San Francisco health officials declared a tent city that has been growing along a city street a health hazard and gave homeless people living on the sidewalk 72 hours to clear the area.
The Department of Public Health said notices declaring the area along Division Street a public nuisance and encouraging homeless people to move to city shelters would be posted Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, conditions where multiple tents are congregated have become unsafe," said Barbara A. Garcia, the department's director of health. "People are living without access to running water, bathrooms, trash disposal or safe heating or cooking facilities."
An inspection found that people in tents along a section of Division Street are living among garbage, human feces, hypodermic needles, urine and other insanitary conditions, the department said.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told the newspaper the tents would be gone within weeks. “Once we clean up the area, we expect the area to be kept clean and not be re-encamped,” Lee said.
The tents had drawn numerous complaints and in some places the tents blocked sidewalks forcing people to walk in the street.
If people don't vacate by Friday, the department will recommend the San Francisco Department of Public Works and the San Francisco Police Department remove all encampments from the area, according to city officials.
Police Chief Greg Suhr said it was unclear what will happen to anyone who remains after the 72-hour deadline expires, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He did not say whether those who stayed would be arrested.
Lee said at least two other encampments in the city would be cleared in the coming weeks.
"We're going to encourage people first to get out of those situations and persuade them. Persuasion usually means a backup from people who say you can't be here," Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle while touring the city's newest homeless shelter at Pier 80, which can house up to 150 people.
The health department said its homeless-outreach team has been urging campers to move to Pier 80 or other city shelters and will continue to do so through Friday.
Al Jazeera with The Associated Press