be arrested, this is insanely aggressive and uncalled for.”
And, she added, an intern of hers saw a walker belonging to a homeless senior confiscated and thrown into a public works truck. This echoed an incident that occurred two years ago to Neil Taylor, a homeless man and talented pianist — his walker was crushed, leaving him to fend with his Parkinson’s disease alone. When The City finally determined it owed him money for the incident, they discovered he had died only a week before the decision. It seems The City has yet to learn the lesson Taylor taught them.
Ector’s voice was firm as she asserted “It’s a safe haven for people. I’ve witnessed this myself from my office.”
Sam Dodge, homelessness coordinator with Public Works, said “these are very serious allegations” and that he would look into them.
Dodge said officials and city staffers worked for weeks on an “encampment resolution” in the area to help connect homeless denizens with housing. He said ultimately 13 people were placed into one of The City’s much-lauded navigation centers. “The reason it came on our radar was there started to be some tent activity there,” he said. “We’re cleaning the street and trying to maintain that place.”
He added that “we strive to serve The City and be respectful for those housed and unhoused” and called the behavior that Glide described as “rude and unpractical.”
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.