San Francisco residents arming themselves with bats, say city drug initiative making crime worse
'More troublemakers settling in,' one San Francisco resident says
San Francisco residents are reportedly arming themselves with bats and other protective weapons after a drug sobering center opened in the city, which some say has caused a spike in drug use, as well as crime.
"They’re letting their clients come out here and get high, go inside and get sober and then get high again," business owner and resident Mark Sackett told ABC7.
The city’s first drug sobering center opened in the SoMa neighborhood back in June, and some residents say the opening of the location has increased the presence of "troublemakers."
"More troublemakers settling in, feeling comfortable doing their drugs, pissing and s---ting in the street blocking the sidewalks," a man who only identified himself by his first name, Ghis, told ABC7. He called what he is currently seeing "a period of insanity."
Some residents told the outlet that they are arming themselves with bats and stun guns to protect themselves from potential violence.
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"Every morning it’s a roulette. When you show up at your office, are there going to be 10 people passed out in front of your building? Are they going to be violent? This was never a problem before HealthRight 360 moved in," another man identified as "Bill" told the outlet.
"If you ask me, it should be closed down and there should be other approaches to the homeless and drug problem we're all facing," he added.
The drug sobering center, SOMA RISE, opened in June with the support of Democratic Mayor London Breed. The mayor’s office said in a press statement at the time that the facility would act as "a safe indoor space for people who are intoxicated with opioids, methamphetamines, or other substances to come in off the streets, rest and stabilize."
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"Our city is experiencing a substance use and mental health crisis that is sadly affecting far too many residents," Breed said in June. "As we continue to address the challenges on our streets, we need to do all that we can to focus our resources and our efforts on those who need it most. The opening of the SOMA RISE Center will not only provide a safe space for individuals in need, but it brings us one step closer to making a difference in these people’s lives and the lives of all San Franciscans."
"The Mayor remains focused on ensuring San Francisco is a place where people want to live, visit, do business and work. Addressing public safety is our top priority. She understands people are fed up and shares their frustrations," Breed's office told Fox News Digital later Wednesday.
The center has a $4.2 million budget funded by taxpayers for the 2022/2023 fiscal year, $3.5 million of which goes to the center’s lease and the nonprofit that runs the center, The San Francisco Department of Public Health told ABC7.
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The CEO of HealthRight 360, which operates the drug sobering center, told ABC7 that she has heard concerns from residents and asked the community to "be patient with us."
"We can’t fix everything, but we’re a piece of that; a piece of the city trying novel things to respond to people experiencing homeless and street drug use and mental illness," HealthRight 360 CEO Vitka Eisen told the outlet.
The nonprofit has made some changes in recent days, including putting a halt to handing out food and "drug supplies" on the streets outside the clinic to help prevent loitering.
The center, which has 20 beds and assists about 240 people per week, has an 18-month contract for the location. The city will then reassess the clinic, according to ABC7.
"Since opening in July, more than 1,000 visits have been made to SoMa RISE and 89% of those visits are from individuals in the Tenderloin and SOMA neighborhoods. During this time, a number of clients have left SoMa RISE and engaged in services such as detox facilities and safer sleeper arrangements, which helps keep them off the streets," the San Francisco Department of Public Health told Fox News Digital Wednesday of the clinic. "Additionally, several hundred kits of naloxone, the lifesaving medication that reverses drug overdoses, have been distributed to clients of SoMa RISE since it opened three months ago. One recent success was documented by the mother of a man with substance use disorder, in a letter to Mayor Breed, that SoMa RISE has helped her son stay safe and become mentally present again."
Breed declared a state of emergency last year relating to drug overdoses in the Tenderloin District, which is located near the SoMa neighborhood.
"We are losing over two people a day to drug overdoses, mostly to fentanyl, and mostly in the Tenderloin and SoMa. This is a public health emergency demanding a crisis level response, with massive urgency, coordination, and determination to confront this epidemic," city supervisor Matt Haney said at the time.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health told Fox News Digital that "the opening of SoMa RISE was a direct response to address the drug overdose crisis in San Francisco and another option to put people on a pathway to care."
"A drug sobering center was the top recommendation of the Methamphetamine Task Force, and strongly supported by neighbors and the Board of Supervisors. HealthRIGHT 360, the provider of services, has met with the community no less than three times since the opening of SoMa RISE and has consistently made adjustments in response to neighbor complaints and suggestions," the statement continued.
"We will continue to work with the community and HealthRIGHT 360 to achieve both of our immediate and important goals: to provide care and treatment connections for people with substance use disorder and to meet the needs of our neighbors to feel safe in the area."