Residents of the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco, California — a neighborhood already under seige by a homeless encampment, drug use, and unsanitary conditions — are suing the city of San Francisco after the encampment grew by 300% during the city’s coronavirus outbreak.
“The number of tents and makeshift structures in the Tenderloin has tripled since January, as homeless shelters are forced to operate at low capacity in order to enforce stringent social distancing requirements,” according to Fox News.
The Tenderloin is the epicenter of San Francisco’s homeless problem and, previous to the coronavirus pandemic, was the part of the city hardest hit by what residents termed “code browns,” or incidents of human feces littering the sidewalks. At one point, local news reports, the problem got so bad that Tenderloin residents enlisted their own “Community Benefit District,” to power-wash the sidewalks once a week.
“Everyday — it’s a common occurrence, seeing a feces every single day, especially the Tenderloin. It’s really bad. You can’t go with about two steps without stepping on something,” one resident told a local outlet last December.
San Francisco, of course, is now famous for its “poop problem,” which has already cost the city millions of dollars to handle, including hundreds of thousands of dollars for a “poop patrol” tasked with doing nothing but addressing incidents of human feces on city sidewalks. The issue even gave rise to several apps, tracking the number and location of 311 calls reporting dirty streets, drug paraphernalia, and unsanitary conditions.
Now, Fox News reports, residents say the problem has gotten so bad, they’re suing the city government in Federal court to force them to clean up the mess.
“The federal lawsuit, filed last week in part by the University of California Hastings College of Law, does not seek financial damages but instead demands the city clean up streets littered with drug needles and human waste. The litigants are also seeking help for people living in sidewalk tents, saying they are at increased risk of COVID-19,” the outlet said Monday.
“We are suing because our neighborhood has become a pandemic containment zone,” the Hastings College of Law dean told media. “The city has basically cordoned off our area. Tents are blocking the streets. Tents are blocking doorways. There are needles in the streets. There’s open-air drug dealing.”
The complainants say they fear that the “virus is raging in the neighborhood,” putting its residents (both homed and homeless) at heightened risk.
San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, rolled out a plan for the neighborhood last week, but the plan largely addresses the needs of the homeless, not more permanent Tenderloin residents. The plan “involves ushering people experiencing homelessness to sanctioned ‘safe-sleeping’ encampments and enforcing rules requiring sidewalk tents to be at least six feet apart,” erecting temporary showers and restrooms for the homeless, and providing them with healthcare services and food.
“I think the plan is entirely inadequate. It essentially institutionalizes the status quo. It simply keeps everybody in place. It is a Band-Aid when a bandage is needed,” Hastings’ dean said. “It was thrown together in response because they knew the lawsuit was coming, but it clearly does not provide a real solution.”
The plan, he added, doesn’t address the other issues, like rampant drug use.
“I don’t know of any place in America where health mandates are so flagrantly violated as in the Tenderloin,” one Tenderloin resident told media. “It hasn’t sunk in that we’re in danger.”
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