Facing increased pressure to rid Golden Gate Park of homeless encampments, volunteers from Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Project Homeless Connect raised their own “camp” in Sharon Meadows on Wednesday, placing about 40 people in temporary housing.
Teams of five people — including three police officers, one homeless outreach coordinator and one gardener — began rousing homeless people camped in the park around 4 a.m. Other teams cruised the Sunset and Richmond districts. They alerted campers to the services and gave some of them rides to the site.
Margot Antonetty, of The City’s Department of Public Health, said 22 people were placed in shelters and 17 people were placed in stabilization rooms, including a woman who was 8 months pregnant and had not seen a doctor. Stabilization rooms are single-occupancy spaces rented by the department and reserved for people with special conditions who cannot stay in shelters.
“At least 40 people left here today with solid solutions to get them on track,” said Phil Williams, a Project Homeless Connect volunteer. “One of those solutions will not be sleeping in Golden Gate Park again.”
The on-site park services were part of a larger $2.8 million campaign to evict the hundreds of people who have made Golden Gate Park home — a problem San Francisco has faced for years. Last fall, Newsom pledged to give the park a cleaner look, like Central Park in New York.
“In the budget process, we said we’re going to double the outreach teams, we’re going to increase the number of gardeners and custodians, we’re going to create a park patrol to address the needs of Golden Gate Parkpermanently,” Newsom said Wednesday. “That budget just passed.”
Some people, however, are not convinced the latest effort will improve the situation.
“It’s a nonproductive, disjointed effort. Shelter is not housing — it’s a temp Band-Aid for a bleeding, gushing wound,” said Elihu Hernandez, civil rights organizer at the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness.
“There needs to be low-income affordable housing readily available for those who need it,” he said.
Mayor floats midnight park-closure idea
Facing renewed criticism that Golden Gate Park is a haven for homeless encampments, Mayor Gavin Newsom said The City may try shutting down the park after midnight to discourage late night visitors.
Newsom said other parks have closing times, including Tilden Park in the East Bay, parks in Paris and London, and New York’s Central Park.
“It may be a pilot, six months — let’s try it,” Newsom told reporters Wednesday. “The question is, how do you enforce it?”
Sleeping is already prohibited between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. in all San Francisco public parks, according to city law.
On Tuesday, Newsom introduced legislation to expand the hours from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., and prohibit cooking, according to his spokesman Nathan Ballard.
Additionally, the mayor proposed modifying another section of park code, to prohibit any person from “modifying the landscape in any way in order to create shelter, accumulate household furniture, appliances, or construction debris.”
Another consideration, Newsom said, is whether or not cars would still be allowed to go through the park.
“If we allow egress and ingress to drive through, that’s an enforcement issue,” Newsom said.
The mayor said it would be unlikely that The City would close down other parks after dark.
“I think Golden Gate Park is a regional park; it’s more than just a neighborhood park,” he said. “This is the park where we have the biggest problems.” — Bonnie Eslinger
Examiner Staff Writer Bonnie Eslinger contributed to this report.
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