Captain Joe Engler’s Message
Residents, merchants, and visitors,
Tents. The majority of the calls that I have received over the past several
weeks have been regarding the increased number of persons living upon our streets in tents and makeshift shelters. Progress made in steering our homeless population away from our residential neighborhoods into more stable living conditions within designated shelters and transitional housing has taken a step back as all city employees have been focused upon the COVID-19 response.
The Healthy Streets Operations Center continues to advise and direct the
uniform response to addressing and alleviating the homelessness crisis with San Francisco. Following CDC guidelines, district police officers have been advised to not disrupt encampments amongst the unsheltered population due to potentially furthering the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The current focus of our officers has been on outreach and education regarding the importance of social distancing and identifying the most vulnerable or at-risk within the unsheltered population to assist with housing those most in danger of contracting the virus. HSOC resources continue to work with the police department, Homeless Outreach Teams from the Department of Public Health and the Department of Public Works crews for outreach, housing, mental health referrals and street cleaning.
The city also continues to explore additional public camping and temporary housing sites to house those living upon the streets and sidewalks to give relief to our residential neighborhoods.
Aside from the challenges presented by the homeless population occupying our streets and sidewalks, social distancing remains a challenge around our city businesses, parks and open areas. Despite widespread messaging, several members of the public continue to visit our parks and participate in team sport activities, sit too close on park benches and gather in groups to socialize. These types of activities are selfish, place every one at greater risk by creating an environment where the virus can spread and generate calls for a police response for an already stretched police force. For those who do the right thing every day, thank you. Those of you that think that you are bullet proof and cannot be infected by the virus, please know that you are not only placing yourself and others at risk, you are causing the police to respond unnecessarily to calls for service which places them at risk.
I want to end this newsletter on a very positive note. Through the most
extraordinary health crisis this nation has seen since 1918, everyone has
stepped up and pulled together. Crime is down because most people are
good. Education continues through our technological capabilities. Healthcare remains available because the spread of the virus was slowed by our collective response. Because our city pivoted quickly, we will recover smarter, more cohesive and stronger as a community. Our resilience and adaptability has been tested, and so far, we have endured.
Please read the full newsletter here.