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Supes Unanimously Approve Temporary Triage Center for 33 Vehicles

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San Francisco supervisors unanimously jumped on board Tuesday to approve a temporary vehicle triage center near San Jose and Niagra avenues. Once Mayor London Breed signs off on the ordinance, the space would provide long-term, overnight parking space for 33 vehicles. The only problem is that San Francisco last counted 1,794 people living out of vehicles, a 43 percent increase since 2017.

It is the equivalent of a very, very small band-aid on a large, gushing wound, but it’s something, for now.

The ordinance originally proposed by Ahsha Safai utilizes property that will later become the home of Balboa Upper Yards, a 138-unit affordable housing development. Construction is set to begin on the apartments in October 2020, but in the meantime, the city will offer security, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, a kitchen and onsite services to a limited number of vehicles for a 90-day period, which can be extended if the director chooses.

Safai hopes that if all goes well, the triage center could be operational by November, giving at least some of the city’s unhoused population a safe place to sleep.

Line of RVs in San Francisco, Calif. Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area

The spike in vehicle-dwellers is not unique to San Francisco — Oakland saw their count double to 2,817 since 2017 — and neither is the vehicle triage concept. Similar triage centers have been established in Mountain View and three in San Jose, although one site was just shut down Tuesday based largely on safety concerns in the gang-riddled neighborhood.

Some residents in the Balboa Park neighborhood, where the city’s first-ever triage center is planned, have expressed safety concerns of their own. NIMBY resistance to homeless shelters has been a common theme, especially in San Francisco over the past year. Safai persisted and held several community meetings to hear and address those worries.

Safai said:

“There were concerns initially about safety. They (residents) thought maybe we we’re going to be getting the more hardcore homeless: drug addiction, mental health issues.”

“This is a very different population of people, and as such it requires a different level of service.”

But people eventually came around to the idea.

Safai continued:

“I’d say the majority were in favor of giving this a try because they knew that there were individuals that were currently living in their vehicles in the neighborhood already and they wanted to give them an opportunity.”

The vehicle triage center is one small step toward providing people with dignity and opportunity in a city hell bent on pushing out long-term residents. Gov. Gavin Newsom is working to advance a bill that would establish rent control in the state but that still does little to alter the housing insecurity level we’ve already at, with wages largely stagnant and  median rent for a one-bedroom apartment coming in just shy of $4,000 per month.

Like the triage center, rent control from here on out can help stop the bleeding but it will take a lot more gauze and stitches — and parking spaces — to get people back on their feet.


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.