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San Francisco neighborhood sues city after homeless tents increase by 300%

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(Image: CNN screenshot)

San Francisco residents, businesses and the University of California Hastings College of Law are suing the city over the sharp rise in homelessness in one neighborhood.

A lawsuit brought by those in the inner-city Tenderloin District argued that homeless people in the streets of the California city amid the coronavirus pandemic have made sidewalks “unsanitary, unsafe, and often impassable.”


(Source: CNN)

With an over 300 percent jump since January in the number of tents and temporary structures crowding the streets of the San Francisco neighborhood, a lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court- Northern District of California by the law school and Tenderloin residents and business owners demanding the drug needles and human waste littering the area be cleaned up by the city.

“All of its residents—housed and unhoused—are being put at risk by the policies, actions, and inaction of the City and County of San Francisco,” the lawsuit read.

“We are suing because our neighborhood has become a pandemic containment zone,” David Faigman, chancellor and dean at UC Hastings, told CNN. “The city has basically cordoned off our area. Tents are blocking the streets. Tents are blocking doorways. There are needles in the streets. There’s open-air drug dealing.”

Residents are afraid the “virus is raging in the neighborhood,” Faigman added, noting that no public coronavirus testing is being done in the district, endangering children the elderly and other vulnerable groups in the area besides those living in sidewalk tents.

“There’s no other neighborhood in San Francisco that would tolerate that, and they would stand up and be counted. Tenderloin needs to stand up and be counted,” Faigman said.

According to KTVU-TV:

The neighborhood’s conditions seems to be effecting Hastings’ bottom line. They spent $66,836 on increased safety and security in the first month following COVID-19 public health recommendations. In addition, the university said students who decline admission often cite the neighborhood’s condition and safety concerns as a factor in their decision.

 

With homeless shelters enforcing social distancing, thus limiting the number of people, California officials secured hotel rooms for the homeless populations. In San Francisco, the city’s department of public health confirmed last week that alcohol, tobacco, medical cannabis and other substances are being delivered free of charge to homeless addicts who are doing the city a “great service” by staying sheltered amid the pandemic.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a plan last week to make sure people remained in “safe-sleeping” encampments and for that sidewalk tents had to be at least six feet apart. Some streets and parking areas were also closed off to provide more space for the homeless as restrooms and wash stations were added along with health services and food access, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

But Faigman accused the officials of reacting only because of the impending lawsuit, calling the plan “entirely inadequate.”

“It essentially institutionalizes the status quo. It simply keeps everybody in place. It is a Band-Aid when a bandage is needed,” Faigman said. “It was thrown together in response because they knew the lawsuit was coming, but it clearly does not provide a real solution.”

Because of its “hands-off” approach to the homelessness crisis, Faigman argued, San Francisco  should allow federal oversight as a “way to break through political barriers and accomplish what they want to accomplish as well, which is to clear the streets and protect the people of San Francisco.”

“I don’t know of any place in America where health mandates are so flagrantly violated as in the Tenderloin,” Randy Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, told the Associated Press.

“It is unfortunate that UC Hastings chose to go to court rather than allow that community process to proceed and produce a final plan, which will be issued this week,” John Coté with the city attorney’s office said in response to the lawsuit.

Frieda Powers

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