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City Providing Quarantined Homeless With Cigarettes, Booze, And Drugs

San Francisco's health department is delivering nicotine, booze, and other addictive substances to quarantined homeless.

San Francisco, CA – San Francisco’s Department of Public Health is facing criticism for having cigarettes, booze, and drugs delivered to the hotels where homeless people are being quarantined.

The controversy erupted after a San Francisco resident posted a message on Twitter that said he had just found out that the homeless population being quarantined in hotels was getting free deliveries of alcohol, nicotine products, methadone, and other addictive substances, KTVU reported.

“I just found out that homeless placed in hotels in SF are being delivered Alcohol, Weed and Methadone because they identified as an addict/alcoholic for FREE. You’re supposed to be offering treatment. This is enabling and is wrong on many levels,” @MyTwolffamily tweeted on May 1, tagging the public health department, the board of supervisors, and the mayor.

Much to the surprise of many, the San Francisco Department of Public Health tweeted back and confirmed that that the city was giving alcohol and drugs to the quarantined homeless – for free – but said it wasn’t being paid for with taxpayer dollars.

“These harm reduction based practices, which are not unique to San Francisco, and are not paid for with taxpayer money, help guests successfully complete isolation and quarantine and have significant individual and public health benefits in the COVID-19 pandemic,” the health department tweeted back.

The city struggled from the start of the coronavirus pandemic to get homeless residents to agree to quarantine in hotel rooms being offered to them for free.

San Francisco’s Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax told reporters at a press briefing that the in order to get the homeless to stay in the housing provided, they were “meeting them where they are, so they can be cared for in the most appropriate way.”

That means the city has given the quarantines homeless many of the addictive substances they would have had access to were they not in quarantine.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health said that about 10 percent of the homeless guests have been given tobacco products, KTVU reported.

They said some guests were being given alcohol to keep them from going into withdrawal.

Health department officials said the alcohol and tobacco are funded by private donations, KGO reported.

The health department staff has even facilitated the delivery of marijuana to some of the homeless hotel guests but the recipients have to pay for it themselves.

The public health director defended the city’s strategy for quarantining the homeless, KGO reported.

“Our behavioral health experts are offering services every day, medication assisted treatment including nicotine and opiate replacement, behavioral health counseling and in cases where people decide that they are going to continue to use, our focus is using the best evidence to help people manage their addictions,” Colfax said.

The health department said the city has not provided the quarantined homeless with “safe injection” or “supervised consumption” sites in hotels, KGO reported.

Colfax told reporters that distributing nicotine and alcohol to quarantined residents was not unique to San Francisco.

Sandy Malone - May Fri, 2020


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