Homeless Woman Offered Shelter by Police, Then Arrested

By Nuala Sawyer, originally published in SF Weekly

Homeless advocates are crying foul over an arrest that occurred on Turk Street Thursday morning, after a 28-year-old unhoused woman was offered a bed in a Navigation Center by police. When she gave her name to them, she was arrested.

Quiver Watts was standing outside their job at the Coalition on Homelessness on Turk street when they spotted three cops rolling up.

“They got out of the car, and there was just one tent on the block, so I knew they were going to her,” Watts tells SF Weekly. “They woke her up, and said they were there to offer resources, like a seven-day bed in a Navigation Center.”

According to Watts, the woman told police she already had a bed in a Navigation Center; a worker from the Homeless Outreach Team had met with her the day before and had arranged for one to be set up for her on Thursday. Police then said they’d check on the status of it for her, and asked for her ID. When she handed it over, they secretly ran her name in their warrant database, found a missed court appearance for petty theft, and arrested her.

Once the handcuffs came out a crowd gathered, and backup was called. All told, around eight police officers ended up at the scene and one sheriff.

SF Weekly obtained evidence of the arrest through a private Facebook video. In it, the woman, whose street name is Diamond, was being held in handcuffs against the side of a building on the north side of Turk Street. As a crowd gathers and more police show up, a cop can be seen saying “By the orders of London Breed,” no doubt referencing the mayor’s support of encampment resolutions.

Watts tells SF Weekly they told the crowd “Just vote for the right people if you want things to change.”

A woman named Charie, who says she is Diamond’s aunt, witnessed the incident go down. She was confused by the behavior of police, and their timing.

“She’s been on the streets forever, literally,” Charie tells SF Weekly. “She’s been over here on the streets with this tent, just one tent. Cops have never arrested her, and always asking her to take down her tent. She could have been arrested a long time ago.

“They set her up, acted like they were going to give her a seven-day bed, then turned her around and roughed her up,” she added.

Thursday’s incident sits in sharp contrast to many of the claims made by SFPD during recent hearings on homeless encampment sweeps, where advocates have called for more outreach from social workers, and less response from police. It’s believed that more than 30 percent of residents in San Francisco’s jail are people who were homeless before their arrest.