Despite plans to clean up for Super Bowl, San Francisco must face homeless population

With a million visitors expected in San Francisco next week, the city was planning to clear out the homeless population. Last August Mayor Ed Lee focused on the homeless along Embarcadero to make way for Super Bowl City. But some believe the plan to clean up the streets has made the homeless problem even worse.

At 18th and Shotwell in the Mission District, Markeisha Law and her public works crew are cleaning up. They pick up blood-spattered drug syringes and hose down feces and urine.

This is just one homeless camp out of dozens throughout San Francisco.

“It shocks me and I see it every day,” says Law.

In just the past six months a proliferation of tents has popped up along Duboce under the 101 freeway where Bryan Cerahmi runs a high-end tile shop.

“I know Mayor Ed Lee has been having a big push to clean up Civic Center and Mid-Market, but it seems from where we sit he’s pretty much pushed all the homeless people from that neighborhood right into the front of our store,” says Cerahmi.

The mayor’s office disagrees.

Sam Dodge, director of the Mayor’s Office of Hope, says the biggest correlation is to El Niño.

“The one thing about that street is that it’s covered by the 101,” said Dodge.

Rachel Gordon with Public Works says the development of former industrial areas where homeless once might have gone unnoticed has thrust them into more visible areas.

“The crew picks up about a ton of debris a day from the SF encampments. In December alone, we had almost 760 requests about encampments to come and clean them,” said Gordon.

But when the cleaning is done the homeless come right back.

“It’s a matter of minutes,” says Law.

Police can issue citations and make people move temporarily, but they can’t do much else.

“I’m probably one of the dirtiest people you gonna meet,” says Markael Rayvon a self-described drug user who has lived on the streets for years.

Homeless outreach crews have tried to get Rayvon and others into shelters, but he says he likes his freedom.

When asked if he wants to ‘clean up his act’ ever, Rayvon point blank says “no”.

People like Tom Scheffler who pass through encampments every day say they have compassion, but enough is enough. 

Schefflere says he doesn’t know what other solutions are out there to help with San Francisco’s homeless population.

“I feel for them because they’re going through a lot that no one understands,” he says.

With 7,000 estimated homeless in the city and only half in shelters, the mayor has promised more housing, and a new department to streamline services for the mentally ill and drug addicts... but people like Law say it can't come soon enough.