San Francisco is supplying free drugs and alcohol to homeless people who are staying at city-leased hotels. The San Francisco Department of Public Health defended the city providing free alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes to the homeless by saying it is necessary to prevent people from breaking quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak.
On Wednesday, San Francisco health officials confirmed that the California city was supplying homeless people with free alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and methadone to prevent them from going outside to get the substances themselves.
"They're doing San Francisco a great service by staying inside," Jenna Lane, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Health, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We're saying, 'we're doing what we can to support you staying inside and not have to go out and get these things.'"
Thomas Wolf, a former homeless drug addict turned advocate, is concerned that the city is enabling drug abusers.
"I just found out that homeless placed in hotels in SF are being delivered Alcohol, Weed and Methadone because they identified as an addict/alcoholic for FREE," Wolf tweeted. "You're supposed to be offering treatment. This is enabling and is wrong on many levels."
The San Francisco Department of Health responded on Twitter: "These harm reduction based practices, which are not unique to San Francisco, and are not paid for with taxpayer money, help guests successfully complete isolation and quarantine and have significant individual and public health benefits in the COVID-19 pandemic."
"Has he been examined by a medical professional or were they just asked a series of questions? Because if it was me and I was addicted, I would answer yes to everything," Wolf told KRON. "Yes I want everything, yes I'm a heroin addict, yes I'm an alcoholic, yes I need weed for anxiety and boom there you go. To me, that's blurring the lines between harm addiction and enabling."
San Francisco's health director, Dr. Grant Colfax, said, "Our focus is using the best evidence to help people manage their addiction and in some cases, this will include helping to manage their alcohol use and their nicotine years so they can stay safe and in place as much as possible to help their community and to help themselves.
"With regard to supporting people who are at risk, or who need to be in quarantine or isolation because they're COVID positive, our focus needs to be on supporting them," said Colfax. "Meeting them where they are so that they can be cared for in the most appropriate way. In the way that's good for them and for our community."
San Francisco has 270 homeless people who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are highly susceptible to infection.
San Francisco is housing homeless people in hotels that the city rented. Last month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors instructed Mayor London Breed to secure 7,000 hotel rooms to house the city's homeless population, which is estimated to be around 8,000.
This comes at a time when the liberal city has experienced an influx of homeless people. A city report found that homeless tents and structures have risen by 285% in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood over the last four months.
"My people are telling me there are unhoused folks coming from out of town basically trying to get themselves on a list for housing," San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson told ABC7 News. "Some are being released from jail and sent here from Stockton, from Lake County, so they're coming from all over."