SAN FRANCISCO - Several city leaders attended a public forum in San Francisco's Mission District on Wednesday to respond to a number of hot button issues in the area, including crime, drugs, mental health, and homelessness.
"The problem is we don’t have enough shelter space," said San Francisco City Supervisor, Hillary Ronen, who represents the district. Ronen says she's asked the city for new temporary shelter beds to address homelessness in the area, but that most of the city’s resources are being diverted to long-term housing in the Tenderloin. The city’s only immediate plan to address that issue in the district is adding 35 new beds at a shelter on South Van Ness Avenue.
"Expanding shelters remains a parallel strategy to expanding housing resources. We are more cash strapped on the shelter side," said Emily Cohen of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Still, some members of the public in the audience, argued that neither plan fully addresses another pressing problem in the area: the issue of mental health and drug addiction among the area’s unhoused.
"There are cases where our hands are tied around who is eligible for conservatorship or involuntary treatment and that is still a challenge right now," said Dr. Hillary Kunins, director of behavioral health at the San Francisco Department of Public Works.
Property crime, was also on the minds of those attending. Supervisor Ronen said that she is hoping that a new law, which she helped co-author, requiring street vendors to hold a city permit, will help curb fencing, the sale of stolen goods, in the area.
"The reason why I think the vendor legislation is going to work is because we’ve never confiscated anyone’s goods before," said Ronen.
Under the law, if a vendor isn’t able to show proof of ownership, their goods are confiscated. Police say they’re also working with the San Francisco District Attorney's office on how to build more effective cases against those involved in fencing.
"Bottom line is the police department, my station, Mission station, fully supports this legislation and we will be out there," said San Francisco Police Captain, Michael McEachern.
The new street vending law goes into effect on June 16. At that time vendors will be required to show proof of a permit or face further penalties.