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.