A survey conducted by the Coalition on Homelessness reveals that 57% of homeless Golden Gate Park residents responding reported they had never been offered services by the City. Many (44% of those surveyed) had been staying inside the Park for more than three years. When asked where they would go after the Golden Gate Park sweeps, most reported either they would be on the streets in a San Francisco residential neighborhood, or would return to the Park.
Following a column in the Chronicle regarding poor people residing in Golden Gate Park, the Mayor of San Francisco called for a mass displacement effort of Park residents. Golden Gate Park has long been a refuge for those with no place to call home, with probably the largest encampment being after the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed thousands of homes in San Francisco.
This is the second such displacement effort in Golden Gate Park in the past year. The Coalition on Homelessness has long been concerned with such efforts, as they don’t achieve anything but the further de-stabilization of park residents. These efforts can also be deadly for homeless people, as the December 1997 death of Clifford Archer indicates. Mr. Archer died as a result of the losing his heart medications in a similar property confiscation effort in Golden Gate Park under the Brown administration. The Coalition instead calls for permanent solutions to homelessness by bringing Federal housing expenditures for poor people back to pre-1978 levels and ensuring access to health care and living wage jobs for all poor people.
According to Juan Prada, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, “It is not just an ineffective use of resources, but it is also cruel to displace people who simply have nowhere to go.”
Other findings in the Coalition survey indicate that Park residents have been homeless for long periods of time, with 67% homeless for three years or more. In addition, when asked where displaced homeless people would go, the most common response was that individuals would return to the Park (28%). Another 12% reported that they would move to the streets of a San Francisco residential neighborhood. Only 5% of the 56 park residents suveyed stated they received temporary housing, and none reported permanent housing, although several (21%) were on a wait list for some sort of housing or other service.