San Francisco District Attorney Caught Stating Homeless Should be Made ‘Uncomfortable’

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By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Thousands of unsheltered San Franciscans should be “made to be uncomfortable,” San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins allegedly said at a Dec. 4 public forum, according to a story in the Chronicle this week.

The Chronicle said, “Jenkins initially replied that ‘the recourse is obviously outside the criminal justice system,’ but later added, ‘They have to be made to be uncomfortable is the truth of the matter,’ suggesting there should be more sweeps of homeless encampments.

“We cannot make it comfortable for them to pitch a tent on our sidewalks and stay,” she said at the forum, reported the Chronicle, adding, “So that’s the theory of being able to now respond and say, ‘Now you have been offered shelter, you have refused it, now you must move.’ ”

“The comment made by Jenkins, which suggests that living on the street can be comfortable, comes amid continuing debate in San Francisco — and in major cities across the nation — over when officials should be allowed to clear encampments,” wrote the Chronicle.

Sweeps of unhoused—where their very few belongings, and medications are taken away and often never seen again—are cruel and further destabilize unsheltered individuals while wasting public money that should instead go toward housing and treatment, claim homeless advocates.

But, said the Chronicle, “politicians, such as Mayor London Breed and Gov. Gavin Newsom, argue that permitting people, some of whom are dealing with untreated mental illnesses or substance abuse, to live in squalor also is not a viable option.”

The Chron reported city data indicates that in recent years “unhoused people have refused referrals for shelter in more than half of the instances in which an outreach worker has engaged with them and offered housing or shelter. In November, for instance, street outreach workers engaged with 350 people, offering them shelter and services. In 213 of those encounters, or 60 percent of them, people declined assistance.”

Advocates explain shelters are not viable long-term housing options and many individuals reject shelters because of the living conditions and strict rules that bar bringing pets and belongings with them.

The Chronicle writes that an ongoing lawsuit about how San Francisco treats unhoused individuals limited the city’s ability to clear encampments.

However, sweeps are increasing after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made a recent ruling the city “interpreted as allowing it to enforce laws that prohibit sitting, lying or sleeping on public property in cases of people who have declined a specific offer of available shelter or otherwise have access to a home.”

Jenkins’ comments were shared nearly 300 times on X, formerly known as Twitter, Wednesday and the overwhelming majority of 200-plus comments were critical of the DA.

The Chronicle said Jenkins declined an interview request, and did not reply to questions seeking clarity on what Jenkins meant when she said “uncomfortable” and it could help resolve the homelessness crisis. 

The Chronicle reported Breed and SFPD Chief Bill Scott also took part in the forum, and a Breed spokesperson said he understands that “people get upset by a sound bite” but that “the reality is that we have to be more firm when we offer services.”

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, the nonprofit organization that sued the city, called Jenkins’ sentiment a “tried and failed strategy. It wastes resources and exacerbates homelessness. If we want to continue our failed response, then we should do what DA Jenkins is asking for.”

Friedenbach suggested the city needs to build trust and engage thoughtfully with unhoused people rather than continuing to move them and hope they “disappear.”

John Do, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, which is representing the coalition, called Jenkins’ rhetoric “very troubling,” in the Chronicle story, adding, “It’s pretty uncomfortable that folks have to be outside to begin with, so this idea that they need to be harassed frankly is concerning. It essentially calls for some vigilante justice.”

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