A San Francisco man died after his sleeping bag was set on fire early Saturday in the city’s Mission District, police said Wednesday.
The 43-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was asleep at the corner of 25th Street and South Van Ness Avenue on Friday. He awoke to find his sleeping bag in flames, officials said.
The San Francisco Police Department responded to the report of an aggravated assault with fire at 5 a.m. Saturday.
The victim sustained injuries to his lower extremities and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. He passed away the next day. The San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner called the incident a homicide; an investigation is underway.
The incident is an example of the extremely dangerous environment people who lack permanent housing face on San Francisco streets.
Robert Rueca, an SFPD spokesperson, said the acts of violence committed against the city’s vulnerable population are tragic.
“We know they are a vulnerable community,” Rueca said. “And the city is doing all they can to address not only the violence, [but also] provide people in the community the resources they need to improve the situation.”
People living outdoors are also often robbed when they are sleeping. “Obviously with theft, that’s a different picture for someone who has all their belongings with them, for someone who doesn’t have a lot to begin with,” Rueca said. “It’s that much more threatening to their ability to continue.”
Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said the incident was “really tragic” and could have been easily prevented if the victim had a home.
“When an individual does not have a door to lock, they exist at the mercy of those around them, and are easy targets for violence – violence that often occurs when they are sleeping, violence that often goes unreported,” Friedenbach said in a statement. “Adding to that lack of safety a home provides, far too often unhoused people experience hate based attacks as members of a class of people who are scapegoated, typecast and vilified for their impoverished status. Policy makers in SF sadly have for decades tapped into the fear many people feel around homelessness and use homeless people as a political wedge, furthering the dehumanization process and driving up violence against them. ”
Anyone with information on the incident can call the police department tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. You may remain anonymous.