Help for woman who uses bus stop as bathroom

April 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A San Francisco non-profit group has stepped up to help a mentally ill woman who's been the subject of an ABC7 News I-Team investigation.

A month ago we reported on Suzie Wong, who also goes by the name Ling Ling, and her habit of relieving herself in public. She's been using a Nob Hill bus stop as her personal bathroom for months.

Kristie Fairchild was surprised to see our report. Fairchild is one of just two people who run North Beach Citizens, a homeless drop-in center. Suzie often joins her for lunch. Fairchild got Suzie off the street a year and a half ago, arranged housing for her, and now tries to look out for her.

I actually met Suzie while investigating our first report. After neighbors complained to the I-Team, we documented how Suzie would take the No. 27 bus from the Mission to Nob Hill, use the bus stop at Clay and Leavenworth as her bathroom, and take off in the No. 1 bus for Chinatown.

"I've seen adults step in her feces when they're not looking, they're watching their cell phones. I've seen little kids step in the feces," said John Marcus, a neighbor.

We caught Suzie in the act time and again -- right out in the open, sometimes with school kids walking by, shocked.

Alex Wilson, another neighbor, said, "We'd hear kids' voices, like, 'Mommy, what is that? What's that lady doing?' People trying to steer away from it and stuff. It was funny at first, but then it just got really gross."

And we saw crews from the Department of Public Works with the unenviable job of cleaning up the mess. Officials told me this happened at least 44 times in six months.

Fairchild said of the I-Team report: "I guess it felt to me that it's an example of really what the failure is of the system. You know, what are the issues that need to be addressed?"

Fairchild echoes what we reported -- that so many city officials and agencies knew what was happening, but failed to stop Suzie and to help her.

Police picked up Suzie at least seven times for a 5150 psychiatric hold, but San Francisco General Hospital let her go because she's not a danger to herself or others.

Neighbors complained to their supervisor, board president David Chiu, and to the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services but received no help.

They even called Suzie's mental health case worker at a North Beach clinic, Coleman Wong.

Marcus said, "And I called him and he said, 'If you want to pay to institutionalize her, then do it,' and he hung up on me."

New homeless czar Bevan Dufty suggested police ticket Suzie, so she'd have to go before a judge at the Community Justice Center. But police have been unable to catch Suzie in the act, so they can't write her a ticket.

With the San Francisco government dropping the ball, Fairchild is picking it up. She's making some simple changes in Suzie's life that are already making a difference, for instance procuring diapers and making sure Suzie utilizes them.

Suzie now takes a bus route from the Mission to Chinatown that does not stop on Nob Hill.

Fairchild is stepping up as Suzie's advocate, making sure that mental health and medical providers understand her issues.

"With Suzie, it's long term," Fairchild said. "As she ages, you can see that she has had a stroke, ensuring that maybe the medicine isn't quite the right amount, maybe the doctor doesn't know that she's going through this, because she's not able to say it when she sees them."

I learned more about Suzie during our chat. She came to the US from mainland China and has two children she rarely sees. Her husband passed away years ago.

Fairchild is worried about Suzie being forced to live on the streets again. The people who run her current board and care home are tired of cleaning up after her.

"It will be an issue if that housing is lost," Fairchild said.

Fairchild said It might be time to send Suzie to the city's nursing home, Laguna Honda, where she can receive more intensive care.

Suzie doesn't like the idea. Suzie says her mother died at Laguna Honda. She wants to continue living on her own.

The I-Team wanted to question Suzie's mental health caseworker about how he's handled her case and complaints from neighbors, but Coleman Wong didn't return our phone calls and email. His supervisor told us they can't discuss it because of privacy issues.


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