A few hundred alcoholic homeless people in San Francisco account for an astonishingly large number of police calls, emergency room visits and ambulance rides, at a cost of several million dollars a year. Some of them are also physically aggressive toward passers by and destructive of property. They are also experiencing great suffering themselves, both from their addiction and from life on the street.
Mayor Ed Lee is proposing that such individuals be arrested and put in a mandatory addiction treatment program. Is this ethical? Will it work? Public defender Jeff Adachi, public health expert Jo Robinson, housing maven Bevan Dufty and I dug into the complexities with Michael Krasny on KQED Forum this morning.
I liked Jeff, Jo and Bevan immediately and have no doubt they will work out the kinks and mount a serious program. But on a pessimistic note, I was looking for an article about the new proposed initiative to link to this post, and I found one that seemed perfect. It describes the strain homeless alcoholic people are placing on San Francisco’s ambulances and ERs and announces a new “sobering center” that will solve the problem.
Alas, I then noticed that the article is almost a decade old.