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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Garbage Collectors Allow Homeless Snoozing on Discarded Couches to Sleep In

Posted By on Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 1:56 PM

click to enlarge Looks like this couch is occupied
  • Looks like this couch is occupied

You tried to do the responsible thing. Rather than just dump your aging couch on the curb, you called the garbage collection agency and scheduled a "large item pickup." You scratched away the last few cents of your deposit, marring the walls with a wide couch in a narrow hallway. And you left the decrepit piece of furniture out front to meet its destiny.

Of course, the fate of just about any couch left on the streets of San Francisco is to serve as a slumbering spot for a homeless person. And what do Recology's collectors do when they find a snoring man splayed atop the item theyr'e charged to obtain? As your humble narrator witnessed early this morning, they leave -- sans couch, and sans homeless man.

This creates a frustrating situation. When Recology's collectors depart empty-handed, the couch is liable to be picked up by the Department of

Public Works -- which would have happened anyway, even if it was just

irresponsibly tossed out the window. So, DPW workers -- public employees paid via taxpayer funds -- may be put to work for a duty left uncompleted by Recology -- whose pickup service is funded by city dwellers' garbage payments, incidentally.

Rob DeMartini, a district manager at Recology, said this situation doesn't come up all that often. His official policy regarding a vagrant sleeping upon couches, mattresses, or other items left for Recology is to try to solve the problem "verbally, maybe kick the couch, try to get his attention." And if that fails, so does the pickup attempt. DeMartini says drivers are supposed to go back later and try again. And yet, "People being people, I have some crews I don't have to worry about. I wish everyone was 100 percent perfect. You know how people are."

click to enlarge This couch may need to be kicked
  • This couch may need to be kicked

Crap left throughout the city for DPW to cart off is a $4 million yearly problem. While massive industrial dumps get more publicity, there's something to be said for big jobs centered on one spot. Collecting myriad couches sends DPW employees scuttling throughout the city. Instead of death by 1,000 cuts, imagine insolvency by 1,000 couches.

DeMartini said his drivers pick up 180 to 220 large items every day. Millions could be saved yearly if more San Franciscans availed themselves of Recology's services (which you can do here). And if Recology doesn't pick up your stuff -- get on the phone and call them again.

"Give us a call," says DeMartini. "It helps. We'll send a guy back later in the day. Hopefully the homeless man has an appointment."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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