San Francisco’s Homeless Population Mysteriously Disappears

San Francisco Homeless

San Francisco’s Homeless Population Disappears Ahead of APEC Summit

San Francisco’s downtown homeless population has seemingly vanished just before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, sparking mixed reactions from residents and business owners. City officials have intensified efforts to clean up the Tenderloin and South of Market (SoMa) neighborhoods, known for rampant drug use and homelessness.

Ricci Lee Wynne, a SoMa resident and community activist, observed an increased police presence and the removal of tents, especially around the Moscone Center on Howard Street. “They had the capability to do this all along,” Wynne noted, expressing skepticism about the city’s long-term commitment to addressing the issue.

The summit, expecting over 20,000 visitors, will host President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. To prepare, the city also targeted the open drug market near the Nancy Pelosi federal building. The area, previously deemed too dangerous for federal employees, has been fenced off, displacing many drug users and addicts.

Adam Mesnick, a local business owner, highlighted the city’s temporary measures, including providing temporary housing in hotels for some homeless individuals. However, he criticized these actions as merely shifting the problem to other areas, like his, already burdened with drug activity.

City emails, obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, reveal plans to clear specific streets ahead of APEC. Christopher McDaniels, superintendent of Street Environmental Services, expressed concerns about historical encampments near priority areas. His boss, Deputy Director of Operations DiJaida Durden, inquired about plans to manage new encampments popping up near the conference area.

Notably, notorious intersections such as Van Ness Avenue and California Street, Hyde and Eddy streets, and Taylor and Ellis streets have been cleared of homeless tents.

Mesnick, who also runs the @bettersoma account on social media, has been vocal about the city’s shortcomings in addressing the homeless and drug crisis, likening the current situation in the Tenderloin to a “Fentanyl Rush.”

The city’s struggles with fentanyl-related drug overdoses continue, with an expected record-breaking year of fatal overdoses. Dr. Hillary Kunins, Director of San Francisco Behavioral Health Services, reported 620 overdose deaths in the first nine months of 2023, averaging two fatal overdoses per day, mostly due to fentanyl.

In response, the city has added 300 more beds to its shelters, though it’s unclear how many will be available during the APEC conference. Emily Cohen, a homelessness department spokesperson, assured that efforts are being made to maximize shelter capacity during the summit and beyond.

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