UPDATE: As of Monday, the Box City encampment has been cleared and residents have checked into the Navigation Center for their allotted 30-day stay. City officials cleared the encampment early Tuesday morning. The DPW has provided short-term storage for some of the large shelter structures at Pier 50, though residents and volunteers had to transport the items themselves. Those structures which were not transported were crushed and thrown into dumpsters, according to a release from the Coalition on Homelessness. “Thirty days in the Navigation Center just isnʼt enough time for me to get help,” one Box City resident said in the release. “I canʼt even get my belongings over there.”
The transitional housing experiment known as Box City is being evicted and cleared this weekend. The shanty-like collection of nearly 25 sheds and wooden carts near the Caltrain tracks in Mission Bay had aspired to provide a new model for responsibility and self-management among the San Francisco homeless community. But the San Francisco Department of Homelessness felt the safety risks and neighborhood complaints justified clearing the encampment, and Box City residents are scrambling to store their possessions.
Box City is a homeless encampment where tents are banned, and residents are required to build solid structures. Those structures now all have something extra affixed onto them — an eviction notice alerting the owners that all items will be cleared from the street at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
“I wish we would have been able to have DPW [Department of Public Works] and city services support a pilot project where we were having coordinated trash pick up, and having rules and agreements about storage and space,” Box City community liaison and homeless advocate Amy Farah Weiss tells SF Weekly. “But unfortunately, the city did not want to try to pilot that.”
“And it’s going to start pouring rain for a week starting tomorrow, so we have that challenge ahead of us too,” Farah Weiss says, while helping the residents clear their items and find storage.
The Box City residents have all been offered a 30-day stay at the Navigation Center, a temporary housing shelter near 16th Street and Mission Street. Some have taken that offer, others are trying to negotiate storage arrangements for their structures before moving in. “If we take care of that issue, then it’s not as much of a barrier to get people into the Navigation Center,” Farah Weiss tells SF Weekly.
But some homeless San Franciscans remain skeptical of the shelters and Navigation Centers. “There are certain things we don’t like,” a Box City resident named Rolando tells SF Weekly. “Some shelters don’t have ventilation. The air is not rotating inside. People are sick and you don’t know who’s sick.”
“I’ll try the Navigation Center,” Rolando says. “If it’s good, if it’s nice, I’ll stay.”
The problem, though, is that he can only stay for 30 days.