Give Carts to Homeless, Says San Francisco Supervisor FWD

Tom Boland (
Thu, 2 Apr 1998 22:04:43 -0800 (PST)


       Edward Epstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
       Friday, March 6, 1998
       San Francisco Chronicle [Page A17]

       The idea of giving San Francisco's homeless people their own
personal shopping carts surfaced at City Hall yesterday, and met with a
warm reception.

       Supervisor Amos Brown, who chaired a hearing on the city's
continuing shopping cart mess, also suggested that designated areas be set
aside for homeless people to park and lock their carts and their

       It was Brown who stirred a furor a few weeks ago when he suggested
that the city crack down on the epidemic of abandoned shopping carts
littering sidewalks and streets. He insisted then, and vowed again
yesterday, that he wasn't seeking to rein in the homeless, who use shopping
carts from grocery stores to store their personal items.

       Homeless advocates alleged again yesterday that the police are
routinely taking away carts from homeless people.

       Mayor Willie Brown said he doesn't think police are seizing carts
full of people's possessions. ``Not by anyone's order, certainly,'' he

       But then he added that the carts, after all, are stolen merchandise:
``I've looked all over the 49 square miles of San Francisco and I can't
find anyplace that sells shopping carts.''

       Representatives of two big grocery chains, Safeway and Lucky, told
the Housing and Neighborhood Services Committee that the homeless
constitute a small portion of the cart problem. Mostly, it is caused by
shoppers who walk off with the $100 carts to carry their groceries home,
and then just leave them out in the open.

       ``The shopping cart issue is the No. 1 operating difficulty we have
in the city,'' said Lucky representative Bruce Qualls.

       Safeway's Debra Lambert said her company spends $100,000 a year in
the city retrieving wayward carts. In addition to store clerks, the chains
hire shopping cart roundup firms and also pick up carts from the city's
Department of Public Works. DPW picks up thousands of carts annually, hauls
them to its yard and gives them back to retailers.

       Lambert agreed with a suggestion from the San Francisco Coalition on
Homelessness that old shopping carts be touched up, removing all store
markings, and turned over to homeless people. This would end the cycle of
police cart seizures from the homeless.

       Qualls said Lucky would look into the idea as well.

       ``We will not tolerate open season on taking people's carts,'' Amos
Brown said.

       However, he repeated his demand that the city and stores step up
their removal of abandoned and empty carts.

       He said giving carts to the homeless ``Would give them a sense of
ownership. I think that would be good.''

       In testimony, San Franciscan Erik Berjord panned the idea. ``Now
someone wants to give free carts to the homeless. If you do that, you'll
have half the homeless in the country here.''

       Supervisor Brown said having small shopping cart parking lots would
help reduce tensions surrounding the homeless by getting them away from
possible confrontations with business or home owners.

       ``We could have designated areas for people to park their carts, and
have them locked,'' he said.

       Lambert said that while lots of people complain about shopping carts
littered around their neighborhoods, few people are willing to take
responsibility for the problem.

       ``We don't believe the public is really aware that each cart costs
$100 and that their disappearance will result in higher prices at stores,''
she said.


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