Homeless surge at SF airport: Police contacts triple, and they want BART to help

Homeless surge at SF airport: Police contacts triple, and they want BART to help

April 15, 2019– Mary Greeley News – San Francisco use to be a beautiful city. Not anymore.

Rated number one in homeless and crime in the country. Seattle Washington comes in second.

Authorities at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) are struggling to deal with rising numbers of homeless people arriving at the International Terminal, many of them seeking shelter in the middle of the night after riding BART trains from the city.

From TripAdvisor 2014; I haven’t been to San Fran in a few years, but I was appalled by the number of homeless people wandering the streets at all times of the day and night. I feel sorry for the alarming number of people in need of help and I’m shocked the city doesn’t do a better job. I had to watch people deficate on the streets and was physically assaulted walking home from dinner one evening. I was staying in a very nice area and I’m disappointed that a city worries more about charging customers for shopping bags then dealing with the sad homeless situation. I travel all over the U.S and I have never seen a city so negligent in failing to deal with such a horrible.

And things have only gotten worst.

Homeless surge at SF airport: Police contacts triple, and they want BART to help

Increasingly visible homelessness crisis and represents another challenge for BART.

In the past two years, airport duty managers and San Francisco police officers who patrol SFO have seen official contacts with homeless people triple, according to airport figures obtained through a public records request. There were 1,139 such calls in February, or roughly 40 a day, compared with about a dozen contacts a day in March 2017.

Airport officials noted that a large percentage of these homeless people arrive on the last BART train each night, which pulls into the International Terminal after 1:30 a.m. and empties out, with no return run to San Francisco. At that time, the terminal is mostly empty — departing flights have ceased — and airport officials said the arrivals raise security concerns.

Homeless surge at SF airport: Police contacts triple, and they want BART to help

But how would BART stop the problem? More police and enforcement of laws. But it is well know they police look the other way when drugs are use or people defecate in public.

On March 27, records show, San Francisco police officers had 33 contacts with homeless people at SFO, all at the International Terminal area by the BART station. Nineteen of those contacts occurred during the midnight shift. They made contact, nothing more.

From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day, the airport allows only employees, ticketed travelers and people dropping or picking up fliers to be in the terminals.

“Bottom line, this particular arrival at night is an area of focus as a disproportionate number of riders on trains are homeless,” SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said. “We’ve been working with BART to examine where trains terminate for the night, and we’ve also requested that BART sweep trains for homeless before they arrive at SFO.”

Homeless surge at SF airport: Police contacts triple, and they want BART to help

One urban planner said“I just returned from the Tenderloin (a section of San Francisco). It’s worse than slums of India, Haiti, Africa!”

What I saw in San Francisco looked similar. As one local resident put it, “There’s shit everywhere. It’s just a mess out here.”

There’s also lots of mental illness. One man told us, “Vampires are real. I’m paranoid as hell.” San Francisco authorities mostly leave the mentally ill to fend for themselves on the street.

Homeless surge at SF airport: Police contacts triple, and they want BART to help

Public drug use is generally ignored. One woman told us, “It’s nasty seeing people shoot up — right in front of you. Police don’t do anything about it! They’ll get somebody for drinking a beer but walk right past people using needles.”

Each day in San Francisco, an average of 85 cars are broken into.

BART does not allow people to remain on trains when they are out of service — and with the airport’s isolated location, there isn’t an easy exit, officials said. Currently, San Francisco police hand out tokens for a free bus ride on SamTrans, which has 24-hour service to SFO and connects to locations from Palo Alto to San Francisco.

During the day, many homeless people contacted at the airport are provided BART passes.

“The notion of pulling them off a BART train and putting them on a SamTrans bus is not solving the problem, it’s just shifting it,” Yakel said. As a result, he said, the airport and BART are working with San Mateo County homeless services agencies to try to get help for individuals.

The phenomenon has intensified as the transit agency deals with an estimated $25 million-a-year fare evasion problem. On Monday, BART began a month-long enforcement blitz to attack it. Three days later, General Manager Grace Crunican shocked the board of directors when she announced she’d be leaving the agency in July after running BART for seven years.

Some cities created the problem. BART can’t ticket fare evaders at the six San Mateo County stations — the airport, Daly City, Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno and Millbrae — because the county opted out of the system back in 1961. The transit agency cannot enforce internal ordinances south of San Francisco.

Homeless surge at SF airport: Police contacts triple, and they want BART to help

The Valley Transportation Authority’s overnight Route 22 bus line — or “Hotel 22,” as it has been called — offers a warm, safe space for the desperate to sleep as the coach rumbles around Santa Clara County.

“I’ve lived in the Bay Area my entire life and find this to be a terrible ‘welcome’ for visitors taking public transportation from the airport,” she wrote. “If I were experiencing these conditions in another city, I would feel extremely unsafe, not to mention finding it difficult to rationalize why I paid $10 one-way to use this service.”

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The officer was stabbed multiple times when responding to a complaint about a suspicious person in Terminal One. That suspicious person was reportedly 64-year-old Dooris Johnston, a homeless man. “On average, we see about a dozen homeless people per day at the airport that we’re making contact with,” SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel told ABC 7, noting that many arrive on the 1 a.m. final BART train of the evening looking for a warm, quiet place to sleep.

The San Mateo County Homeless and Safety Net Team said that while it was asked to provide services by the airport, more housing is needed to address the core problem.

Sandoval said BART is working with the airport and homeless advocates to create a task force and outreach plan. He said the airport is by no means alone, citing the Pittsburg-Bay Point terminus as an even larger problem.

“Right now, it’s a Bay Area-wide challenge. Right now, there are a lot of people displaced,” Sandoval said. “Homeless encampments get shut down, and the trains become part of the migrating homeless.”

Mary Greeley News

credit: In part with https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Homeless-surge-at-SF-airport-Police-contacts-13764148.php