A controversial mobile app introduced Thursday by Mayor Ed Lee allows residents to report homeless persons to San Francisco officials. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

A controversial mobile app introduced Thursday by Mayor Ed Lee allows residents to report homeless persons to San Francisco officials. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

‘Snitch app’ encourages residents to report homeless persons

Residents can now report homeless persons to the city government with a new addition to the 311 mobile phone app, announced Thursday by city officials.

Mayor Ed Lee said the app is intended to better care for homeless persons who may be in need of immediate services. But one formerly homeless person, Darcel Jackson, saw it differently.

“It’s a snitch app,” Jackson said. “What they are doing is making residents police.”

Jackson is working on his own app with the help of those in the technology sector called see/me, which will allow homeless persons to have a list of resources and real-time information for services they can turn to for help.

The 311 homeless app is the mayor’s latest response to the homeless issue as the population has hovered at more than 6,000 for the past decade. The mayor said the app also responds to concerns from residents like Erica Sandberg, a personal finance writer, who gained attention for mobilizing her Nob Hill neighbors to more proactively call The City to report homeless issues.

“It is so upsetting to walk by people everyday on practically every block and say, ‘nothing I can do,’” Sandberg said. “I want it on everybody’s phone.”

But the Coalition on Homelessness called the app “silly” and said it was “counterproductive” to encourage residents to “complain about each other.”

The City should respond to the homeless population holistically with the input of those involved in the subject, said Bob Offer-Westort, speaking on behalf of the Coalition on Homelessness. “It should be driven by need, not by complaints,” he said, adding that there was the possibility for increased citations and harassment through the 311 reports.

Homeless reports are already streaming in.

“Very violent person. Needs to be taken off the street. Has threatened numerous neighbors,” said one app user. Police were called, the person was gone on arrival and case was closed. Another complaint was about an encampment “blocking most of sidewalk on North side 15th street, just west of Minna.”

Sam Dodge, deputy director of the mayor’s homeless office, said, “It’s helpful to have services directed to where they are needed.”

Dodge also suggested calls could save lives. He said 40 to 60 homeless persons die annually in San Francisco and in his ongoing review of the cases he said there are times when the persons “were trying to figure out what to do, people died inadvertently.”

Barbara Garcia, director of the Public Health Department, said the reporting would lead to improved health care.

“I don’t believe criminalization is the direction that we are going. It is the direction of care,” Garcia said. “Every one of these individuals has a right to care.”

She noted that the department has increased staffing of its homeless outreach team, which will have a large presence in The City to respond.

The 311 mobile app has categories for request services, such as park requests, graffiti and potholes. On Thursday, a new category was added: “homeless concerns.” Subcategories include “well-being check (non-emergency),” “aggressive behavior (non-emergency),” “encampment,” and “clean up-shopping carts.” Users can upload photos and note the location among other descriptors.

The mayor didn’t promise a specific response time. But he said those of a more pressing nature like aggressive behavior would be given priority over cleanup.

“We are a compassionate city,” Lee said. “We care about people on our streets. We ought to be able to follow up on somebody that might look like they are in need of some help.”

Responders could include employees with the Department of Public Health, Department of Public Works and the Police Department.

Police Chief Greg Suhr said the app will assist his department in helping those before the forecasted “epic wet cold winter.”

“We have a lot of people that are on the ground,” Suhr said. “We need to make sure that everybody is taken care of.”

3119/11Board of Supervisorscall centerCity HallEd LeeGreg SuhrhomelessPoliticsSam DodgeWEB TAGS: San Francisco

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces charges against former SFPD Officer Christopher Samoyoa in the 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neill at a press conference outside the Hall of Justice on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
DA Boudin charges fired SFPD officer with manslaughter over fatal shooting

Ex-Officer Christopher Samayoa to face criminal charges in killing of Keita O’Neil

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

(Genaro Molina/Pool/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom calls latest surge of COVID-19 cases ‘unprecendented’

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation California’s latest surge of COVID-19… Continue reading

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, during a news conference on March 10, 2020. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
LA County suspends outdoor dining at restaurants as coronavirus surges

By Alex Wigglesworth Los Angeles Times Los Angeles County public health officials… Continue reading

Renderings of the main entrance to upcoming Mission Bay elementary school on Owens Street. (Courtesy photo)
SFUSD offers first look at planned Mission Bay elementary school

San Francisco school officials this month unveiled the design of a planned… Continue reading

Most Read