To conceal the homelessness issue during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit scheduled from November 11 to 17, San Francisco removed homeless encampments and introduced "night ambassadors" to prevent their return.
This summit, where President Joe Biden plans to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, is anticipated to be San Francisco's most significant assembly of international leaders since 1945, attracting over 20,000 attendees and generating an estimated $50 million in revenue, as reported by the Daily Mail.
On Wednesday, workers cleaned up well-known areas frequented by the homeless, such as Jessie Alley. During this process, individuals staying there had their possessions discarded into garbage trucks, and the streets were washed down.
One homeless man, speaking to the Daily Mail said that police requested they stay away from the area while the conference takes place.
"The police just told me that there's a major conference, that the president is coming, and asked if we could stay away for a week," he said. "They took everything, my tent, my cell phone... I've got to start all over. I could have cursed them out, but it ain't do me no good," he said about being forced out.
Emily Cohen, the Deputy Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, spoke to KQED, stating, "When our community hosts events, like APEC, we want to put our best foot forward. Dedicated outreach interventions will be focused on the conference vicinity, and offering safe places for people experiencing homelessness will be a priority.”
The city offered to place homeless people into shelters, but many refused, with one man saying, "We've got nowhere to go and they're trying to push us to areas we don't want to go."
Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) commented to Fox News that the clean-up actions reveal that politicians, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, are aware of San Francisco's issues but are indifferent to their residents' concerns, focusing instead on making a good impression on Xi Jinping.
"Well, let’s start with Newsom. That’s too ridiculous to let go by uncommented. But — for years, San Francisco residents have had to put up with rampant homelessness, open-air drug use, assaults, and feces-lined streets, all in the name of some twisted progressive notion of equity," he stated.
"But, suddenly, when a genocidal Communist dictator comes to town, the ideas of equity suddenly vanish and the streets get cleaned up. That’s very weird. What kind of message does that send? It means California politicians like Gavin Newsom know San Francisco is an embarrassment and they don’t care about their residents, they only care about impressing Xi Jinping. If it weren’t so sad, it would actually be funny.”
Residents of San Francisco expressed similar views, suggesting that the city has the ability to address homelessness but opts not to.
SoMa resident and community advocate Ricci Lee Wynne shared with the New York Post:
They’ve cleared out the tents that were near the Moscone Center on Howard Street, which tells me the city had the capability to do this all along.
Instead they just do the bare minimum. Once APEC is gone, police presence will start to simmer down again, the tents will return. And it will slowly flare up again. What we need is a permanent solution.
"They are just essentially herding the problem around but offering no long-term solutions," small business owner Adam Mesnick said. "I’m just outside what they consider the ‘containment zone’ for APEC, so the problem is getting pushed into my area, which is already pretty saturated with drug activity."
Speaking of the city leaders, Mesncik added that, “They are very good at creating an illusion and they are very good at performance art. It’s a Band-Aid and indicative of a poor administration. And you know, really at this point, the frustration couldn’t be any louder."