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Deadlines Scatter City Homeless Camps, But Not Very Far

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Smaller encampments appear in surrounding blocks, as predicted

Two city-appointed deadlines have come and gone since Friday, and now San Francisco’s freeway underpasses are free of homeless encampments—sort of.

Last week, the Department of Public Health served 72 hours notice to the owners of dozens of tents erected beneath the freeway overpasses on Division Street to leave the blocks between 9th and 15th streets. On Thursday, the city gave similar notice to a camp along San Bruno Avenue, between 17th and Alameda Streets. The sites had become a health hazard, according to the city.

A survey of the cited blocks on Sunday night revealed a much diminished collection of tents. Last Wednesday, more than 60 tents were pitched on 13th Street, between Bryant and Harrison. By Sunday, only a dozen were still there.

Nearby, along San Bruno Avenue, about 25 tents remained of the 40 or so spotted there on Wednesday, and about half of the campers there were in the process of collecting their belongings and collapsing their tents. Some were cleaning up, sweeping the sidewalks, and gathering trash around their campsites. Several hours had passed since the city-mandated 5 p.m. deadline, but no police or city officials were around.

Although holdouts remain, it looks like the city’s tough-love position may have dispersed the neighborhood’s largest camps. However, as many observers predicted, it seems as if many of those who left didn’t go very far: 25 new tents have sprung up at Florida and Treat Streets, a stone’s throw from Division.

The blocks further down Division, around 10th Street, also appear more heavily populated than last week, as does the stretch of Harrison Street between 11th and 12th. Of course, as the Chronicle’s Kevin Fagan observes, homeless encampments in this neighborhood are nothing new, and they can be found on almost any SoMa block—over two dozen were lined up on Kissling Street, a few blocks from Mission Street, on Sunday, for example.

The fliers instructing tent owners to vacate have been removed along Division. In their place, the Coalition on Homelessness, a homeless activism non-profit, posted bills criticizing the city’s homeless policies, and providing the homeless with instructions for recovering seized property.