San Francisco considers a measure to display screen welfare recipients for habit | EUROtoday

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The Democratic mayor of San Francisco is pushing a pair of controversial public security proposals on the March 5 poll, together with one that might require single adults on welfare be screened and handled for unlawful drug habit or else lose money help.

Mayor London Breed additionally helps a poll measure that might grant police extra crime-fighting powers, equivalent to using drones and surveillance cameras. In November, she’ll face cranky voters in a aggressive reelection bid.

San Francisco is in a battle to redefine itself after the pandemic left it in financial tatters and highlighted its longstanding issues with homelessness, medication and property crime. Opponents say each poll measures are wildly out of step with San Francisco’s help for privateness and civil liberties and can solely harm the marginalized communities the town prides itself on serving to.

But Breed, the primary Black girl to guide San Francisco, mentioned at a January marketing campaign cease that residents from poorer, Black and immigrant neighborhoods are pleading for extra police, and restoration advocates are demanding change as greater than 800 individuals died of unintended overdose final 12 months — a document fueled by the abundance of low cost and potent fentanyl.

“They said San Francisco makes it too easy for people to access and to use drugs on the streets of the city and we need to do something a lot more aggressive,” Breed mentioned at Footprint, an athletic attire and shoe retailer that has been repeatedly burglarized.

While Breed’s identify is not on the presidential main ballots going out now — San Francisco makes use of a way the place residents rank mayoral candidates by choice a single time in November — the 2 measures she’s pushing are. They function a gap salvo for her reelection marketing campaign as she faces off towards fellow moderates who say her strategy to the town’s issues has been weak.

Violent crimes are low in San Francisco, however the metropolis has lengthy struggled with quality-of-life crimes.

Breed mentioned charges of retail theft and auto smash-ins have declined not too long ago, thanks largely to strategic operations by metropolis police. Similarly, police have stepped up enforcement of drug legal guidelines, together with by issuing citations to individuals utilizing medication in public as a technique to disrupt the conduct and a chance to influence the particular person cited to hunt assist.

But she mentioned San Francisco must do extra.

If accredited by voters, Proposition F would provide one other technique to compel therapy, by permitting the town to display screen single adults on native welfare for substance abuse. People discovered to be abusing unlawful medication can be required to enroll in therapy in the event that they wish to obtain money help from the town, which maxes out at simply over $700 a month.

Opponents say coercion does not work and homelessness could enhance if the measure passes. Drug addicts should not criminals, they are saying, and there should not sufficient therapy beds and counseling providers as it’s.

A crackdown on medication is paying homage to the failed warfare on medication that disproportionately harmed Black households, mentioned Chris Ballard, co-executive director of Coleman Advocates, which pushes for enhancements for Black and Latino youth in San Francisco.

“There are more ethical ways to address the issue aside from punitive measures, and that’s the proper way to take care of a community, to show true support,” he mentioned.

Yet Trent Rhorer, govt director of the San Francisco Human Services Agency, which gives money help and employment providers to low-income residents with out dependent kids, mentioned the present scenario is in battle with the company’s mission: to enhance lives.

“To give someone who’s addicted to fentanyl $700 a month, I don’t think it helps improve their lives,” he mentioned. “In fact, I think it does the opposite.”

Compelling therapy has change into extra acceptable in Democratic California, regardless of angst over the potential lack of civil liberties, as seen indicators of homelessness and psychological sickness, fentanyl habit, and unsafe road conduct surge.

Last 12 months, a number of counties rolled out an alternate psychological well being courtroom created by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, former mayor of San Francisco, to fast-track individuals with untreated schizophrenia and associated problems into care, and in March voters will take up a statewide psychological well being proposition that some say will enhance involuntary therapy.

Rhorer mentioned the welfare program for single adults — which serves about 9,000 individuals per 12 months — already asks candidates about substance abuse, with about 20% self-reporting a problem. A knowledge verify with the Department of Public Health revealed that nearly one-third of recipients have been recognized with a substance use dysfunction, he mentioned.

The poll measure would exchange that query with a extra rigorous screening take a look at that might be verified by an habit specialist. If substance abuse is discovered, Rhorer mentioned, the specialist and applicant would agree on therapy choices that embody residential care, a 12-step program, particular person counseling and alternative treatment.

There isn’t any requirement that the particular person be sober, solely that they make good-faith efforts to attend their program, with the hope that “at one point a light bulb will go off,” Rhorer mentioned.

The measure requires the town to pay the lease of these accepted into this system for 30 days or longer to keep away from eviction. About 30% of the individuals who fatally overdosed in 2023 had been homeless, and extra had been dwelling in backed metropolis housing.

Besides authorizing drones, cameras and different trendy applied sciences, Proposition E would scale back paperwork so police have extra time to patrol. It would additionally permit police to pursue extra suspects by car, and never simply in instances of a violent felony or rapid risk to public security — a coverage retailer proprietor Michael Hsu discovered of the exhausting means.

Hsu has had his Footprint retailer damaged into a number of instances since he took over in 2020, most not too long ago on Jan. 1. Police arrived because the suspects had been leaving however couldn’t pursue them as a result of no lives had been in danger. Hsu, who misplaced about $20,000 in merchandise and harm, known as that discouraging.

“You’re sending the wrong message to these criminals,” he mentioned.