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Neighbors say new homeless encampment behind Marina Safeway is major health concern

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – More tents are popping up across San Francisco as shelters cut capacity for physical distancing.

The city failed to secure more than 8,000 hotel rooms for the homeless, as a majority remain on the streets during the pandemic.

One of the newest encampment sites is now behind the Marina Safeway, where neighbors say it’s a major health concern.

Neighbors who live across the street from this Safeway say one by one more people started moving out this way about a month ago.

The city supervisor of this district says she’s been out here daily to monitor the situation but says shelters are at capacity and police are being told not to disturb encampments.

“More and more homeless people have accumulated here and you know they get really aggressive. In fact now, if I go to Safeway, just that short distance, I drive because I’m terrified to walk,” Nuala Caulfield said.

“They’re all sprawled over the sidewalk and they’re not six feet apart. they’re co mingling with each other all the time,” Arnold Cohn said.

Since the March shelter in place order, San Francisco neighbors on North Point Street say more people have set up tents behind the Marina Safeway raising health and safety concerns for neighbors and those living on the street.

“It’s a health issue and especially now with this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more of a health issue so I’m just wondering what’s going on at city hall that they aren’t doing something about this because we keep hearing about spending large sums of money on hotel rooms for these people and yet these people are still here,” Cohn said.

Back in April, San Francisco failed to secure more than 8,000 hotel rooms for the homeless to self isolate during the pandemic. 

For the nearly 3,000 rooms they did get still many remain vacant.

“The city has put in hotels, about 1100 people. They have been offered 13,000 hotel rooms. There are a lot more folks out there on the streets that have not been offered anything that have nothing, no place to shelter themselves,” Jennifer Friedenbach said.

Jennifer Friedenbach is the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.

Without the hotel rooms, Friedenbach says we see more people out on the street because shelters cut capacity for physical distancing and community members are handing out tents as a last resort.

“For unhoused people of course sheltering in place is very challenging. You have a situation where shelter beds are no longer available for new folks and so our shelters were sheltered about 2500 people and now it’s down to under a thousand,” Friedenbach said.

As the city works to move more people into hotel rooms, they’ve since set up safe sleeping areas that are supervised and have services available, including bathrooms.

Friedenbach says the safe sleeping areas are helpful but still pose a health concern with the coronavirus because of the shared restrooms. 

She says the city needs to move faster on the best option which is getting people into hotel rooms.

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