Public works crews early Tuesday morning began the largest cleanup to date of the dozens of tents pitched along Division Street and near Showplace Square, startling the homeless residents who have remained in the area despite being ordered for days to leave.
“There was a lot of [Department of Public Works crews], a lot. That was totally abnormal,” said Linda Fuchs, who was in a tent with her wife at Harrison and 13th streets when the sweeps began Tuesday. “And there was a lot of cops, too.”
Crews began clearing the area at 4:30 a.m. to enforce two public health orders issued last week, said Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman with Public Works. The orders, which expired Thursday and Sunday, declared the encampments a health hazard.
Police and Homeless Outreach Teams also responded Tuesday morning to help clear the area.
“We’ve just been trying to go out and get people to avail themselves to the offers of shelter at Pier 80 and other shelters,” Gordon said. “It was really the last hold-outs, and we just decided that we needed to enforce and clean up with the public health abatement.”
As of late Monday, about 65 tents remained at Division Street and Showplace Square, said Gordon. Just a handful remained early Tuesday morning, and the last tent was reportedly removed from the area by 11 a.m.
Public Works crews also placed metal barriers that keep the sidewalk path free for pedestrians, but prevent tents from being pitched again.
“We really want to make it clear tents are not to come back to this area,” Gordon said. “It’s a public health nuisance.”
City officials on Tuesday continued to encourage homeless residents to seek lodging at Pier 80, a temporary shelter established last month near Mission Bay. The shelter planned to expand to 180 beds Wednesday, as the site sees “substantial turnover” from residents who move on to other shelters or leave the pier, according to the Department of Public Health.
As of Tuesday, 17 beds were available at Pier 80, and 11 were available at The City’s Navigation Center that opened last year in the Mission. The Navigation Center reportedly appeals to its guests because it lacks the rules of a conventional shelter, allowing people to come and go, keep belongings, sleep with their loved ones — all while connecting them to services and housing.
Crews planned to return to the streets at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to continue the cleanup effort, said Gordon of Public Works. While the Division Street and Showplace Square encampments were the largest Public Works has encountered in recent months, crews want to ensure lone tents or smaller encampments are not a health hazard as well.
Those with belongings can have their items placed in a storage yard for up to 90 days.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the potential expansion of its Navigation Center model. It’s unclear where the new centers could be located.