“Move Along!” To Where?

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Outreach- January 19, 2016

Last night the storm kept waking me up… and I was sleeping inside my apartment. I kept thinking about all the folks without shelter. The City hasn’t been opening many of the El Niño emergency shelters… and when they do they haven’t been informing 311 which is the system established to inform folks about resources and shelters. It makes no sense.

Went on a rain soaked outreach shift today checking in with folks after the storm. Everyone and all of their belongings were drenched! I noticed a lot of people were barefoot or wearing soaked socks.

We checked in with the first group and a young woman was telling us how DPW & SFPD did a sweep of their encampment at 4th & Harrison at 6 AM…. during a downpour. They were told they needed to “move along” and I asked if they were informed of the El Niño emergency shelter… they were not. They were told that they need to “move along” until after the Stupid Bowl events and that an area that is considered a “safe zone” is at Bryant & 7th. That seemed very strange… that’s the county jail.

It was a drag…. everyone was asking and searching for where they could go without getting harassed. That seems to be the question of the month.

It was sickening seeing empty spaces where large encampments were just last week. At one point Shira and I stood there stunned as we looked at the fences with razor blades guarding the small areas of dry shelter under the freeway onramp. That barbed wire isn’t protecting anything… it’s just there to keep away people seeking refuge.

We spoke with a homeless veteran for a while. He was telling us how he’s got HUD-VASH which is a voucher from the VA for housing, but that he’s having difficulty finding a landlord that will accept the voucher and rent to him. He said he has no evictions on his record, yet it’s still challenging.

We made our way down Division and encountered a couple groups who were displaced by sweeps over at Land’s End. It’s so bizarre there were sweeps there because it’s relatively hidden. As we were chatting I realized I recognized the woman. I said…. “I know you, don’t I? From over 10 years ago.” She nodded. I know her from when she was a homeless teen. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of the youth I used to work with… who are still on the street after all these years.

Made our way down Division further to the area getting attention in the media lately… the area we went out to at 5 AM last week. They too experienced sweeps this morning… during the downpour.

So the sweeps have been dramatically increased… and the City is failing to provide and/or inform people about emergency El Niño shelters. Oh, and I was going to post the memo of the latest “Weather Response- Shelter Update” from the City, but the attached Word document was blank. I can’t make this stuff up.

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