City march to clean park, relocate homeless goes on

The City has torn down 380 homeless encampments and is removing a ton of garbage a day from Golden Gate Park since it implemented a plan two months ago to evacuate the homeless, officials said.

Halfway through an effort to beautify the park, city officials placed 66 homeless people in housing and another 33 have been given services, either for substance abuse or mental illness, according to Recreation and Park Department General Manager Yomi Agunbiade. The majority of the people removed from the park were between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the Public Health Department, and 30 percent to 40 percent of them were from out of town.

In September the mayor began a 90-day campaign to remove homeless encampments, provide services for an estimated 200 people living in the park and haul away trash from the 1,017 acres of The City’s largest green area, after residents complained about safety and trash in the park. The City began sweeping through the eastern part of the park near Haight and Stanyan streets and is making its way west. On Thursday the mayor toured the park and said that, despite being shocked by what he has seen and heard, the cleanup of the park was “looking good.”

“The goal is to make this a long-term concerted effort,” Newsom said, adding that on the surface the park does not look too bad but “when you get deep into the park I’d see things I never [have], and I grew up here.”

The City has had five employees — from the departments of Public Health, Public Works, and Recreation and Park — working seven days a week to first make contact with the homeless and offer them services and then to haul away trash.

“People are taking the services and as we come back to the park we are seeing less and less people,” Agunbiade said. “We are hearing back from people that the park looks clean.”

After the 90-day period is over, The City will examine how clean the park is and if the number of homeless people seeking shelter in areas such as Hippie Hill has declined. Agunbiade said The City has to continue a sustained effort indefinitely. The mayor said there has been some discussion about creating a police force to monitor the park. The Recreation and Park Department has five rangers patrolling the park.

“It’s something that people are discussing [and] that’s something we are discussing but nothing we are advancing,” Newsom said. “We have resource problems.”

sfarooq@examiner.com

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