Homeless advocates in San Francisco on Tuesday blasted The City’s recent plan to address mental health and drug use in the Tenderloin.
Just last week, the Board of Supervisors approved Mayor London Breed’s proposed emergency declaration for the Tenderloin by 9-2, with Board President Shamann Walton and District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston voting against it.
Criminal justice activists and advocates for the homeless have criticized Breed’s initiatives, arguing the crackdown would only lead to imprisonment for the homeless and other vulnerable people.
On Monday, the city released the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative Strategic Plan and Operations Guide, outlining more details around the emergency response.
In response, officials with the Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco said the plan focuses on reducing the number of tents in the neighborhood but doesn’t focus enough on addressing homelessness and drug addiction at the root. Additionally, coalition officials said the plan to create a linkage center would do no good if The City doesn’t first expand resources like the number of treatment beds, housing units and shelter space.
Coalition on Homelessness Human Rights Organizer Carlos Wadkins said in a statement:
It’s clear that this plan was developed to remove certain people out of public space – not to actually prevent overdose deaths or improve public safety.”
In addition to both supervisors Preston and Walton, other city leaders who have come out against Breed’s Tenderloin plan include both District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Public Defender Mano Raju.
According to Breed, the 90-day emergency declaration is needed in order to allow the city to waive rules around contract procurement and zoning codes in order to quickly open a “linkage center” in the area to voluntarily connect people who are living on the streets and struggling with substance use and mental health issues to services.
The emergency declaration is part of Breed’s recently announced Tenderloin Emergency Intervention plan, which involves several approaches to address the crime and public drug use and improve the neighborhood. Part of the plan also includes increasing the police presence in the area.
The new initiatives come amid a worsening opioid drug crisis, with the synthetic opioid fentanyl contributing to a sharp rise in overdose deaths in the city in recent years.