Are Tents an Issue? Is Prop Q the Answer?

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With frustrations boiling over San Francisco’s explosive homeless crisis, the city voters will be asked to weigh in on banning tents from sidewalks.

“Proposition Q” on the November ballot would empower police to remove tents and encampments with a 24-hour notice and ability to provide a shelter bed or housing for the displaced.

“Nobody is getting better sleeping in tents, nothing good is happening in tents,” said the San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell who drafted and proposed the proposition. “We need to get people off the streets and into shelter and housing.”

The use of camping tents by the homeless has doubled over the past two years increasing the plain visibility of the homeless population.

A row of tents used by the homeless sit in a row near Folsom and 15th Streets in San Francisco’s South of Market.

Photo credit: Joe Rosato Jr./NBC Bay Area

The problem reached its peak last spring when an encampment on Division Street grew to around 300 tent campers before police cleared it out in time for the Super Bowl. Splinters camps from that very encampment spread across the city.

“The tents that have emerged in San Francisco,” Farrell said, “it has really become the symbol of the issue we face as a city.”

Farrell accused the tent encampments of becoming dens of crime and prostitution, hosting bicycle chop-shops and laden with human waste and other unsanitary conditions.

“For the city government, to encourage these tent encampments or institutionalize them to me is exactly the wrong approach,” Farrell said. “It’s dangerous for the people living in them. It’s dangerous for the rest of San Francisco residents.”

A row of tents used by the homeless sit in a row near Folsom and 15th Streets in San Francisco’s South of Market.
Photo credit: Joe Rosato Jr./NBC Bay Area

But homeless activists said Farrell’s plan is flawed because the city lacks enough housing options to offer shelter or housing to the homeless being evicted from their sidewalk lodging.

“There’s no housing in the measure,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. “It’s basically about taking away people’s tents so they’re sleeping on the cold hard concrete.”

Friedenbach said the proposition only calls for the homeless to be housed for one night after which she said they would return to the streets. She called the proposition political grandstanding without helping to solve the greater issue of homelessness.

“The tents are already illegal so enforcement is not working,” Friedenbach said. “The only solution on this situation is housing.”

we Sitting near a row of tents near Folsom and 16th streets, Mario Diaz bristled at details of the proposition. After living on the streets for three years, he said the homeless are already removed regularly with little notice and the proposition would only make conditions worse.

“It’s unfair to give guys 24-hour notice to confiscate and the law is protecting that,” Diaz said. “That is not right at all.”

The proposition would call for the Department of Public Works to retain confiscated belongings for 90 days which Farrell called an improvement over the current system.

Prop. Q will hit the ballot at a time when the city is expanding homeless services including highly touted navigation centers which offer all-in-one services and lodging for the homeless.

Santa Clara County’s $950 million dollar Measure “A” hitting the ballot could build 2,000 households for the most vulnerable county residents primarily the homeless, including veterans, seniors, the disabled and mentally ill, foster youth and abuse victims. The bulk of the money, about $700 million, would pay for extremely low-income and homeless people. The remaining $250 million would go toward first-time homebuyers and loans for people who commute from outside the county to move closer to work. This is their way of correcting the homeless issue in the silicon valley.

But as for the sight of SF encampments and the piles of associated trash have frustrated the city residents who have grown weary of the camps. Diaz said while he disagrees with the intention of Prop. Q, he said he understands the inspiration for it.

“It’s only understandable why a hard working family man wakes up in the morning and sees needles on the street floor and tents bunched up,” Diaz said. “It’s understandable why they’d feel that way.”

At Project WEHOPE, we understand the issues of the homeless not only in the city but in the entire bay area region we serve and offer several different programs to the aid in the solution. From our Transitional Temporary Housing program that offers a transition into long term living situations through meals, help with drug problems, financial planning and coincides with our H.O.P.E Job programs to teach skills that may land them a stable steady job. We also have our ground-breaking Dignity on Wheels operation which restores the simple dignity of ones’ hygiene by deploying to encampments of locales in a mobile unit equipped with showers and washing/drying units for their belongs. That’s how we help and find out how you can help by contacting us at or giving us a call at 650-330-8000.

Source: Prop. Q: Should San Francisco Ban Homeless Tents on Sidewalks? | NBC Bay Area