Ninth Circuit Court considering San Francisco's homeless crisis

The future of how San Francisco handles its homeless population is now in the hands of appellate court judges.

For now, San Francisco is still under an injunction barring the removal of homeless camps. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is now considering whether to keep that injunction in place.

Even before the hearing got underway, both sides were arguing their positions on how to deal with the city's homelessness crisis.

San Francisco is currently under a temporary court order barring the city from clearing homeless camps, a judge ruling that the city can't clear camps if it doesn't have a housing option for the unhoused.

Charles Pitts is currently homeless and says many of the city's shelters are unacceptable.

"Both people have rights and I respect that," said Pitts. "The problem is, the shelters that they send people, are, like, many times inhumane and abusive."

Others argued that allowing the homeless to languish on the streets is even more inhumane, and creates a hardship for everyone. 

"What I am seeing now is a disgrace," said Monica Duclaud. "I walk out of my home and I have to step on human feces, I have to step on needles, I have to step on people on the sidewalk who cannot take care of themselves, very mentally ill or addicted people."

San Francisco Mayor London Breed advocated to lift the ban on removing encampments. 


"Let's not let one judge impact our ability to do what all San Franciscans want," said Breed. "They want clean streets. They want the homeless to be helped and that is exactly what we are trying to do!"

Inside the court building attorneys argued before a three-judge panel. Attorneys for the Coalition on Homelessness brought the suit and argued that the injunction should stand. They say the city is failing to provide adequate housing for the city's homeless. 

"When we filed this lawsuit the shelter wait list had 1,000 people on it," said Zal Shroff the attorney for the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. "They finally reopened the shelter waitlist…yet we see the city constantly policing unhoused folks…just because someone is too poor to afford housing when the city hasn't made alternate shelter available."

City attorneys argued that San Francisco has taken extraordinary steps to house the unsheltered and that many of the homeless refuse housing when offered. 

The city says that the offer of housing is enough to fulfill the obligation to provide housing, so the injunction should be lifted. 

"This injunction, this lawsuit by the Coalition on Homelessness has had a very negative impact on the streets of San Francisco," said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu. "You go, you only look outside the windows of the Ninth Circuit courthouse to see what the impact has been."

The appellate court is expected to issue a ruling on lifting the temporary injunction in the next few weeks or months.

Meanwhile, both sides are headed back to district court Thursday, homeless advocates say the city is still harassing people experiencing homelessness and effectively clearing people who have no place else to go.

San Francisco denies that claim; saying the current injunction doesn't prevent the city from cleaning streets and making sure there are clear paths of travel along the sidewalks.