Polar Bear, a 40-year-old homeless man, takes down his tent as he prepares for relocation to the Pier 80 shelter on Feb. 25, 2016. A new proposal from Supervisor John Avalos would ensure future sweeps of homeless encampments be done in a "humane way." (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

Polar Bear, a 40-year-old homeless man, takes down his tent as he prepares for relocation to the Pier 80 shelter on Feb. 25, 2016. A new proposal from Supervisor John Avalos would ensure future sweeps of homeless encampments be done in a "humane way." (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

Supervisor Avalos proposes rules for sweeps of homeless tents

Amid concerns over Mayor Ed Lee’s plan to rid San Francisco of tents used by homeless people, Supervisor John Avalos announced legislation Tuesday that would mandate a procedure for the removal of encampments.

The legislation would impose safeguards to ensure more humane treatment of those living on the streets, countering the possibility of criminalization or deterioration of health due to the sudden disruption.

“It’s really about doing it in a humane way,” Avalos told the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday.

With the proposed rules in place, Avalos said The City wouldn’t just be pushing the homeless from one neighborhood to the next. A recent controversial sweep of a homeless encampment along Division Street resulted in some moving into the Pier 80 shelter, but others simply relocated to nearby streets.

Avalos, who is working on the proposal with the Coalition on Homelessness, will request today the City Attorney draft the legislation.

Details of the proposal include requiring a 15-day notice to evict homeless people from encampments. It would also require that San Francisco partner with those living in the tents to create a relocation plan and ensure communication with residents and businesses in the vicinity about the plan and timeline.

Under the proposal, The City would be required to identify permanent housing for homeless persons prior to the removal of an encampment. If permanent housing isn’t available, then The City must provide temporary housing with a plan to transition the person into permanent housing “within a reasonable time period.”

If housing isn’t available, the tents will be given temporary reprieve. For existing encampments of more than 30 people, The City would be required to provide services like bathroom and garbage collection. Additionally, The City would be prohibited from cleaning areas where homeless are camped between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The Mayor’s Office slammed Avalos’ proposal soon after learning of it.

“It’s a formula for near-permanent encampments and their unhealthy, unsafe conditions in neighborhoods across the city,” said Mayor Ed Lee’s spokesperson Christine Falvey.

Falvey said the mayor has promised a “compassionate response” to the homeless sweeps by offering services and shelter, “but allowing encampments to stay and grow is dangerous.”

“The mayor was very clear that we would continue to develop alternatives as we deal with encampments and it would not happen overnight,” Falvey said.

To address concerns about what happens to property confiscated by city cleaning crews, the legislation would require that a homeless person receive notification on how to retrieve his or her property. The City would also be tasked with cataloging the items and storing the them for up to 120 days.

“Let’s put a program and system in place to actually make sure that we are relocating people to somewhere, and if we don’t have the ability to move them to a good place, then we provide some sanitary services — shower and bathrooms — close by, so that they are able to keep the area safe,” Avalos said. “Having a place to live on the street, if it’s a tent, it’s better than nothing.”

The proposal is modeled after similar laws in place in Indianapolis and Portland, Ore.

“Cities are not going to ticket or displace their way out of homelessness, while human lives are shortened and lost. Housing is the only solution, and until then we must continue to protect the civil rights of all people,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said in a statement. “This legislation is San Francisco’s opportunity to ensure that there is a humane and just plan in place to address our city’s crisis.”Board of SupervisorCity HallCoalition on Homelessnesshomelesshomeless sweepsJennifer FriedenbachJohn AvalosMayorPoliticsSan Franciscotents

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