Homeless in BART/SF Chronicle photo
Once you get past the homeless at the airport, make sure to watch out for the feces bombs throughout the city.
From SF Gate: Authorities at San Francisco International Airport are struggling to deal with rising numbers of homeless people arriving at the International Terminal, many of them seeking shelter in the middle of the night after riding BART trains south from the city.
It’s the latest expression of the region’s increasingly visible homelessness crisis and represents another challenge for BART, which is dealing with the pending retirement of its general manager and police chief, the complex rollout of a new fleet of trains, and this week declared a state of emergency over surging crime, rampant fare evasion and “quality of life” issues.
In the past two years, airport duty managers and San Francisco police officers who patrol SFO have seen official contacts with homeless people triple, according to airport figures obtained through a public records request. There were 1,139 such calls in February, or roughly 40 a day, compared with about a dozen contacts a day in March 2017.
The records do not specify how the person arrived at the airport, which sits east of San Bruno and Millbrae in San Mateo County, or describe the result of the encounter.
But airport officials noted that a large percentage of these unsheltered people arrive on the last BART train each night, which pulls into the International Terminal after 1:30 a.m. and empties out, with no return run to San Francisco. At that time, the terminal is mostly empty — departing flights have ceased — and airport officials said the arrivals raise security concerns.
On March 27, records show, San Francisco police officers had 33 contacts with homeless people at SFO, all at the International Terminal area by the BART station. Nineteen of those contacts occurred during the midnight shift.
From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day, the airport allows only employees, ticketed travelers and people dropping or picking up fliers to be in the terminals.
“Bottom line, this particular arrival at night is an area of focus as a disproportionate number of riders on trains are homeless,” SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said. “We’ve been working with BART to examine where trains terminate for the night, and we’ve also requested that BART sweep trains for homeless before they arrive at SFO.”
While Yakel said the majority of the contacts with homeless people stem from the final train each night, BART officials disagreed. They said perhaps four or five homeless people are typically encountered each night at the airport, which is consistent with other end-of-line stations like those in Richmond and Fremont.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that these people don’t have any permanent housing and they end up at SFO,” said Jim Allison, a BART spokesman.
A BART police officer does a sweep through the last two trains of the night, along with the train operator, when they reach SFO, Allison said. SFO employees and San Francisco police officers assigned to the airport also screen people coming off those trains, asking them where they are headed, and respond to homeless people who sometimes make their way into the terminal.
Armando Sandoval, the BART police crisis intervention team coordinator, said officers typically find people at the end of line, often asleep. “I think it’s typical of migrating homeless. It could be buses, trains or subway trains,” Sandoval said. “They spend time on the trains and forget where they are and end up at the end-of-the-line locations.”
BART does not allow people to remain on trains when they are out of service — and with the airport’s isolated location, there isn’t an easy exit, officials said. Currently, San Francisco police hand out tokens for a free bus ride on SamTrans, which has 24-hour service to SFO and connects to locations from Palo Alto to San Francisco.
During the day, many homeless people contacted at the airport are provided BART passes.
“The notion of pulling them off a BART train and putting them on a SamTrans bus is not solving the problem, it’s just shifting it,” Yakel said. As a result, he said, the airport and BART are working with San Mateo County homeless services agencies to try to get help for individuals.
The phenomenon has intensified as the transit agency deals with an estimated $25 million-a-year fare evasion problem. On Monday, BART began a monthlong enforcement blitz to attack it. Three days later, General Manager Grace Crunican shocked the board of directors when she announced she’d be leaving the agency in July after running BART for seven years.
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