SF to convert huge UN Plaza building into service center by mid-January

San Francisco will convert a vacant seven-story commercial building on UN Plaza into a service center that will provide a place for people to get off the streets of Tenderloin and receive referrals to temporary shelter, transitional housing, mental health treatment and drug addiction – one in a series of measures taken by the Mayor of London Breed to tackle the opioid epidemic.

The Emergency Management Department, which is leading the response to the crisis, has signed a lease for the building at 1170 Market Street and hopes to open it in two weeks. The center will also have a tent outside.

The center will provide food, clothing, toilets, hand washing stations and portable showers brought in regularly, as well as referrals to mental health care, addiction treatment, temporary winter shelter and transitional housing. It will also provide homeless people with bus tickets to reunite with friends or family members who live out of town. References to food aid, therapy, employment support and childcare will also be available.

The service center is part of a controversial effort Breed announced last month to tackle crime and overdose in the net. Residents, activists and business owners urged the mayor to take aggressive action to deal with a crisis that worsened during the pandemic.

The capacity of the service center will be 100 guests plus staff. The goal is to move to 24/7, but initial hours of operation will depend on staff availability given the current COVID-19 outbreak.

People can come to the door, or outreach workers can refer and transport them. They can stay as long as they need and leave when they want. The center will not be an overnight shelter, with the intention of orienting and transporting people to longer term services.

The rent is $ 75,000 per month for the six month lease. The city does not yet know how much it will cost to operate, but said the funding to operate it is already in the budget.

A city task force recommended a 24/7 drop-in center, and mental health care reform legislation mandated a similar concept. Supervisor Matt Haney, who lives and represents the Tenderloin, said the low-barrier links to the treatment, care and accommodation promised by the service center were “desperately needed.”

“It will absolutely save lives,” he said.

Breed declared a state of emergency in the net in December which removed bureaucratic barriers to open the service center and mobilized resources under the Department of Emergency Management. The supervisory board approved the statement by an 8-2 vote last month after a 10-hour hearing.

The statement itself is a public health measure that does not mention the police, but it became controversial after Breed said in December that it “make life hell” for people who inflict violence and sell and use drugs. On two occasions in December, Breed said people using drugs on the streets would have the option of going to the center or receiving treatment – or in jail. Breed’s department heads then softened this position.

The city’s director of emergency management, Mary Ellen Carroll, who is leading the response to the crisis, said public health and social workers will lead the awareness. The response of the police if someone refused to go and the continuation of an illegal activity would be determined on a “case by case” basis.

“The last tool we want out of the toolbox, which really includes the police, is arrest,” Carroll said.

Breed plans to ask supervisors to approve more overtime for police across town this month. Opponents want the city to focus less on adding more police and instead on strengthening social services and dramatically expanding affordable housing. They urged supervisors to withdraw their support for the mayor’s efforts.

About twenty activists and residents gathered in front of the town hall on Tuesday afternoon.

Saul Kanowitz, a retired public health worker, told the group that flooding the Tenderloin with more cops would not help the neighborhood.

“It will move the homeless, used syringes and human waste to another part of town, or to prison, but it will not solve the problems or address the source of this miserable life our brothers and sisters live,” “Kanowitz said.

Celestina Pearl, outreach manager for St. James Infirmary, said groups providing services need more financial support. “We need funding for the people who are already doing this work on the streets. And these people are not the cops, ”she said at the rally.

Supervisor Dean Preston, who voted against the declaration, said at the rally that the Breed’s Tenderloin push followed a “long line” of San Francisco mayors who had “come to us with promises of hard love.”

“They deliver on the hard part and not the love part,” he said.

Since Breed’s declaration of emergency was announced two weeks ago, police have arrested 33 people on drug trafficking offenses, the city said on Tuesday. These figures correspond to recent arrests. Tenderloin station had booked between 10 and 15 people per week for the sale of drugs from December 10, before the mayor’s plan was announced, according to the captain.

Breed’s efforts are also aimed at improving infrastructure, and 16 street lights have been repaired, the city said.

Through the declaration of emergency and the service center, the city also hopes to overcome bureaucracy that can prevent people from quickly accessing treatment beds or accommodation. Providers have long complained about slow insurance approvals for processing and a city database that monitors which people are placed in housing when.

The city plans to use the declaration to speed up the hiring of 150 drug addiction treatment vacancies in the health department, which is essential to move forward with health care system reform. mental. The ministry said it would still need the board of directors to approve funding for the hiring.

Mallory Moench and JD Morris are the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] [email protected] Twitter: @mallorymoench @thejdmorris

Comments are closed.