The San Francisco Chronicle published a snapshot of how the city is dealing with thousands of homeless people living on the streets and the waste, including drug needles and feces, they leave behind. The good news is that the number of tent encampments is down substantially from two years ago:
The number of tents on San Francisco streets has been cut by more than half in the past two years, but despite the shrinking numbers, the street behavior by the homeless, the mentally ill and the drug-addled continues to be a challenge — with no quick solution in sight.
The city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services clocked the number of homeless encampments on streets and sidewalks at 568 in July — compared with 1,200 in July 2016.
But if the number of tents are down, the number of people shooting drugs and using the sidewalk as a bathroom is still remarkably high. In July alone the city received over 1,000 calls about used needles and nearly 2,000 about feces on the street.
The city’s 311 service portal reported logging 1,138 complaints about discarded syringes between July 1 and July 25 of this year — or about 45 a day. During the same period, the 311 line clocked 1,948 calls — or about 78 a day — from people reporting human feces or waste on the streets or sidewalks.
One flash point are BART’s downtown stations, where there has been a growing number of complaints from riders about hypodermic needles littering the transit system.
Four BART riders have been pricked by needles in the past two years, including a mother of two from San Ramon, who claimed she sat on a stray needle in May while riding to San Francisco. She was later tested for HIV and got a hepatitis vaccine shot — but must continue to be tested every three months over the next 1½ years.
Meanwhile, new figures from BART show that since April janitors have cleaned up more than 13,000 dirty needles left behind at the Civic Center and Powell Street stations.
The city distributes an estimated 400,000 syringes each month through various programs aimed at reducing HIV and other health risks for drug users. About 246,000 syringes are discarded through the city’s 13 syringe access and disposal sites. But thousands of the others end up on streets, in parks and other public areas, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday…
To address the problem, San Francisco Mayor Farrell has hired 10 workers whose sole job will be to pick up needles starting in June.
I wrote about the situation at BART stations back in April. As you can see in the video below, we’re not talking about one or two addicts tucked in a corner, we’re talking about the entire space clogged with people who are sprawled along the ground, blocking the path of people who are actually using the station.
San Francisco just elected a new mayor, London Breed, who has promised to make homelessness her central focus. One of the items on her agenda: So called “safe injections sites” where the city’s addicts can use drugs away from the eyes of tourists. Maybe that will keep a few more needles off the street but I think the 10 guys whose job it is to clean up this mess don’t need to worry about their job security.