Over the last year or two, San Francisco has become notorious for having some of the dirtiest major city blocks in the United States. In fact, things have gotten so bad that the city has employed full-time workers that it pays almost $200,000 per year to clean up human feces on the ground which, along with heroin needles and litter, have put the city streets into total disarray.
The New York Times was the latest to highlight what, exactly, life was like on Hyde Street, one of the dirtiest streets in the city. The area is just 15 minutes away from technology giants like Twitter and Uber, yet you’d never know by looking at it. The worst parts of Hyde Street are in the middle of the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood. And according to the Times, for the people who called this block home, it’s “difficult to reconcile San Francisco’s liberal politics with the misery that surrounds them.”
The 300 block of Hyde Street received 2227 complaints about cleanliness over the past decade, which was enough to register as more than any other block. The Times revisited this block several times throughout the course of 12 hours between 2PM and 2AM on a weekday and found the mentally ill, the drug addicted and residents who are at their wit’s end.
And the implementation of the “poop patrol” can only do so much. The Times bumped into Yolanda Warren, who is a city resident that works around the corner from this block on Hyde Street. As she was getting her children off to school, the sidewalk in front of her office was “stained with feces and smelled like a latrine”.
She, like many in the city, is forced to hose down the sidewalk every morning. Despite the city installing restrooms for the homeless, it hasn’t stopped them from going to the bathroom in the streets.
Warren told the Times: “Some parts of the Tenderloin, you’re walking, and you smell it and you have to hold your breath.”
San Francisco now has around 4400 homeless people. Over the past three years, it has replaced more than 300 lamp posts that have been corrupted by dog and human urine. The urgency for this effort accelerated after a lamp post collapsed in 2015. Heroin needles are also a danger: the public works department and a nonprofit organization that helps them picked up 100,000 needles from the streets of the Tenderloin neighborhood over the last year. The city’s public health department, which has its own needle recovery program, retrieved 164,264 needles in August alone through a disposal program and street cleanups.
One property manager in the area, Larry Gothberg, has managed a building on Hyde Street since 1982 and has kept a photographic journal of heroin users on the streets. He showed reporters from the Times a number of pictures of addicts sitting around motionless. He called it “the heroin freeze”. He said, “They can stay that way for hours”.
The tenderloin neighborhood is an area of older subsidized single occupancy apartment buildings, laundromats and organizations that are set up to help the indigent. Studio apartments there are about $1500 a month, which is on the low-end of a city where the median rent is $4500 a month. Many of the residents of the area are immigrant families. Drug users in the area are supplied by dealers who sell heroin, crack cocaine and amphetamines. This leads to obvious disputes and, occasionally, violence.
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