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Mayor Breed personally ordered homeless sweeps, lawsuit claims

Mayor Lond Breed stands beside a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk
Mayor London Breed talks with a homeless man on Castro Street as she takes a neighborhood walk on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. | Liz Hafalia/The SF Chronicle via Getty Images

Mayor London Breed is at the center of newly filed documents in a lawsuit that claims she ordered city workers to move homeless people, forcing outreach workers to scramble to accommodate the requests. 

The Coalition on Homelessness, a local nonprofit that organizes for the rights of unhoused people, filed the lawsuit in September alleging that the city violated its own policies by sweeping homeless encampments without having adequate shelter beds. 

Kaki Marshall, former director of outreach and temporary shelter at the San Francisco Department of Homelessness, claimed in the filing that the sweeps were sometimes ordered by Breed in text messages.

“We would hold a special HSOC [Healthy Streets Operations Center] meeting to redirect resources to the areas Mayor Breed had identified for that day,” Marshall said. 

Marshall said that those orders often upended planned operations for the department and would take place outside of normal protocols, which were in place to ensure that homeless people aren’t evicted from their encampments without shelter availability. 

Public records over the years have unearthed Breed directing police to conduct sweeps on homeless people. 

Earlier this year, Breed did so publicly when responding to a pseudonymous Twitter user, resulting in police and the Department of Public Works destroying tents and moving people along less than 72 hours later. 

The Mayor’s Office previously told The Standard that the city follows a federal precedent that forbids it from sweeping people without shelter. 

In a Nov. 15 legal filing related to the suit, the City Attorney’s Office argued that the city complies with federal precedent and that it “reasonably preserves the possessions of unhoused persons.” 

Advocates say that sweeps are often counterproductive and that city workers will often dispose of identification cards and medications. The “encampment resolutions,” as the city calls them, often lead homeless people to just move down the street. 

The lawsuit is demanding that the city cease all anti-homeless enforcement actions and increase its affordable housing stock. 

David Sjostedt can be reached at