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San Francisco NoPa residents install planters to discourage homeless camping

S.F. neighborhood installs planters to discourage homeless campers
S.F. neighborhood installs planters to discourage homeless campers 03:40

SAN FRANCISCO -- Residents of San Francisco's NoPa neighborhood (north of the Golden Gate Park panhandle) are growing increasingly frustrated by a recent influx of unhoused people who appear to be suffering from mental issues or drug abuse.

"Essentially, sometime in June or the beginning of July, we got a big influx of people who were very different ... I just wanna make it clear that we've seen a lot of homeless people but this influx is of homeless who have severe mental issues or drug dependency issues," said Mathew Mitchell, a longtime resident of the neighborhood.

Mitchell, who has lived in NoPa for over three decades said the current situation is taking a toll.

"Now it seems like all the mentally unstable folks have moved down to the Mercy Terrace ... switching into different teams and drug-intense folks are now on our block," he said.

On a tour along Grove Street, Mitchell pointed out the tents, shopping carts, bicycles, dogs and some agitated individuals that have taken over an entire block.

Frustration has led area residents to adopt a strategy employed in other S.F. neighborhoods such as the Mission and the Castro, where planters have been introduced to deter homeless encampments. The project is funded by donations from neighbors.

RELATED ARTICLE: Planters in the Castro meant to deter illegal activity

Julian Highsmith, a representative from the Coalition on Homelessness, sees this as a misguided approach. He believes that residents should channel their energy into helping homeless people instead.

"Unhoused folks need housing ... So helping out the people out there on the streets, helping them find shelter and making sure that their humanity is kept intact ... We want to promote longterm solutions instead of short-term solutions," Highsmith said.

Highsmith said the Coalition on Homelessness is actively collecting data from homeless individuals to better understand their needs.

Mitchell, however, maintains that residents have been patient but the situation is now out of control and they are in desperate need of assistance.

"It's been tense here for a while and people could immediately notice the change ... It wasn't the same before and we used to have one or two people but now it's a community," he said.

This is not a new controversy in the city. Back in 2019, San Francsico residents took a less aesthetic measure to deter homeless. They placed massive boulders on the sidewalk at Clinton Park in the Mission Dolores area.

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