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San Francisco Planning To Escalate Homeless Sweeps After Supreme Court Decision

Last Updated 2 weeks by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

San Francisco is planning to ramp up sweeps of homeless encampments after a pivotal Supreme Court decision last week gave cities more authority to deal with the issue.

The court ruled Friday that cities can enforce bans on homeless people sleeping outside in public places even if there is not enough shelter space, deciding that such laws do not violate the Constitution’s prohibit on cruel and unusual punishment.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said that thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the city will better be able to clean up the tents that line the city’s streets.

“With this opportunity, we’ll be able to do more to clean and clear our streets — especially for those who are refusing shelter and services,” Breed said during a press conference at City Hall. “This is very helpful to us as a city.”

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“My hope is that we can clear them all,” she said when asked by the San Francisco Chronicle how many tents might be cleared as a result of the court’s decision.

The city will continue to offer “shelter and support” to homeless people, but law enforcement could be more involved in clearing encampments, Breed said.

The 6-3 Supreme Court decision overturned a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that for the last six years had prohibited cities from enforcing anti-camping ordinances whenever the homeless population outnumbered shelter beds.

The original case involved the Oregon town of Grants Pass, which tried to fine people $295 for sleeping outside when tents began crowding the town’s public parks.

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Homelessness in the San Francisco area has only gotten worse since before the pandemic. About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night. That’s up 35% since 2019. More than 7,000 people are homeless in San Francisco itself.

San Francisco also has a deadly drug crisis driven by fentanyl, and the city saw record fatal overdoses last year. A total of 752 people died from drug overdoses in San Francisco between January and November, more deaths than in any other year, preliminary data from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office shows.

Harrowing scenes of homeless people engaging in open-air drug use and living in filth on city streets continue to come out of the neighborhoods most in need of help.

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Overall crime was down last year, but certain types of crime were up, including car thefts, San Francisco police data show. Compared to 2019 before the pandemic, however, many types of crime are still elevated, including murders, robberies, burglary, and arson.

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