San Francisco Weighs How To Help Homeless With Mental Health Issues

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee wants to pump another $30 million into the city’s homeless budget.

But critics say all you have to do is look around the city to see that throwing more money at the problem won’t solve it.

Far from the tent encampments tucked under freeway overpasses and alleyway, we took a one-block walk in the heart of the city’s tourist and shopping district. And after the city spent $280 million last year on homelessness, we found a lot homeless people.

Some you may not even notice, like Ron Brannon, who walks Market Street every day.

Brannon said, “I’m either too messed up to get into a place, or not messed up enough to get into a place so I’m kind of screwed either way.”

Just down the street at Civic Venter, addicts openly shot up drugs outside the library as kids walk by. It’s all too much for San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy.

Sheehy said, “People are feeling like things have been getting worse…more drug use and it is very disturbing to see somebody injecting on the street.”

KPIX 5 asked Sheehy: Do people think the City is spending the money wisely?

Scheehy said, “I don’t think so.”

Mayor Ed Lee, however, is calling for yet another $30 million to be spend for more shelters and 40 more psychiatric beds at San Francisco General, bringing the total homeless spending next year to $310 million.

That’s twice what the city spends on libraries and $90 million more than the city spends on San Francisco Rec and Park.

Mayor Ed Lee said, “They need facilities. Let’s not do this false liberalism where you let people do what they want do to…have judges and the criminal justice system change a little bit so that we can get people who can’t make a decision.”

KPIX 5 asked Lee why police aren’t enforcing the laws that are on the books, such as setting up a tent on the sidewalk or shooting up drugs on the sidewalk.

Lee said, “We have to help people get into the right situations…I will define it as our willingness to be compassionate and also help people make the right decision.”

And what does that mean on the street?

Sheehy said, “When I’d call for homeless outreach teams. They go up to folks, they say ‘can we off you some services?’ They say ‘no’ and they walk away. People are still on the streets.”

In San Francisco, homelessness is treated as a mental health issue and it’s up to the patient whether they need care. But Mayor Lee wants to change that a bit. He wants to bring it into the justice system as well, take them to court and possibly require people to be committed.

But this could be one of the biggest challenges he will face in his final two years in office, if he goes ahead with it.

More from Phil Matier
Comments

One Comment

  1. “… homelessness is treated as a mental health issue and it’s up to the patient whether they need care…”

    Oooo, that’s SO smart and progressive!

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