That vulnerability extends to the people living and working near encampments.
Desirée Barrera, a hairdresser and owner of Proper Fox Studio in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, suspected it was only a matter of time until a homeless encampment fire caused serious harm. Her customers have been forced to walk into the street, she said, to avoid an encampment and the drug dealers and users it attracted.
On Oct. 13 last year, an encampment fire on Stevenson Street spread to Barrera’s car. Records provided by the Fire Department confirm that the blaze damaged three vehicles, for $47,628 in total damage. Prior to that incident, Barrera said, she had filed numerous complaints about outdoor fires to the city’s 311 phone line, with no results.
“Our blocks have been taken over by encampments more than ever before,” Barrera said in an email to The Standard. “Conditions never seem to lighten.”
Luttropp acknowledged frustration on all sides, from residents who worry that their homes and businesses could go up in flames to fire department personnel who are suffering burnout after responding to the same areas day after day.
“It’s that frustration with being unable to provide a lasting remedy,” Luttropp said.
Meanwhile, many homeless people who spoke with The Standard said they try to practice fire safety but see no other way to survive San Francisco’s wet winter nights without housing.