The crack-cocaine users who sleep across the street from Victoria — or “bubble boys,” as she has nicknamed them, after a slang term for drug use — screamed when Department of Public Works employees sprayed them with high-powered hoses a few weeks ago, she says.
It was about 4:30 a.m. in the Mid-Market area of downtown San Francisco, a few hours before the daily arrival of tech industry employees, whose firms recently moved into the neighborhood. DPW workers gave the sleeping young men four warnings and then started spraying, said Victoria, 52, who only offered her first name out of a mistrust of police common among San Francisco’s homeless people.
Victoria described herself as a “polite,” obliging homeless woman who picks up and leaves when asked by the authorities. She said the young men were given fair warning by the cleanup crew. But the sight of them being hosed was disturbing. “They were screaming,” she said.
Reports of DPW workers “washing away” homeless is nothing new—Street Sheet posted the above video back in 2008, and in late September, department employees told homeless around 16th and Mission to leave or be “sprayed out.” However, Al Jazeera reports that hosing the homeless has reached new levels, with daily sidewalk washing happening since September that activists claim are a “very orchestrated campaign to gentrify the Mid-Market area and draw in tech companies and offer them a tax break to move into that area.”
“We’re doing a good job. I got Market Street cleared out,” a DPW employee, working with a police escort, told Al Jazeera while “his team cleaned a dead-end alley with an encampment of homeless people, just blocks from Twitter headquarters.”
Police ultimately asked at least one homeless man to relocate from mid-Market to 25th and Potrero in the Mission District, only to find himself ousted once again.