SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco is struggling with a surge of homeless people seeking shelter inside San Francisco International Airport.
San Francisco International Airport welcomes the world to the City by the Bay, but the airport said homeless people have discovered the airport as a temporary shelter; especially in the early morning hours after the last BART train has pulled into the airport. An airport official said they're working on a short term and long-term solution
Officials said their contacts with homeless people has surged; the airport already working to get them move along.
"We might make SamTrans tokens available to them," said San Francisco International Airport Spokesperson Doug Yakel. " We might, if they're eligible, transport them to a nearby homeless shelter, if BART is still running we can give them a token to a BART train."
But, the airport is also looking for a long-term solution. "Ultimately we want to develop advocacy that finds the proper channels for these individuals," said Yakel. "So, we're starting to reach out to homeless advocacy in San Mateo County. We're looking to set up something with the city of San Francisco as well."
Gary Madden and his wife are headed out of SFO for a month-long overseas trip and learned that the homeless are seeking shelter here.
"I didn't know they were staying here," said Madden. "No, it doesn't surprise me. They need a place to stay, and we should be taking care of them."
Jennifer Freidenbach from the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness said she's not surprised that homeless people would discover the airport given a lack of affordable housing and with shelter spaces full.
"I mean, there's just nowhere else for people to go,' said Friedenbach. "So, we're going to see them at the airport, we're going to see them on the busses we're going to see them out. There's just literally nowhere else for people to go.
San Francisco's mayor said homelessness is a regional and statewide issue and solving the homeless crisis at SFO requires a regional response.
"Working together, providing housing opportunity, providing more access to shelters and not only in San Francisco," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
KTVU spoke with a passenger who told us she has seen a homeless woman washing up in the bathroom here at the airport.
A former airport worker told us she walked everywhere with a buddy in the early morning hours because she frequently encountered homeless in the airport, especially in the early morning hours on cold or rainy days.