Increase in homelessness upsets Duboce merchants
Business owners say they worry that violence and theft are increasing in the area, too, due to the presence of people on the streets who are mentally ill or have substance-abuse problems.
“We’ve been scratching our heads trying to figure it out,” said Dennis Richards, president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association. “There is additional activity at 14th, Market and Belcher. The question is what’s going on and why now? I wish I had the answers, then maybe we’d be able to curb the problems.”
Richards said the neighborhood association has held meetings with police and city leaders, but if a homeless person denies services, there’s not much that can be done. Since some business owners are not pleased with the progress, they are hosting a community meeting today and have invited police and elected officials, according to the Community Leadership Alliance, which will help host the meeting.
Diego Azevedo, owner of Cybelle’s Pizza on 14th Street at Church Street, said he was in court Jan. 23 dealing with a person who had stolen a prepared salad from the store.
“He was under the influence of something,” he said. “The same guy was doing it to other businesses too.”
Azevedo said he’s had his business in the area since 2007, but the increase in homeless people was noticeable after returning from a few months of vacation in November.
“They’ve always been around, but there has definitely been more,” he said. The owner of Golden Produce on Church Street said the population comes and goes.
One possible cause for the increase is the removal of benches in the nearby Castro district, said Megan Rohrer, executive director of Welcome Ministry, a faith-based homeless outreach organization. The ministry is partnering with St. Francis Lutheran Church, located on Church Street, to do outreach and offer services.
Rohrer said gathering places such as staircases in the Duboce neighborhood are a draw for the crowds.
“As The City concentrates on removing them from one area, it’s normal to see them migrate to another,” she said.
Richards said the empty storefronts, such as the one at the former sight of Home restaurant where Church, Market and 14th streets intersect, could be a contributing factor.
“Without the extra eyes on the street, they’re hanging out and congregating,” he said.