Neighbors use planters to dissuade homeless encampments

Neighbors in San Francisco's Mission District are fed up with homeless encampments, and they're taking matters into their own hands.

The city's homelessness crisis impacts just about every neighborhood. Now people living in the Mission and elsewhere say they're putting out planters, trying to dissuade encampments. 

Ari, who did not give his last name, lives in the city's Mission District and says an encampment here along this wall on Capp Street impacted the entire neighborhood. 

"We couldn't walk the street. Down there, you have senior housing. You have people that are 65-years old, 70-years old, they cannot even access with their wheelchairs," said Ari. "This was all blocked."

Neighbors say several months ago, the homeless that had been camping here took a housing option from the city, so the housed neighbors gathered the resources to create a garden made up of wine barrels and water tanks; part of an effort to beautify the area, and prevent a new camp from springing up. 

"Unfortunately sometimes you have to take things and do it by yourself and so good neighbors; they donated, we collected funds and good people put the planters, and that's a solution," said Ari.

Some say the planters are examples of hostile architecture.

Homeless advocates say the first step should always be trying to talk out any issues.

"Engage in respectful conversations, try to address issues and whatever the issue may be and not do these kinds of things until it's an absolute last resort," said Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco.

Homeless advocates say the planters simply push the homeless from one block to the next, rather than addressing the root causes of homelessness that led people to the streets in the first place. 

Advocates say they'd like to see the energy that goes into creating these urban gardens shifted into creating opportunities for homeless to gain permanent housing.

"I'd really like to see folks collectively fighting for housing, for treatment, for prevention," said Friedenbach. "To really try to get the state the federal government and the local government all on the same page in truly addressing this issue."

The city does have a code in place for those planter boxes, they have to be less than 3-feet tall, and there has to be 6-feet of space for people on the sidewalk, and maintenance is up to the property owner.