Farrell told the San Francisco Chronicle: “Enough is enough. We have offered services time and again and gotten many off the street, but there is a resistant population that remains, and their tents have to go.”
He added, “We have moved as a city from a position of compassion to enabling (unacceptable) street behavior, and as mayor I don’t stand for that.”
The city has faced a growing homeless epidemic, and with that has come streets filled with human feces, dirty syringes, and trash. Farrell says “the tents are a public safety hazard for the people living in them, and for the residents of San Francisco.”
Homeless advocates say that clearing out the tents in the Mission District will just push the camps to other areas in the city. Executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, Jennifer Friedenbach, said, “Without a relocation plan, it’s just more of a sidewalk shuffle.”
Friedenbach added that roughly a third of the homeless in camps are facing some sort of mental illness, and sending the severe cases to shelters isn’t necessarily an option. She said, “These are the people who are up all night hearing voices. They don’t fit into a crowded situation.”
Others say past sweeps have been exercises in futility, with occupants returning days after being cleared out and reestablishing camp. Not this time, says Farrell, who promises “this is all hands on deck,” with several city departments teaming up to keep the sidewalks clear for good.
The mayor has been on a mission of sorts, after hiring ten workers earlier this year whose sole task is to clear the streets of needles and syringes in response to residents’ complaints. Farrell is a former supervisor who in 2016 wrote Proposition Q, which gave the city authority to remove tents after serving occupants 24 hours notice and providing them with alternative shelter.
As of 2016, San Francisco was estimated to have the second-highest homeless population in the Unites States, next to New York City.