San Francisco sued by homeless demanding affordable housing

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) - San Francisco's homeless are suing the City by the Bay, demanding that it stop rounding them up like criminals and invest in affordable housing instead.

More than 57% of the city's homeless is unsheltered, according to advocacy group Coalition on Homelessness, which filed the lawsuit along with seven homeless individuals. San Francisco has failed to provide enough temporary shelters, the group said on Wednesday when announcing the action.

San Francisco has close to 8,000 homeless people, according to the city's website.

"The City's decades-long failure to adequately invest in affordable housing and shelter has left many thousands of its residents unhoused, forcing them to use tents and vehicles as shelter," said the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The advocacy group accused San Francisco's Mayor London Breed, police and other authorities of acting "to criminalize homelessness through an array of brutal policing practices that violate the constitutional rights of unhoused San Franciscans."

The city's homeless sweeps are rooted in its history of racism in housing and policing, the group added.

"The City has also embarked on a campaign to seize and destroy the property of unhoused people with the express purpose of removing visible signs of homelessness from San Francisco's streets."

The San Francisco mayor's office declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the city had a "service-first approach" to addressing unsheltered homelessness.

The mayor's office is focused on expanding temporary and permanent housing to offer safe alternatives to people living on the streets, it said, noting that the city has about 3,600 shelter beds.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang)