Breed’s Budget Promotes Harm Reduction Over Recovery

by on June 5, 2023

Photo shows SF Distributes Over 730k Needles in 3 months
SF Distributes Over 730k Needles in 3 months. Photo by @GMcDee2

Mayor Funds Wellness Hubs, Not Sober Hotels

San Francisco distributes over 240,000 needles per month. That’s roughly one needle for every three residents.

Many are resold for drug money. As ex-addict turned recovery advocate Tom Wolf told me “Some people don’t want to walk down and get their needles. So they buy them from others. In 2018 a clean rig was $1 on the street. $5 for the complete kit.”

It’s another reason why open air drug cartels thrive in San Francisco. The city subsidizes drug users and addiction while shortchanging funding for abstinence and recovery.

This mind-boggling level of needle distribution is the type of outrage that Mayor London Breed frequently denounces. Yet her 2023-4 budget proposal continues this funding.

In fact, the mayor’s proposed Health Department budget does not challenge the harm reduction policies that moderates typically blame on progressives. For example, the mayor proposes spending $18.5 million over two years to open three new “wellness hubs.” But not a dollar is allocated toward  leasing a sober hotel for unhoused residents seeking recovery.

Something is amiss here.

$18.5 Million for Wellness Hubs, $0 for Sober Hotels

If we had sober hotels, the damages would be near zero, and people could pursue recovery in a supportive environment. Let’s deliver on the promise of recovery from addictions!”—Tweet by Salvation Army SF

San Francisco has thousands of permanent supportive housing units. None are available to those seeking to live in a sober hotel.

The city’s only sober hotel options are transitional housing sites for those exiting prison.

Not a single unit for unhoused people seeking recovery! Considering San Francisco suffers from the nation’s worst open air drug markets, shouldn’t opening sober hotels be a top priority?

Mayor Breed’s Wellness Hubs are scaled down versions of  DPH’s $22 million Linkage Center boondoggle. These ” hubs” would supposedly not become safe injection sites (if they do it must be with non-city funds), but instead be overdose prevention sites.

What should be a higher city priority: opening sober hotels with recovery services on-site or opening three more drop-in sites for those seeking services already available elsewhere in the city? Visitors to wellness hubs get no housing or permanent treatment.

The supervisors should revise the mayor’s budget plan. The Board must shift this $18.5 million funding for Wellness hubs to instead leasing at least three sober hotels with on-site recovery services. San Francisco would be giving over 300 unhoused a sustainable opportunity to turn their lives around.

Politicians say they are for recovery. But failing to offer permanent housing that encourages recovery says otherwise.

San Francisco should stop subsidizing addiction. Instead, it should fund housing for those desperate for recovery.

The city has a great chance to send a powerful message here. Redirecting proposed funding from wellness hubs to sober hotels tells the nation that San Francisco is finally taking its drug crisis seriously.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

More Posts

Filed under: San Francisco News