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Homelessness, Filth Return to San Francisco’s Streets Following APEC Summit

Published: December 6, 2023
A San Francisco Police Department officer asks two people sitting on the sidewalk to move during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' week in San Francisco, California, on November 14, 2023. (Image: JASON HENRY/AFP via Getty Images)

Following the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco in November this year, which prompted an unprecedented clean-up of the city’s streets, the homelessness, filth and crime is returning, much to the dismay of locals. 

Tony Pankaew, a local restaurant owner, said in a recent Fox News interview, “They cleaned up the people, they cleaned up the streets. They made the city look good and look impressive for the foreigners, for the politicians,” adding that, “Now they have started to come back. Slowly but surely. [In] a couple weeks [the city] will be back to where [it was] before.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom received considerable criticism on social media after he admitted that the city timed the massive cleanup effort just days ahead of the summit.

While unveiling a new tree planting initiative, prior to the summit, Newsom said, “I know folks are saying, ‘Oh they’re just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming to town.’ That’s true, because it’s true.”

Locals were wowed by just how quickly the streets were cleaned up. But it appears that the new-found cleanliness was only temporary. 


‘As bad as they’ve ever been’

One business owner told the San Francisco Chronicle that “Things are just as bad as they’ve ever been. Nothing has changed … They cleaned it up for a couple of days, but nothing permanent.”

The Chronicle reported, “Even in the Tenderloin … some local leaders said they were seeing signs that the pre-APEC status quo is returning to their neighborhood, which has long struggled to address open-air drug markets and homelessness.”

On Nov. 27, just ten days following the conclusion of the summit, Jeremy Bernier told Fox News,  “This is like an open-air trap house. It’s ground zero of the fentanyl crisis. You’ve got people literally smoking fentanyl taking these drugs out on the streets.”

“And of course you’ve got the tents and camps while you’ve got a playground with children playing right nearby and this is blocks away from the mayor’s office. It’s just unbelievable to me that a city and country with such immense wealth can have such blatant poverty and suffering.”

The homelessness problem was never actually addressed, simply moved out of sight.

According to an official at the San Francisco Homelessness and Supportive Housing Department, the city’s shelter system remains 91 percent full. As of the end of November, there were nearly 500 people on the shelter systems waitlist.


$300 million investment

In a bid to address the crisis, last week, Gov. Newsom unveiled a plan to distribute $300 million to local jurisdictions to “clear” homeless encampments. 

The plan is to have jurisdictions work alongside the Department of Transportation to address encampments near roads and major freeways which are considered dangerous to motorists and locals. 

Alisa Becerra, a Caltrans spokesperson, revealed the motive behind the injection of funds, telling Los Angeles Magazine that “it’s a safety risk for them, for the infrastructure, for our staff, for first responders, and potentially for the traveling public, and that’s why we remove encampments.”

The program’s aim is to not only clear the encampments but to also provide access to housing for those experiencing homelessness. 

Newsome claims that more than 14,000 people have been assisted by the program to date.

“This is a program that has proven to produce results, and that is why we’re doubling down on it,” Newsom said in a press release.

California hopes to get an additional 10,000 people off the streets with the help of the program.