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Farrell calls for homeless sweeps in Mission District

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Mayor Mark Farrell on Monday said the city would conduct sweeps of homeless tent encampments in the Mission District and announced plans for an expanded needle cleanup effort with the Department of Public Health and the SF AIDS Foundation. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The City is targeting tent encampments in the Mission District this week using a controversial city law as the backbone of the effort, Mayor Mark Farrell said Monday morning.

Proposition Q, which was authored by Farrell and narrowly passed with a 51.8 percent majority in 2016, prohibits tent encampments on city sidewalks. It authorizes city officials to remove them after residents are given 24 hours notice and offered shelter.

“Nobody is getting better by sleeping in tents,” Mayor Mark Farrell said Monday at a press conference where he also announced a new initiative to clean up needles off the street. “We have gone, in San Francisco, from a point of compassion on our streets to enabling street behavior.”

SEE RELATED: Mayor, DPH to fund new needle cleanup team

Farrell said the city would be “implementing Prop. Q in a more aggressive way.”

However opponents of the legislation said it does not provide additional housing or resources, it only moves the problem to another location.

“The tagline was ‘housing not tents’ and we agree with that,” said Kelley Cutler, human rights organizer for the Coalition on Homelessness. “We’re not advocating for tents, we’re advocating for housing but in the legislation, there was no housing. So, it’s just another political ploy that they do and it doesn’t work and it doesn’t help.”

Prop. Q calls for homeless residents to be given resources to help them find shelter. However there were 1,047 people on the waitlist for a shelter bed in San Francisco as of Monday morning.

“Sweeps don’t work because if there are no resources or places for people to go, then people don’t just disappear,” Cutler said. “It’s the sidewalk shuffle and it doesn’t work, and we know that it doesn’t work and the mayor knows it doesn’t work.”

City officials said they plan to remove tent encampments that are environmental and health hazards and that block the right of ways in sidewalks and roadways in the Mission neighborhood.

Mohammed Nuru, director of the Department of Public Works, confirmed that there are crews on the ground in the Mission neighborhood this week.

While Cutler said she believes encampments on Division Street will be targeted, details on exactly which blocks will be swept or what day any sweeps will occur have not yet been disclosed.

“Tent and structure encampments, which sprawl across sidewalks and at times into the street, have been riddled with rats, rotting garbage, human waste and used needles,” Nuru said. “People should not be living in these squalid conditions, and others who use the right of way, whether they live or work here or are visiting, should not be put in potential harm’s way.”

Barbara Garcia, director of the Department of Public Health, said that where there are homeless residents, the city will ensure there are health services.

“We’ll follow them and we’ll give them care,” Garcia said. “Wherever people are, we are, in terms of providing care.”

Each night, around 3,500 people are sleeping on San Francisco’s streets, according to data from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

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