By Phil Matier

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — City leaders in San Francisco are backing a state bill intended to help the most troubled homeless people deemed too impaired to care for themselves.

Anyone who has walked the streets of San Francisco has been confronted with homeless individuals suffering from serious mental illness.

Now, in a rare show of unity, city officials are calling on the state to make it easier to get 50 to 100 of the most troubled homeless off the streets, whether they want to or not.

State Senator Scott Wiener has proposed State Bill 1045 to make it easier to commit someone for reasons other than being a clear and present danger to themselves and others, often referred to as the “5150” rule.

“People who are severely drug addicted; severely mentally and who are deteriorating and dying on our streets,” said Wiener.

As SF Health Director Barbara Garcia explained: “The laws just became a barrier to us to provide the long-term care.”

For example, the current rule that covers most cases only allows three days forced hospitalization; just enough time to sober up for the judge, but not enough time to make any real changes.

“And have a 30-day stay in a program that could be a locked facility, and they get care,” said Garcia.

“We know of one person who has been ‘5150ed’ about 100 times,” said Wiener.

Interim Mayor Mark Farrell said the bill would help those who are most often being reported to authorities.

“Those are frequent flyers, if you will. Those are some of the most visible, talking to themselves on the street corners,” said Farrell. “People that we hear about all the time from SF residents to visitors.”

In the past, any move that touched on civil liberties with the homeless was usually dead on arrival. But times have changed and even Public Defender Jeff Adachi — whose office represents the homeless in these cases — says it’s worth a try.

“The question I have is, will that treatment be there?” asked Adachi.

Garcia assured that proper care would be manageable.

“It’s not hundreds of people, we can handle it,” said Garcia. “In fact, I’m opening up 40 new beds at St.Mary’s in the next month.”

Democrats in Los Angeles have also been coming out in support of the bill, indicating there could be a push for urban centers advocating for more psychiatric care being made available for those homeless in need.

Comments (2)
  1. Sarah Parker says:

    This sounds like a dangerous precedent to set. Especially when San Francisco continues to massively under fund services. Example, when the the SF Public Defender questioned whether sufficient mental health services would actually be AVAILABLE for the people SF is going to start 5150ing, the city stated that they were opening up “40 more beds next week at Saint Mary’s.” 40 more beds, when there are thousands turned away from treatment and shelter facilities every day in that city shows that San Francisco city officials don’t think people experiencing homelessness really even have the same Constitutional rights as “people.” This plan might help some people escape homelessness, but only because they will be able to afford San Francisco’s rent after they sue the hell out of the city for the trauma this plan is likely to cause.

    Also, this was pretty lazy journalism. Why didn’t the reporter DEMAND a clear answer about whether the treatment facilities (including housing and after care) will REALLY be there? ALSO…this journalist shouldn’t just take city officials at their word that “people are refusing help,” (and then stupidly parrot it back) because if he had BOTHERED to research that fact (ex. get the data from the County’s 211 office) then he would have seen that the services aren’t really there to “refuse.” You either have to fight with ALL of your energy to get one of the few limited spots (not easy when you are ill or elderly or have a “drug conviction”) or else go without. Plus some of the services are under-staffed, and thus more prone to error, which causes some people experiencing homelessness to believe that nobody really cares enough to deliver them competent services like a normal human. Nobody should be expected to sacrifice their human dignity or Constitutional rights just to access basic things like COMPETENT healthcare or a safe place to go to the bathroom. Therefore, I request that the reporter issue a correction for the previously listed inaccuracies in this lazy piece of journalism.

  2. being the parent of a mentally ill addicted homeless adult child, the 5150 rule and a locked up 30 stay is a good idea for the severely mentally ill. once over the age of 18 parents have no say so , though we know them the best . hoping after care and some other services come with this, right now there is NO place for so many, at least a few can get help.

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