S.F.: Most living in park are 18-35

Several city agencies were part of removal of homeless from Golden Gate Park

The majority of homeless people relocated from Golden Gate Park last month were between the ages of 18 and 35, according to city officials.

In an effort to clean up the 1,000-acre park, The City began removing homeless encampments on the eastern side of the park in September. There are an estimated 200 to 400 people living in the park depending on the season, according to the Department of Public Health. To date The City successfully convinced 54 people to leave the park, according to officials, who did not release the exact number of youths removed but said between 30 percent to 40 percent were from out of town.

Mayor Gavin Newsom demanded the cleanup policy in September following neighborhood complaints and as part of a series of quality-of-life campaigns recently launched. Officials from the Department of Public Health, the Recreation and Park Department, the Police Department and the Department of Public Works participated in the removal of homeless encampments from the park.

“One of the things we found is people are living in unsanitary and unsafe situations, not just for them but for those around,” said Rajesh Parekh, a psychologist with DPH and a member of the San Francisco Homeless Outreach program. “You sell it as something that is unhealthy and unsafe and can get you into a better place.”

Parekh said Golden Gate Park is unique to The City because the majority of homeless people staying there are young adults. San Francisco police Capt. John Ehrlich said it is hard to monitor the exact number of people in the park and their age because every 90 days there is about a 70 percent turnover rate in the homeless population in the area.

The people who agreed to move out of the park were placed in hotel rooms, mostly in the Tenderloin, and were given services or counseling if they had a drug or mental problem. If The City can verify that the out-of-town youths have a family to go back to they have the option of being sent back, but not more than once a year.

Parekh said between 40 percent to 50 percent of the people his outreach team helps are given permanent housing and the majority of the people receive some financial grant, whether it be veteran’s benefits or Social Security.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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