In an all-out effort to clean up the city’s streets, San Francisco’s public works department inaugurated operation scrub-down. Three times a day, city workers move through a 30-block area, cleaning the pavement with high-pressure hoses, rousting squatters and taking away shopping carts filled with refuse and personal belongings.
Operation scrub down is the brainchild of Mohammed Nuru, a Nigerian who worked for years as an advocate for San Francisco’s homeless and who says he believes you don’t help people by encouraging them to live on the streets. Nuru says his crews remove between 200 and 500 carts from the streets every day.
John Viola, a civil rights attorney for the “coalition of the homeless,” says the numbers are nothing to cheer about. But Nuru objects when Viola talks about the carts and possessions as confiscated property, and claims that only abandoned carts are removed from the streets and sidewalks where they present a safety hazard.