California

Neighbors line a San Francisco sidewalk with boulders to block homeless camps

At first, no one claimed to know how 24 boulders lining sidewalks to crowd out homeless camps in a San Francisco neighborhood appeared recently, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

But now some residents say they collected $2,000 to buy and place the boulders to deter homeless people — whom they accuse of selling drugs, setting fires and starting fights — from setting up tents on the sidewalk, KGO reported.

“Since the rocks, it has helped,” said neighbor Ernesto Jerez, KTVU reported.

But Eric Mills, who is homeless, says the rocks aren’t going to drive homeless camps away forever, KGO reported.

“I think they’re cool to look at but it’s not going to solve the problem for what they put them here for,” Mills said, according to KGO.

Residents say “the city wasn’t doing anything” about the homeless, according to KNTV, so they decided to line the street with the boulders to address the problem.

Now, the city’s public works agency is “looking at options to sanction the boulders” to make them a permanent part of the sidewalk, said spokeswoman Rachel Gordon, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The city has no plans to remove the boulders, which are near the curb and don’t impede pedestrians, she said.

“It’s very creative,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose district includes the street, according to the publication.

But Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition On Homelessness, says boulders, which she called “anti-homeless architecture,” aren’t going to solve San Francisco’s housing crisis, KTVU reported.

“”We have 1,200 people on the wait list for shelter. That’s for tonight. People have nowhere to go,” Friedenbach said., according to the station.

In 2018, an estimated 553,000 U.S. citizens were homeless on any given night, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“About two-thirds (65%) were staying in sheltered locations — emergency shelters or transitional housing programs — and about one-third (35%) were in unsheltered locations such as on the street, in abandoned buildings, or in other places not suitable for human habitation,” the government agency says.

In Los Angeles, some business owners fed up with homeless tent camps have taken to blocking sidewalks with unauthorized planter boxes, fences and prickly plants, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“To get rid of space for tents, I can see it from their perspective,” said David Canup, who is homeless, according to the publication. “But there’s more of a feeling that we’re being pushed out.”

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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