Office of Civil Rights once again monitoring homeless encampment cleanups

Earlier this year, the city issued an update to its protocol for cleaning up unsanctioned homeless encampments. Notably missing from those rules was a formal role for the Office of Civil Rights in monitoring implementation and compliance, as it had been doing last fall when the city was accused of not following its own rules.  The Office of Civil Rights  stopped its monitoring work in January, but after public outcry the city backtracked and said that it would use the department in an “audit capacity.”

Last month, three city departments quietly signed a Memorandum of Agreement re-establishing a formal monitoring role.

The three participating city departments are Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), which is generally in charge of coordinating encampment cleanups; the Human Services Department (HSD), which is responsible for outreach to encampment residents, offering a variety of services to them, and tracking outcomes; and the Office of Civil Rights (SOCR).

Under the terms of the MOU,  SOCR will

provide high-level oversight to ensure the City is following the Multi-Departmental Administrative Rules (MDAR 17-01), the Finance and Administrative Services Rules (FAS 17-01), and other adopted policies pertaining to removing unauthorized encampments as they may change from time to time.

SOCR committed to hiring an Encampment Monitor to perform four specific duties:

  • review monthly operational reports and encampment removal data;
  • perform random site visits during encampment removals, document its observations, and providing immediate feedback if “critical to the clean-up operations.” SOCR has the authority to halt an encampment removal, but only if it is out of compliance with the city’s protocols;
  • conduct interviews of encampment clean-up personnel, law enforcement officers, encampment residents, and other stakeholders;
  • issue a semi-annual report detailing observations, findings and recommendations. The MOU doesn’t specify who will receive that report.

HSD is required, on a monthly basis, to provide SOCR with data collected by its outreach contractors “to allow for SOCR’s review of residents’ demographics.” This is in line with SOCR’s general mandate to address city policies that have disparate impacts on communities of color, immigrants, and other underserved populations.

FAS is funding SOCR’s labor and materials, up to $50,000.

The MOU is in effect from its signing in April through the end of this year, at which point it terminates unless all three departments choose to extend it.


 

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