A Sept. 22 public safety meeting in the Marina brought out many resident concerns about homeless people and related problems. District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, who has made homelessness one of his key issues, said that everyone agrees we have a homeless problem in San Francisco. The answers, however, are not going to be simple.
Farrell noted that San Francisco has a total of nearly 6,700 homeless people; about 3,000 of them are on the streets, about 1,800 are in jail, and the balance are in shelters, but those shelters are nearly full.
The city’s director of homeless services has added outreach workers, but the problem is complex. As the Marina Times noted last issue (“The homeless health connection,” September 2015, page 1), mental illness affects a significant portion of the homeless population, and delivering services to them is not easy.
Some residents expressed unease over aggressive mentally ill people on the streets, and there were calls for empowering police officers to get people off the streets so they could get treatment and would not be a danger to other people. The solution is housing and services, exemplified by the city’s Navigation centers, which offer homeless people more comprehensive assistance than just overnight bunks. Whether San Francisco has the appetite to pick up the tab for expanding the Navigation center model remains to be seen.
Also at the meeting, San Francisco Police Department Captain Greg McEachern of Northern Station said there has been a 72 percent increase in property crimes. Public focus has been on a rash of automobile break-ins around the Palace of Fine Arts and in surrounding neighborhoods, though sexual assaults have also gained the interest of people worried about their safety. He said there were 13 assaults in the area last year, and six so far this year.