San Francisco, one of the most iconic destinations for travel worldwide, is hemorrhaging tourism and business dollars at an alarming rate. And it’s not due to renovations at Moscone Convention Center, as the local business press would have you believe.
It’s the city’s homeless population – growing as fast as the piles of hypodermic needles, trash, and human feces left in the downtown streets.
If you’ve ever left your heart in the city by the bay, you may want to fetch it before it catches a virulent disease.
A Feculence Maelstrom
An investigative report by a local NBC affiliate uncovered the glaring inconsistency of one of the wealthiest cities in the world being undone by the chronic homelessness. The report focuses on a 153-block survey of San Francisco’s downtown – a mecca of five-star restaurants and hotels, art museums, and nightlife attractions as well as City Hall, schools, playgrounds, and a police station.
In only a few hours, investigative reporters found piles of garbage on every street, over 100 used syringes, and 300 piles of human feces. Yep, folks, piles of public poop are now token obstacles for locals and visitors to hopscotch around on field trips to museums and such.
Adelita Orellana, who teaches preschool children in downtown, said, “We see poop, we see pee, we see needles, and we see trash.” Or as her 3-year-old student A’Nylah explained, “There’s poop in there.”
We are in America, aren’t we?
Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious disease expert at University of California, Berkeley, is pondering the answer to that question:
“If you do get stuck with these disposed needles you can get HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and a variety of other viral diseases. If you happen to inhale (dried feces) that, it can also go into your intestine. The contamination is … much greater than communities in Brazil or Kenya or India.”
How to Flush the Problem
Local hotel and hospitality owners and operators, losing bookings and hearing the harshest of criticisms from past customers, seem to be the only ones concerned with the San Francisco brand. Between cable cars clanging, the mentally ill screaming, and the brisk, salty, ocean air tinged with the rankest of waste scents wafting through bistros and bakeries, public officials seem to have stuck their heads in the sand.
Through the hospitality industry’s charitable efforts, homelessness programs have received 20 tons of furniture and fixtures and their employees regularly volunteer at Project Homeless Connect.
But wait, the city does its part by spending $305 million a year to reduce the problem, right? Yes, and the issue has grown into a public health crisis.
Instead of addressing the homelessness, they fling extra money at certain budget line items, such as trash removal: Liberal government at its finest.
Expecting to pass this month is the proposed new city budget that adds an additional $12.8 million over the next two years to street cleaning. An eye-popping amount, when you consider that the budget has almost doubled in the past five years alone, increasing from $33.4 million to $65.4 million.
Perhaps the newly minted mayor has a plan.
Hang on, Help Is on the Way…or Not
Mayor London Breed campaigned in part on cleaning up the streets, and has given herself a deadline of three-months after being sworn into office to get it done. So just what is Mayor Breed’s plan for the issue that had so many before her completely flummoxed? Point the finger at those responsible for assisting:
“I work hard to make sure your programs are funded for the purposes of trying to get these individuals help, and what I am asking you to do is work with your clients and ask them to at least have respect for the community — at least, clean up after themselves and show respect to one another and people in the neighborhood.”
A night cap at Top of the Mark, a cable car ride to Union Square, a breathtakingly scenic drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, and dodging an out of control homeless population enabled by the city’s representatives – not what tourists, convention-goers, and locals call a good time in the city by the bay. Yes, somewhere crooner Tony Bennett is sobbing uncontrollably.
It’s a sad state of affairs when the newly elected mayor, who grew up in the city, has no other plan to eradicate the potentially disease-causing filth but to politely ask the homeless population to “clean up after themselves.”
In other words, “Please do not poo on the footpath.” She established her timeline on solving the crisis and the world is watching and waiting to see what happens in the once glorious city.
Mayor Breed’s clock started July 11 as she took her oath of office. Tick tock, Mayor, tick tock.