San Francisco moves to deal with Ferry Building transients 

Authorities have increased security and “sensitivity training” at the Ferry Building in response to merchant complaints that more homeless were using the boutique marketplace as a resting spot.

In a meeting in late January, shopkeepers complained of an influx in the number of transients following the closure of the Transbay Transit Terminal in 2010. Business owners griped about an increase in loitering, panhandling and theft of items and money out of tip jars. They also said that even the bathrooms have been messier due to more people using the facilities to clean up.

After a story in the San Francisco Examiner ran, management at the building reached out to the Mayor’s Office for help.

Since then, security at the historic building has set up barricades on the Bay side of the structure to prevent people from sleeping under eaves and on benches. Management has also sent out homeless outreach teams to help get people into services, according to a spokesman for the building management, Andrew Neilly.

“They’re sensitive to the issue, and they’re working with The City to both make the building a secure place for their tenants while being sensitive to the needs of the homeless population,” Neilly said.

Whether there actually was a major influx of homeless people at the Ferry Building is still a bit of a debate.

There were about 100 hardcore homeless at the old Transbay Terminal who had been staying there for more than three years when it was closed down in September, according to Dariush Kayhan, director of homeless policy for The City.

Since the closure, Kayhan and homeless outreach teams have been tracking those people. Forty-eight have been moved into supportive housing or shelters since, he said.

“I can tell you at the onset we hadn’t seen the uptick in that area,” Kayhan said about the Ferry Building. “But we saw some real opportunities to partner with city resources and management.”

Now, security guards at the building will be undergoing sensitivity training in order to work with people who may need to be enrolled in programs.

“That’s a model we’ve used at lot of places, such as the library and community ambassadors,” Kayhan said. “It doesn’t take a lot of effort but it could have a lot of impact.”

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Brent Begin

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