San Francisco opens 1st sanctioned tent camp for homeless

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San Francisco has opened a “Safe Sleeping Village” as a tent encampment for the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic.

Close to 80 tents have moved into the encampment placed outside of City Hall.

The initiative was approved by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who last week said that the city did “not have many other options” when it came to finding a solution for the homelessness problem during the pandemic.

“During normal times, two of the main ways we help people out of homelessness are shelter placements and homeward bound, where we connect people with a relative or friend willing to take them in,” said the mayor in a tweet. “Because of COVID-19, both of these have been severely limited, tying our hands.”

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Unsanctioned homeless encampments were being set up around the city due to the closures and limitations set in place by shelters.

According to the city’s mayor, the shelters cut their capacity by 76 percent and new people have not been allowed in during this time, in order to ensure safe social distancing practices.

The Safe Sleeping Village will be monitored by security officials at all times.  Food, water, showers and trash pickup are also being provided in addition to the toilets the mayor’s office had already distributed throughout the city.

A second Sleeping Village is already in the works, Breed announced last week.

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The encampments are supposed to help homeless practice social distancing and more sanitary measures.

San Francisco has also moved 1,300 homeless into hotels during the pandemic, but critics say that more need to be moved in to reduce overcrowding in tent encampments.

The city has more than 8,000 homeless however, and the mayor is reportedly reluctant to move them all in to hotels.

Historically, San Francisco exercises a no-tent-city policy, requiring police to move tent-dwellers along.

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But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that officials leave tent encampments at this time, unless there are options for housings, hotels or other city mandated solutions, such as the Safe Sleeping Village.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.