Ongoing operations to continue in the Tenderloin to build on the progress that has been made, with an additional 20 officers from the San Francisco Police Department assigned to the area this week
Following the first 90 days of the State of Emergency in the Tenderloin to address the drug overdose crisis, public safety, and other neighborhood concerns, operations are continuing to build upon the progress made. While the emergency declaration will expire this week, operations launched pursuant to the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative will continue, including daily coordination, outreach, care, street cleaning, and other interventions to disrupt and mitigate harmful behaviors. Additionally, 20 officers from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) have been assigned to the Tenderloin beginning this week as part of the City’s efforts to disrupt drug dealing activity, address violent crime, and make the neighborhood safer for residents and visitors.
To ensure staffing resources can be sustained, a supplement to the Mayor’s Declaration of Emergency has been issued to allow for extended deployments of disaster service workers (DSWs) to support the initiative until June 30, 2022. The supplement does not include a request for additional funding for police.
“The challenges in the Tenderloin are decades in the making and they won’t be solved overnight, but we are committed to making a difference for everyone who lives and visits the neighborhood. The Tenderloin Emergency Initiative has allowed us to hire hundreds of behavioral health workers and open the Tenderloin Linkage Center in just a matter of months, cutting through the City’s bureaucracy,” said Mayor Breed. “Since the emergency was declared, thousands of people have been referred to health and human services, hundreds have received shelter, and tons and tons of trash and debris have been removed from the streets. While we’ve made noticeable progress, we’ve made a commitment to the Tenderloin community and we’re continuing our emergency response, including assigning dozens of additional officers to the neighborhood to address drug dealing and other illegal activity that cannot be allowed to continue.”
The City and its partners will build on initial efforts with the goal of creating long lasting, positive change in the Tenderloin neighborhood for the residents, people experiencing homelessness, and people with mental health and substance use disorders. After the 90-day emergency period ends, operations established through the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative are expected to continue at least through June 2022.
Since the emergency was declared, numerous city departments and agencies have worked together within the Incident Command System led by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), resulting in rapidly standing up the Tenderloin Linkage Center to give people experiencing homelessness a safe place to go to meet basic needs and be connected to services. Also available through the Tenderloin Linkage Center are Adult Probation Department Reentry and Community Partners placement into an array of reentry and rehabilitative services to justice involved adults.
Daily joint field operations comprised of the Departments of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, Public Health, Public Works, Fire, Police, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and community-based organizations work together to conduct outreach to offer an array of services including referrals to shelter resources and the Tenderloin Linkage Center, medical, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment. Joint field operations also promote cleaner sidewalks and streets through waste and debris pick up, power washings, street light repair, needle collection and graffiti abatement.
“The Tenderloin’s history, diversity and inclusivity make this neighborhood a San Francisco treasure, but the complexity of the challenges this community face requires a coordinated, organized, and systematic approach. That is why the Department of Emergency Management is the lead coordinating department of this initiative,” said the Department of Emergency Management Executive Director, Mary Ellen Carroll. “The role of emergency management is to provide leadership and coordination during times of crisis. We do this by ensuring the multi-agency incident management team has common goals and objectives, shares information, and coordinates daily. My department looks forward to continued support of the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative through the end of June as we enter into a new phase of the emergency response.”
One of the most impactful aspects of the Emergency Declaration was its pathway for expedited hiring of 200 positions within the City’s behavioral health services, contracting, and activation of disaster service workers to rapidly stand-up elements of the initiative. In just two months, the Tenderloin Linkage Center has provided dignified, life sustaining resources, offering social services, mental healthcare, housing, and substance use services with 15,600 visits, over 3,200 connections to care, and 35 overdoses reversed. The Tenderloin Linkage Center is a “one-stop shop” for Tenderloin residents to access city health and human service programs and provides a welcoming respite space for people experiencing homelessness. Each week sees new offerings and facility improvement such as hosting career services, site beautification, and the soon to open “sober living room,” an intentional space where guests can be in a quiet, less crowded, and substance-free space led by peers with lived experience of substance use.
