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Tenderloin businesses fed up with San Francisco homeless shelter

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A San Francisco homeless shelter on Polk and Geary streets is increasingly frustrating nearby business owners who have turned to City Hall for help.

The 326-bed facility, known as Next Door Shelter in the Tenderloin, is drawing complaints about the number of people congregating on the sidewalk around the building, where they can smoke. The concerns intensified last summer, when the shelter’s inside smoking area was shut down due to a city law.

Nearby business owners say people drink, smoke and use drugs at the location, driving customers away.

Justin Hau, who owns the nearby Ocean Aquarium Fresh Water Fish, said he complained in the past but nothing was done. Hau said that after 7 p.m., shelter users are “standing there smoking marijuana — too much.” Or they “poop in the alley” or are “making love in the alley.” He said some customers ask him to escort him to their cars because they don’t feel safe. “We’ve complained to The City,” Hau said. “They don’t listen.”

Neighborhood group leader Ron Case, chairman of Lower Polk Neighbors, is hoping city officials will help. He met on Monday with Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes the shelter, and the stakeholders.

Solutions the meeting explored included installing a rooftop garden for smokers, which would get them off the streets, and hiring security outside the building. Case said the “ideal” solution would be to decrease the number of beds to about 100.

Ken Reggio, executive director of Episcopal Community Services, which operates the shelter under contract with the Human Services Agency, said he is working on addressing the concerns. He acknowledged that the shelter isn’t problem-free, but said the facility is not “a magnet that makes all these bad things happen in the neighborhood.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com