San Francisco Mayor London Breed spoke out on Friday against a federal injunction that she said effectively bans the city from forcing homeless people to move.
Breed told The Standard that she thinks the ruling is “ridiculous” after a presentation of the city’s five-year plan to address homelessness on Friday, contending that the injunction is standing in the way of the city’s progress on the issue.
Issued in December, the injunction restricted the city from enforcing laws prohibiting people from sitting, lying or lodging in public spaces, though it can still enforce other laws and move encampments temporarily for street cleaning.
“When we have a place for people to go, we should be able to force them to go, and we don't have the ability to do that right now,” Breed said. “It's just messed up and impedes our ability to do our jobs.”
The injunction came as a result of a lawsuit, filed by a nonprofit called the Coalition on Homelessness, which accused the city of illegally destroying homeless people’s property and forcing them to move without sufficient shelter spaces.
Breed said she interprets the injunction as a prohibition against moving a single homeless person unless there is shelter for every homeless person in the city. City Attorney David Chiu has appealed the injunction, calling it untenable and “unnecessarily broad.”
“Even if we did have a placement for everyone, we're not going to be able to all of a sudden wave a magic wand and get all of those people off the streets,” Breed said.
Hadley Rood, an attorney representing the Coalition on Homelessness, said that Breed’s interpretation of the injunction is incorrect in a phone call with The Standard, stating that the mayor’s comments ignore the city’s shelter shortage.
“One of the city's main talking points presents this hypothetical situation, but right now the city is still thousands of shelter beds short,” Rood said. “The injunction only prohibits enforcement against involuntarily unhoused individuals. [...] It doesn't stop the city from performing outreach or connecting people with services.”
As part of the city’s appeal, Chiu argued that the court insufficiently defined what it means to be “involuntarily homeless” and whether that applies to individuals who refuse shelter.
There are more than 4,000 people sleeping on the streets on a given night, according to the most recent estimates, and a city dashboard shows the city’s shelter system is often over capacity.
The city has continued to move homeless people under a limited set of circumstances. City agencies may ask people to relocate temporarily for street cleaning, and can enforce other laws such as park codes and disability access rules.
The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has acknowledged that the city is short on shelter beds and plans to add 1,075 more by 2028, according to a five–year plan released Friday.
Breed said she is hopeful that the plan will allow the city to cut through red tape to quickly address the crisis.
“If we are able to make significant changes to our bureaucratic process, we can move in dealing with these challenges a lot faster,” Breed said. “This five-year plan is going to get bureaucracy out of the way and get housing built.”
David Sjostedt can be reached at email@example.com