Is San Francisco safe? City officials explain plan to address homelessness, drug abuse

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco Mayor London Breed acknowledged that when it comes to the homeless population in the city there are a lot of mental health challenges, a lot of drug addiction and other issues that are impacting the quality of life of San Francisco residents, including recent deadly attacks on Asian Americans.

Just Wednesday, a 75-year-old Asian woman and an 83-year-old Asian man were attacked by a homeless man on Market Street. The man has since been arrested.

RELATED: 'This is horrific': SFPD to step up patrols amid string of violent attacks on Asian Americans
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San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott has stepped up patrols in predominately Asian neighborhoods in San Francisco. This, following a series of incidents involving Asian Americans.

The tents you see throughout the city would give you the impression that the number of homeless people has grown significantly in San Francisco. It's not true.

The reality is that more people have been living outside since COVID-19 because shelter beds have been significantly reduced, drop-in centers are operating under limited hours and capacity and during the day, add to that the closure of the main library, a refuge for many homeless people.

RELATED: Homeless to be moved out of San Francisco emergency shelter hotels

"There are fewer places to go to and there is less support being given to our population," said Demaree Miller, Program Director of At The Crossroads, a nonprofit that works with young people on the street who are disconnected from any kind of support.

Getting people that support has been harder during the pandemic.

"It's very challenging because you are working very closely with people and just like all of our essential workers these folks have put themselves at risk," expressed Mary Ellen Carroll the executive director of the Department of Emergency Management.

What has also spiked is the number of drug users.

According to the San Francisco Health Department, 700 people died of an overdose in 2020 mostly from fentanyl, which is a 60% increase from the previous year.

RELATED: Coronavirus crisis: Here's why SF officials are giving homeless alcohol, tobacco

"During outreach, we've been having more requests for nasal Narcan that we have been giving out even from people who don't use because overdoses have been so prevalent on the block," added Miller.

With its unexpected $125 million surpluses, the city will now pour an additional $1.6 million into its overdose prevention efforts reaching out to those living in single-room occupancy hotels and on the street.

The city also hopes to see things improve once the homeless population is vaccinated.

"As we begin the process of reopening, we're hoping that some of those things will change, it's going to take a lot of work," said Mayor Breed.

The work will begin by helping the approximately 1,600 homeless people currently living in hotels leased by the city.

"To work with folks that are living in these hotels to help them safely transition to appropriate housing placements," added Carroll.
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