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Efforts Continue to Clear Homeless Encampments in the Mission

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An encampment on Florida Street in San Francisco's Mission District on June 23. (Brittany Hosea-Small/KQED)

City officials say they have moved more than three dozen homeless individuals out of tent encampments in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood over the past month.

The city reports that workers "resolved" the encampment between 16th and 19th streets and Bryant Street and South Van Ness Avenue Wednesday after the interagency Encampment Resolution Team spent the previous 3½ weeks working to connect the people living in those tents with shelter and other services.

"It's very easy for people to relocate in this area," said Sam Dodge, deputy director of the city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. "It's not about criminalizing people or never seeing encampments again. It's about having concerted efforts to resolve them to the best of our ability and to try to set up a new baseline that doesn't have street-level encampments as just the furniture of our city."

The team also includes the city departments of Public Works, Public Health and the Police Department's homeless outreach unit.

"We came to know everybody who was in these tents," said Jason Albertson, the Encampment Resolution Team coordinator.

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The team documented 37 tents in the area with between 40 and 50 regular residents. Thirty-three people were taken to the Mission Navigation Center -- one of two nontraditional shelters in the city that place fewer restrictions on clients. Two entered residential drug treatment and two more were placed in traditional shelter beds. Some refused services due to legal status, extreme mental illness or a desire to remain independent, city officials said.

"[Homelessness] is a complicated issue, but it is also an issue where you can make a difference," said Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission and spent time at the encampments during the past three weeks. "I think this is a strategy that works, and we have to take it to other parts of the city."

Last month, Campos said that all tent encampments in the neighborhood would be dismantled within four months.

The Mission District encampments were the second group to be "resolved" by the interagency team. Around 50 residents were removed from a similar gathering of tents south of the Dogpatch neighborhood at the end of August, after a similar weeks-long outreach effort.

"Now that some of the major encampments have been resolved in this area, the plan really moves to a second stage, which is to try and prevent re-encampment and have rapid response for people who are in crisis in this area," Dodge said, adding that they are working with property owners in the area -- specifically Pacific Gas & Electric Co. -- to prevent the tents from returning.

The next encampment on the team's list is also in the Mission. Dodge said the team will start outreach to people living in tents between 14th and 16th streets next week.

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