'Incredible': The highly populated city turning into a 'shanty town'

·3-min read

It's known for its steep hills, the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars but San Francisco — which is one of the wealthiest cities in the world — is also facing a devastating homeless crisis.

Videos shared on social media show tents lined up in streets and crowding popular attractions in the highly populated US city, as the city battles a homelessness problem, being described as a "humanitarian disaster". 

"It’s incredible how this is just normal now in SF (San Francisco)," one Twitter user wrote, alongside a video showing tents lined up in a library's courtyard.

A screenshot from the video posted to Twitter showing tents lined in in rows in a courtyard.
A Twitter user shared pictures of the tents set up outside a San Francisco library. Source: Twitter

"One just looks onto a public space and sees a shanty town. Totes cool. Life as usual.

"Nobody even blinks or wonders if the political direction is maybe a wee bit off. Can’t be helped. To even question is to show privilege."

According to the US Census Bureau, the population of the city of San Francisco was 873,965 in 2020.

The video was originally posted by user Jenny Chan, who regularly posts about the Californian city's issues with homelessness, drug abuse, and crime.

"Just visiting the library this beautiful afternoon and checking out the view," she wrote.

"This is a humanitarian crisis. Makes me so sad," another user wrote. "This serves no one. Not the housed or unhoused residents, not visitors, not children."

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Removing tents is 'problematic'

According to the SF Gate, San Fransisco city officials conducted 679 “encampment resolutions" between June 2020 and June 2021, which is the phrase city officials use to describe clearing homeless camps and moving displaced people into shelters.

The department that announced the 'resolutions' is known as Healthy Streets Operations Center (HSOC) and is controversial among homeless rights advocates in San Francisco.

"What we have seen time and again is that HSOC’s operating procedures are not being followed," the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco, Jennifer Friedenbach, wrote for Street Sheet.

"But even if they were, HSOC’s approach is highly problematic, trauma-inducing and likely to exacerbate homelessness."

According to Ms Friedenbach, removing the tents would cause more of a problem.

"Tents are not people, and removing tents does nothing to change the housing status of the individual who slept in it, and it leaves people on the street with even less protection from the harsh conditions under which they live," she wrote.

However, Mary Ellen Carroll, the executive director of the Department of Emergency Management which coordinates "encampment resolutions", said that was not the case.

“We are also trying to create safety, which means sanitation and cleanliness also,” she said of the services homeless people would be offered if their camps were cleared.

"The overarching purpose, especially during Covid-19, is to make the street safe for everyone... Kids deserve safe passage to school or the store, and it’s important for us to maintain safety for all of us.”

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