by Jennifer Friedenbach, Coalition on Homelessness
San Francisco – In pouring down rain, city officials started clearing “Box City” at 7 a.m. this morning. The encampment, made up of men and women, including a tight knit group of Tagalog-speaking Filipinos, rushed this morning to move their belongings through deep puddles and across the street.
Meanwhile, city workers threw belongings into dumpsters and crushed previously occupied boxes.
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness released best practice guidelines for municipalities recommending that individuals in encampments should have access to housing before they are removed from said areas and, if no such housing exists, to provide temporary shelter that leads to housing. San Francisco is violating those guidelines, as they are only offering temporary housing to camp residents. San Francisco also has the highest number of anti-homeless laws in the state.
“As we are approaching our day to honor Martin Luther King, the poor treatment of Box City residents is an example of the fight Dr. King was leading for housing and economic justice for the poor. Here we are 50 years later and we still have unfinished business,” said Human Rights Organizer Bilal Ali. “The city must invest deeply in creating true solutions, such as housing for destitute San Franciscans.”
Camp residents can relocate to the Navigation Center and then likely return to the streets after 30 days, or they can move their manmade shelters a block or two away. Some of the boxes were relocated to Pier 50.
According to one camp resident who preferred to stay anonymous, “Thirty days in the navigation center just isnʼt enough time for me to get help. I canʼt even get my belongings over there.”