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Vagrants, needles and a corpse horrify Aussie tourists

June 20, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The shock experienced by an Australian tourist couple confronted with the corpse of a murder victim being loaded into an ambulance has highlighted the plight of one of America’s most popular tourist cities – where discarded needles and aggressively ranting vagrants are beginning to put some visitors off.

San Francisco, sometimes called The Golden City, is a delightful place to visit, but it has an underbelly – no doubt about that. An Australian couple visiting the city recently were shocked after deciding to walk back to their hotel:

“Is this normal or am I in a ‘bad part of town?’” Australian Reddit user /u/nashtendo posted.

“Just walked past numerous homeless off their faces, screaming and running all over the sidewalk near Twitter HQ and then a murder scene. Wife is scared to leave hotel now.”

Is this normal or am I in a ‘bad part of town’. Just walked past numerous homeless off their faces, screaming and running all over the he sidewalk near Twitter HQ and then a murder scene. Wife is scared to leave hotel now. from sanfrancisco

Twitter’s headquarters, mentioned by the traveller, is located in San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin District.

Expanding on his theme in response to various comments, the Australian added: “It was my wife that was scared and it was partly the mass of concentrated, drug affected homeless mixed with a guy being rolled into an ambulance dead.

“We did LA and NYC on this trip too. Both felt safer.

“Syringes were visible, people were staggering, others had wide aggressive eyes. ‘Off their faces’ might be an Australian thing (sorry) but I meant just visibly drug affected.”

Another Reddit user, going by the name -/u/SgtPeanutbutter, replied:

“It’s pretty normal. I’m honestly hoping tourists will realize how shitty this city has become and stop coming. Maybe the loss of income will finally push the city to stop allowing the rampant drug dealing and homeless people treating the entire city like their toilet. You would think a city that depends so heavily on tourism and conventions for the bulk of their income would put more effort into maintaining a certain standard, but there is rampant drug dealing out in the open in some of the most heavily tourist areas. The city knows about it, they just don’t care.”

Comments on the Reddit thread were picked up by US website ZeroHedge and other sites.

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Flickr

In April, the president and chief executive of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, Joe D’Alessandro, gave an alarmingly frank interview to the San Francisco Chronicle.

D’Alessandro spoke of people injecting themselves with drugs in broad daylight, of dirty needles and other garbage strewn on footpaths, of tent camps and human faeces, along with petty theft and the threatening behaviour of vagrants who appear either mentally ill or high.

“The streets are filthy. There’s trash everywhere. It’s disgusting,” D’Alessandro said. He has travelled the world and his job is to promote San Francisco.

“I’ve never seen any other city like this,” he confessed. “The homelessness, dirty streets, drug use on the streets, smash-and-grabs.

“How can it be? How can it have gotten to this point?”

San Francisco’s Health Director Barbara Garcia estimated in 2016 that San Francisco was home to 22,000 intravenous drug users – about one for every 38.9 residents. The city distributes roughly 400,000 needles each month and many used needles are discarded.

Despite that, many travellers (including me) find San Francisco a great place to visit. Like most cities, you need to keep your wits about you. But the visitors have a point and so does D’Alessandro – a man who should know.

Anecdotally, vagrants and “panhandlers” head to San Francisco from other US cities because California’s relatively balmy weather suits sleeping rough. In contrast, if you sleep outside in, say, Minneapolis, you may freeze to death – the winter temperatures there can plunge below minus 35 C.

Additionally, San Francisco is a  “sanctuary city”, having proclaimed itself for more than three decades as a safe haven for immigrants, legal or illegal. It has a sizeable “undocumented immigrant” population, some of whom are homeless, though how much that contributes to the problems D’Alessandro describes is debatable.

Written by Peter Needham

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