When it comes to getting homeless people off the streets and into stable housing, San Francisco politicians face hard choices. Some want to expand a controversial legal process called conservatorship that they say would help homeless people with severe substance abuse problems and mental illness. But so far, implementation has been slow and bumpy.
When San Francisco Mayor London Breed went to Sacramento earlier this month to tell state legislators about the plight of the city's most desperate people, she had someone in mind from her former district when she was a supervisor — an older homeless man with a serious substance abuse problem.
“When he gets his check at the beginning of the month, his money gets taken by some other individuals in the neighborhood,” she said. “He was well-known to all the neighbors, all the merchants, all of us. We all did our very best to try and assist him but, sadly, he's still out in the community.”
Breed and other San Francisco politicians had hoped that changes to conservatorship rules would allow city health workers to help homeless people with substance abuse and mental health problems by legally and temporarily stepping in to force a mentally ill person into treatment.
“We believe that there are 50 to 100 people on our streets who are so severely mentally ill and drug addicted — can't make decisions for themselves and who are dying — and who could benefit from a conservatorship,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, who sponsored Senate Bill 1045, which became law last year.