SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON (AP/Reuters) — San Francisco is joining other U.S. cities in authorizing homeless tent encampments in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a move officials have long resisted but are now reluctantly embracing to safeguard homeless people.
About 80 tents are now neatly spaced out on a wide street near San Francisco City Hall as part of a "safe sleeping village” opened last week. The area between the city’s central library and its Asian Art Museum is fenced off to outsiders, monitored around the clock and provides meals, showers, clean water and trash pickup.
In announcing the encampment, and a second one to open in the famed Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, San Francisco’s mayor acknowledged that she didn’t want to approve tents, but having unregulated tents mushroom on sidewalks was neither safe nor fair.
"So while in normal times I would say that we should focus on bringing people inside and not sanctioning tent encampments, we frankly do not have many other options right now,” she said in a tweet last week.
San Francisco is just the latest city to authorize encampments as shelters across the country move to thin bed counts so homeless people, who are particularly susceptible to the virus due to poor health, have more room to keep apart.
Santa Rosa in Sonoma County welcomed people this week to its first managed encampment with roughly 70 blue tents. Portland, Oregon, has three homeless camps with city-provided sleeping bags and tents, and Maricopa County opened two parking lots to homeless campers in Phoenix.
San Francisco officials have historically frowned upon mini tent cities and routinely rounded up tents on city streets. But with an estimated 150,000 homeless people in California, most of them living out in the open, it’s impossible to stamp out the highly visible tents along highways and on crowded urban sidewalks.
Government-sanctioned tent camps
may be here to stay, at least until a coronavirus vaccine is distributed.
At the urging of San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, the city’s parks and real estate departments are compiling an inventory of open spaces that might be suitable for tent camps.
"It is just a new world that we’re living in,” she said, "and it’s going to have to be our new normal.”
Soros: EU May Not Survive Coronavirus
Billionaire financier George Soros said the European Union could break apart in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic unless the block issued perpetual bonds to help weak members such as Italy. The novel coronavirus, which emerged in China last year, has stalled swathes of the global economy while governments have ramped up borrowing to levels not seen in peacetime history.
Soros, 89, said the damage to the eurozone economy from the new coronavirus would last "longer than most people think”, adding that the rapid evolution of the virus meant that a reliable vaccine would be hard to develop.
The hedge-fund veteran and chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC said perpetual bonds, used by the British to finance wars against Napoleon, would allow the European Union - itself created out of the ashes of World War Two - to survive. "If the EU is unable to consider it now, it may not be able to survive the challenges it currently confronts,” Soros said in a transcript of a question-and-answer session emailed to reporters. "This is not a theoretical possibility; it may be the tragic reality.” Asked about Brexit, Soros said he was particularly worried about Italy: "What would be left of Europe without Italy?”
"The relaxation of state aid rules, which favor Germany, has been particularly unfair to Italy, which was already the sick man of Europe and then the hardest hit by COVID-19,” Soros said.