Left Behind: Homeless Crisis in San Francisco
In the summer of 2019, Fox News embarked on an ambitious project to chronicle the toll progressive policies has had on the homeless crisis in four west coast cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. In each city, we saw a lack of safety, sanitation, and civility. Residents, the homeless and advocates say they’ve lost faith in their elected officials’ ability to solve the issue. Most of the cities have thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at the problem only to watch it get worse. This is what we saw in San Francisco.
The blame game is in full swing in the Bay Area following allegations that counties are playing “musical chairs” with their homeless population – using resources to shuttle transients, drug addicts and the mentally ill to San Francisco and abandoning them.
San Mateo County’s newly-expanded SamTrans bus service starts at the Peninsula and ends at the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
SamTrans was recently caught on camera dropping off groups of homeless men and women onto city streets and parks at the end of the line near the waterfront.
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Some of those same passengers had been put on the bus at the San Francisco International Airport, which is located in San Mateo County, by cops seen handing out free bus tokens to keep the homeless from sleeping in the terminals.
The late-night shuffle ends when the homeless are kicked off the bus at the last stop around 2:30 a.m. From there, they are often dazed and confused about where they are and how they got there. They then spend time wandering aimlessly along the tourist-heavy areas in the early-morning hours.
“It’s unconscionable that agencies are playing what appears to be musical chairs with the homeless,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district includes the location where the SamTrans line ends, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This is just the type of homeless dumping that we sued the state of Nevada over a few years back.”
He was referring to the 2015 “Greyhound therapy” lawsuit that found Nevada was giving unwanted psychiatric patients one-way tickets to California.
“It’s unconscionable that agencies are playing what appears to be musical chairs with the homeless.”
— Aaron Peskin, San Francisco City Supervisor
SamTrans Public Affairs Specialist Dan Lieberman says the situation isn’t as cut and dry as people think and believes that many of the homeless who are put on the buses at the airport are actually from San Francisco.
“From what we understand these are homeless people who end up at SFO and are specifically given a SamTrans token to go back to San Francisco,” he told ABC7. “Giving people rides is what we do here. If someone pays their fare and wants to get on the bus we are going to take them on the bus.”
The result has been a sloppy, dangerous game with homeless people stuck in the middle.
Last year, the Bay Area Rapid Transit also came under fire for how it handled transients. The train had become a temporary shelter for the area’s homeless, which led to many homeless riders being stranded at the end of the night on the last stop on the BART line, with the nearest shelter about 5 miles away.
Democratic Mayor London Breed said this week she couldn’t confirm allegations that the homeless were being bused into San Francisco – though there is recorded proof of it happening multiple times – and said the city attorney’s office would look into the matter.
“It’s unfortunate, if it is happening and our goal is to address it appropriately,” she told ABC7. “There will have to be an investigation because we would need to determine whether or not there’s evidence that this has occurred.”
San Francisco native Robert Holt told Fox News he doesn’t expect much from the mayor’s word to look into the situation.
“We’ve gotten used to pledges and promises from her but there seems to be more homeless people on the street than ever,” he said.
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Former mayoral candidate Richie Greenberg agrees.
“Elected officials like Breed are less likely to speak out against other elected officials because it would hurt them politically or make it look like their colleagues aren’t doing their jobs,” he told Fox News.
The disturbing new allegations that nearby counties are dumping their homeless in San Francisco come at a time when the city has been struggling with a double-digit jump in its homelessness rate and residents are turning on elected officials for their inability to reverse the trend.
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A preliminary homeless count released in May showed the number of homeless had jumped 17 percent from 2017. However, when the final report was released a couple of months later, it showed the street count increase would have been 30 percent if the city had stuck to the same definition of homelessness as they had in the past.
Critics claim the city chose to use the federal definition of homelessness instead of the one they wrote themselves in order to look like progress was being made. City officials have denied those allegations.