SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A prominent San Francisco leader in the African American community is calling for more action to curb violent behavior by homeless people after a beloved nonprofit director was severely beaten by two allegedly homeless men Friday.
James Spingola, director of the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center in the city's historic Black Fillmore neighborhood, was beaten with a wooden plank after he asked two men to move away from the organization's front doorstep, said Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP and pastor at Third Baptist Church.
The beating was around 11 a.m., said Officer Kathryn Winters, a spokesperson with the San Francisco Police Department, in an email Friday. She said officers arrived to find one of the suspects detained by Spingola and others. Police are looking for the other suspect.
Winters did not have the names or housing status of the suspects.
Spingola is recovering at a hospital. A GoFundMe page shows a photo of Spingola's bruised, purple and puffy face. He was trying to protect children and staff in the building, according to the fundraising post.
"The homeless situation has been out of control for too many years," Brown said in a statement Friday.
He said the Fillmore has "been besieged in recent weeks by crime, theft, drugs, and danger" as homeless people have been driven from nearby neighborhoods, including the Tenderloin, City Hall and downtown.
Mayor London Breed and other officials have made it a priority to stop open air drug dealing and illegal drug use in those neighborhoods. San Francisco has a highly visible homeless population and it has struggled to help unhoused or marginally housed people who have severe psychiatric disorders or drug addictions.
Homeless people smoked drugs on the roof of his church and last week, a catalytic converter was stolen from a church van used by seniors, Brown said.
"Our streets are littered with needles and feces. They smell of urine and degradation. We need to help these people, we need to help our city, and we need to hold homeless people and our leaders accountable," Brown said.