“We are grateful to the community organizations, residents, and community leaders of the Tenderloin for their leadership and close partnership during the 90-day State of Emergency,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “Together we made great strides to support the health and wellness of the neighborhood through opening the Tenderloin Linkage Center, coordinating community-based outreach, the rapid hiring of behavioral health staff, and fostering new levels of cross-sector coordination.”
Through the Tenderloin Linkage Center, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) has placed 154 people in the housing process as of March 4, 2022, with 56 people (36 %) into housing. The San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team (SFHOT) provides outreach and engagement in the Linkage Center and across the Tenderloin with approximately 2,000 outreach encounters resulting in more than 345 shelter placements from the streets and the Linkage Center combined. HSH has established new shelter resources including three former SIP hotels to provide approximately 293 non-congregate winter shelter beds; the latest site opened in early March to provide 73 non-congregate winter shelter beds prioritized for the Tenderloin and 15 COVID+ shelter overflow beds. HSH also opened the Taimon Booton Navigation Center (Bryant) re-opened to serve up to 61 TGNC individuals and cis-gender women, where its first guests have moved into the new cabins at 33 Gough (will be 70 cabins). HSH looks forward to opening 711 Post semi-congregate shelter later this spring.
“HSH is focused on connecting people experiencing homelessness in the Tenderloin with critical services,” said Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing executive director, Shireen McSpadden. “The Tenderloin is where we are seeing the most acute crisis and greatest need. This neighborhood has been under-resourced for far too long and we are aiming to change that.”
Between the week ending Dec. 19, 2021, and March 13, 2022, SFPD Tenderloin officers made a total of 162 arrests of drug dealers — more than doubling the 79 drug dealer arrests over the same time period before the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative was launched. In addition, Tenderloin police officers’ work to address drug dealing have yielded significantly higher quantities of drugs. The year-to-date total of drugs seized for 2022 now exceeds 15 kilos (more than 8.6 kilos of which is fentanyl). By comparison, drugs seized during the same time period for 2021 totaled nearly 7.5 kilos (approximately 2.7 kilos of which was fentanyl).
“By marshaling and coordinating unprecedented non-police resources to address drug overdoses and link target populations to needed services, the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative has enabled San Francisco police officers to better focus on police work,” said Chief of Police William Scott. “Even with our historic levels of understaffing, our Tenderloin officers are doing outstanding work to arrest drug dealers and take deadly drugs — especially fentanyl — off the street. They have doubled the number of drug dealer arrests, and their year-to-date haul in fentanyl seizures for 2022 is already more than three times what it was a year ago, which was itself a record-shattering year for fentanyl seizures. I’m incredibly proud of the heroic and too often thankless work our officers are doing in the Tenderloin. They are making a difference. They are saving lives. And they deserve San Franciscans’ gratitude.”
“Many Yemenis immigrants in the Tenderloin feel as if they moved from one war-torn place to another. Mothers and youth have been threatened and spit on the streets on their way to school. As a youth, I was asked every day if I wanted to buy drugs until I was asked if I wanted to sell them,” said Aseel Fara, Tenderloin resident and founder of Urgent Care for Yemen. “I dedicate my life to this community because the community raised me. This is why we all have to speak out and condemn what is wrong. What is going on in the Tenderloin is a threat to us all, and we need every resource to deal with the crisis on our streets.”
The Tenderloin Emergency Initiative hosts community listening sessions with residents, merchants, workers, and community-based organizations representing different blocks or affinity groups in the Tenderloin. The overwhelming sentiment is more needs to be done to address drug dealing and violent crime which is causes death and destruction that harms everyone in the Tenderloin. While many in the community support efforts to help people suffering from substance use disorder, mental health challenges, and homelessness they are also asking for resources to keep the whole community safe.
Public data dashboards are now available on the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative website at sf.gov/TenderloinInitiative. Current dashboards show data on efforts to reduce drug sales and violent crime, reduce homelessness and street sleeping, maintain cleaner sidewalks and streets, and increase safe passage and accessibility. San Francisco is also working on additional dashboards focused on eliminating widespread public drug use, reducing fatal and non-fatal overdoses, eliminating widespread street vending and increasing access to behavioral health services.