After months of neighborhood complaints, city clears Duboce Triangle encampment

City officials cleared a homeless encampment along Noe Street. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
By Steven Bracco - Published on August 13, 2020.

On Tuesday morning, city officials cleared a block-long homeless encampment along Noe Street between 14th and Duboce streets.

The move was announced a day prior by Jeff Kositsky, manager of the Healthy Streets Operations Center (SF HSOC), during a virtual meeting of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association (DTNA).

The encampment along the fence line of the California Pacific Medical Center Davies campus had drawn much concern from neighbors, who said it made the sidewalk impassible. With no access to sanitation, the camp put both campers and passerby at risk for COVID-19 spread.

Since shelter-in-place began in March, SF 311 has seen 178 complaints for blocked sidewalks, encampments and "homeless concerns" on the block. In an interview with Hoodline last month, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman specifically identified the encampment as one of his major concerns.

City officials from multiple departments were on hand. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

Police, firefighters, Homeless Outreach Team (SF HOT) workers, and SF HSOC representatives arrived at 7 a.m. to clear the encampment, with Recology San Francisco (Sunset Scavenger), Public Works and SFMTA also on scene.

Officials say that the 14 homeless campers were all offered shelter, with nine accepting the offer and four declining and moving on. The final camper agreed to return to a hotel room where they had already been residing. 

Campers over 60 or with chronic health conditions were offered a hotel room, while the others were offered a place in an indoor congregate shelter or a "safe sleeping site" — a sanctioned, secured tent camp with on-site sanitation and services.

Encampment along the CPMC Davies fence line. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

"Those who were camping on Noe Street were sleeping in overcrowded and unsafe conditions, so the city offered everyone alternate shelter options," said a SF Department of Emergency Management (SF DEM) spokesperson.

One resident of the Noe Street encampment, who declined to share his name, told Hoodline he declined the city's offer.

"They offered us a fleabag motel," he said. "I'm going to be safer on the street."

The homeless camper who declined the city's offer of a hotel. (While they declined to share their name, they granted permission to be photographed by Hoodline.) | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

While much of the focus on homeless encampments during shelter-in-place has centered on the Tenderloin, encampments in adjoining districts have also proliferated. 

Last week, residents of Hayes Valley called on city officials to address the growing number of encampments in their neighborhood, suggesting three possible safe sleeping sites for sanctioned camps.

The Mission District has been hard-hit as well, with a safe sleeping site set to open in a few weeks. The site will be at at 1515 South Van Ness Ave. (between 26th and Cesar Chavez streets), a city-owned property eventually slated to become a 100% affordable housing development.

The Mission site will be the first to open since the city identified 42 potential locations back in June. Of the two existing sites — one on Fulton Street in Civic Center, the other on Stanyan Street in the Haight — it's unclear where the Noe Street campers who opted for sleeping outdoors were sent.

The Castro briefly had its own sleeping site, which opened at Everett Middle School on June 8. Despite receiving positive feedback from both neighbors and residents, the site was closed after just five weeks, on July 14

At the time, the city said it needed to close the site because SFUSD would be resuming in-person classes in August. Though the district has since opted for distance learning, there appear to be no plans to resurrect the site.

"The process to establish additional safe sleeping locations are coordinated through the City’s COVID-19 Command Center, and includes multiple departments that work together to identify viable space options while considering the overall needs of the community," the DEM spokesperson explained.

The Everett Middle School safe sleeping site, which was open for just five weeks before closing in July. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

Even with the dissolution of the Noe Street encampment, others remain in the neighborhood.

The most persistent tent camp, at 16th and Market streets, has drawn 257 homelessness- and sidewalk-related complaints since shelter-in-place began. It was also the site of a June fire where a homeless man nearly burned to death

"Over the last three months, the street conditions have gotten decidedly worse," Mandelman said of the encampment last month. "What drives neighbors up the wall is the activity the encampment begets — like noise, disruptive behavior, drug use, drug dealing."

During a July 10 town hall meeting with the Castro Merchants, Mayor London Breed acknowledged that the Castro and Duboce Triangle encampments "were not on my radar."

Encampment at 16th and Market streets. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

Currently, the city has not provided any details on addressing the encampment at 16th and Market. We'll continue to update readers as we learn more. 

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