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It’s Friday afternoon at the drop-in center known as Mother Brown’s on the corner of Jennings Street and Van Dyke Avenue. Despite the iron-gated door fronting the entrance, people drop in freely to check their mail, take a shower, do laundry or chill out in the reception area. For a nominal fee, Mother Brown’s rents out lockers. Gwendolyn Westbrook, the director of the United Council of Human Services – the official name of Mother Brown’s – as well as staff, describe the place as a community center. Client Johnny Scott likens Mother Brown’s to a family. “This here is a place where people get along,” he says.
In pouring down rain, city officials started clearing “Box City” at 7 a.m. this morning. 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.