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Read this letter penned by homeless woman displaced in rainy weekend tent sweeps

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A homeless woman who was swept out of her tent on San Bruno Avenue and Alameda Street wrote an open letter about the experience. (Courtesy Kelley Cutler)

The City conducted major sweeps of homeless tent encampments in The Mission district this weekend, and some in the rain.

Encampments on Shotwell Street and elsewhere were moved and swept, according to the Coalition on Homelessness. One of the largest encampments hosted more than 30 tents on San Bruno Avenue and Alameda Street.

That encampment was swept early Sunday morning, according to the Coalition on Homelessness, and tent residents stood outside in the rain as San Francisco Police Department officers and Public Works discarded trash.

Perhaps more scathingly, the coalition said tent residents were told to “move along,” but not offered services.

Many of those who were “swept” off the block moved only a block away, they said.

SFPD and Public Works did not respond to requests for comment Sunday evening.

One of the tent residents, Shy Brown, wrote a handwritten open letter about the sweeps, which the coalition photographed and posted online:

“To Whom it May Concern,

On this date at approximately 5:30 a.m. 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 and Public Works] 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,
Shyenene Brown”

KTVU Channel 2 wrote last week that members of the San Bruno Avenue encampment broke car windows of many neighbors and workers near Potrero Hill.

“It’s like the end of the world! Worse than any other third world country,” San Francisco business owner Noeme Chahenian told KTVU.

Rachel Gordon, a spokesperson for Public Works, said crews from the agency did “deep cleans” of the encampments.

“The folks living in them were given a heads up last week,” she said, “The areas became exceedingly unsanitary with rats and mice, and hundreds of discarded needles, plus a lot of rotting, mildewed  garbage.  The condition became a real hazard for people living there and passing by.”

Kelley Cutler, staff at the Coalition on Homelessness, said she arrived at the sweeps at about 8 a.m. Sunday.

“As I walked up one of the women I know told me her husband had just been taken to jail by SFPD because of a warrant,” Cutler wrote on Facebook. “She explained that he has a court date set for tomorrow, but they took him anyways. That left her to move all of their belongings by herself … in the rain. We gave her a hand.”

Culter said “from what I witnessed” the police and Public Works were not aggressive and were careful about not throwing people’s belongings away unless given permission by the owner.

But, she said, calm or not, people were displaced just the same.

There was one bright side to the day. Cutler said a church group, who did not identify themselves, arrived in vans with arms full of food and coffee for those living in the tents.

“Then they drove to the next block and did it again … and so on and so on,” she said.

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