Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's closing time ... but will the homeless leave?

Counselor Jason Albertson arranges a spot in a shelter for Ed Jones (right), who was sleeping in the terminal.

There are as many as 140 homeless people sprawled every night across the ancient wooden benches inside San Francisco's Transbay Terminal or in dozens of tents alongside the outside walls.

At one minute after midnight on Aug. 7, the 1939-vintage terminal will be closed for demolition, to make way for construction of a gleaming, glass-walled showpiece of transit glory. The complex is to be cleared of all people -- which, at that hour, will mean dozens who are still clinging to vain hopes that they can keep sleeping in the hulking terminal despite daily warnings that the wrecking ball is on its way.

Jason Albertson, leader of the city Homeless Outreach Team working to clear the terminal, said getting the crowd of homeless men and women out before demolition day and into services or housing is one of the most daunting tasks he's ever faced.

"It's comparable in terms of having a whole lot of people with a whole lot of issues with a deadline," Albertson said. "Some folks have been here as long as 20 years. They've made it their home, and now we have to tell them it's not their home anymore. That isn't easy."

About 35 of them are so mentally ill or physically disabled they need special medical care, Albertson said, making them harder to relocate.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle report here.


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