Advocates sue San Francisco to end the removal of homeless camps

Source: Hot Air

The San Francisco Chronicle released a poll earlier this month which found that about a third of the city’s residents would like to leave. The number one problem cited by city residents was homelessness, something which the poll found most people did not believe was going to get better.

San Franciscans were largely in agreement about the city’s biggest problems: Homelessness took first place, followed by public safety and housing affordability. When asked if, three years from now, those problems would be significantly less severe, nearly 70% of people said either “slightly likely” or “not likely at all.”

This week a major homeless advocacy group sued the city of San Francisco to try to put an end to “sweeps,” i.e. the removal of homeless encampments from parks and sidewalks. The thinking here is that if the city won’t provide housing for everyone then it shouldn’t be allowed to provide clean streets and public safety to anyone.

The lawsuit alleges that the city violates state and federal laws, its own policies and homeless individuals’ rights by “punishing residents who have nowhere to go,” and by seizing and destroying their belongings when clearing encampments. It also argues the city’s approach is ineffective and expensive, with the most recent city report estimating San Francisco spent more than $20 million in 2015 enforcing quality-of-life ordinances against homeless people.

The ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to push the city to instead spend billions on affordable housing to provide shelter for everyone and fix its homelessness crisis, which the lawsuit says is a result of decades of failed policies and underinvestment…

The lawsuit is the climax of years-long clashes between the city and homeless activists who argue San Francisco’s policy is to sweep people from the streets despite lacking adequate places to house them.

Notice the scale of the spending. The lawsuit complains the city spent $20 million clearing camps but wants the city to instead spend billions on housing. The idea that the city is spending too much on sweeps would make sense if that were where most of the city’s homeless spending was going. But in fact San Francisco is already spending billions on the homeless every year.

San Francisco is slightly smaller than Jacksonville, Florida. Yet San Francisco’s homelessness budget—$1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021–22—is nearly 80 percent of Jacksonville’s entire city budget. But despite this enormous spending, homelessness and the attendant problems of drug abuse, crime, public health issues, and an overall deterioration in the quality of life, spiral further downwards each year.

Spending $1.1 billion on homelessness is just the latest installment in San Francisco’s constant failure to sensibly and humanely deal with an issue that it chronically misdiagnoses and mismanages about as much as is humanly possible. Since fiscal year 2016–17, San Francisco has spent over $2.8 billion on homelessness, and the city’s politicians remain seemingly baffled, year after year, as the number of homeless in the city skyrocket, as opioid overdoses kill more than COVID-19, and as the city has become nearly the most dangerous in the country.

And as the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out earlier this year, the tens of millions of dollars the city is already spending to house the homeless has arguably been a disaster.

A run-down, century-old hotel in the Tenderloin, where a rodent infestation became so severe that she pitched a tent inside her room to keep the mice away.

Where residents have threatened each other with knives, crowbars and guns, sometimes drawing police to the building several times a day.

Where, since 2020, at least nine people have died of drug overdoses. One man was discovered only after a foul stench seeped from his room into the hall.

Levinson is one of thousands of poor, sick or highly vulnerable people left to languish and at times die in unstable, underfunded and understaffed residential hotel rooms overseen by a city department that reports directly to Mayor London Breed, a yearlong investigation by The San Francisco Chronicle found…

because San Francisco leaders have for years neglected the hotels and failed to meaningfully regulate the nonprofits that operate them, many of the buildings — which house roughly 6,000 people — have descended into a pattern of chaos, crime and death, the investigation found. Critically, the homelessness crisis in San Francisco has worsened.

So I’m not sure what this lawsuit is actually going to accomplish. It looks like an attempt to hold the city hostage to filthy homeless camps and force it to double down on a strategy that is already not working. And all of this at a time when the city is facing a population decline and a commercial real estate crash. It really does seem to me that the plan is to destroy the city so they can save it. I guess we’ll see if some judge decides to place mentally deranged drug addicts living on the street completely above the law. I don’t think this is the kind of change that the folks who just sent DA Chesa Boudin packing were looking for.