SF seeks to implement conservatorship bill, announces city to open 1,000 new shelter beds

San Francisco leaders discussed Senate Bill 1045 on Thursday, which aims to provide housing and services for individuals who can't care for themselves. 

A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week will allow for San Francisco to create new conservatorship programs for severely mentally ill people to get them off city streets and into treatment.

On Thursday, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, joined Mayor London Breed to discuss the next steps in implementing Senate Bill 1045, which aims to provide housing and services for individuals who can't care for themselves.

"This bill is a significant step forward in taking a new approach to the epidemics of mental illness and severe drug addiction that we see playing out in our streets every day and not just in San Francisco, but in cities throughout this state," Wiener said. "It is not progressive or compassionate to just sit by while people unravel and ultimately die on our streets."

"What we're doing here in San Francisco is we are working to begin the process of passing legislation through the Board of Supervisors so that we can implement this law right here in San Francisco," Breed said.

According to Breed, she's already advised the city's Department of Adult Aging Services, Department of Public Health and Human Services Agency to begin working with the District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office and the Superior Court to get the ball rolling.

Breed today also announced that the city will open 1,000 new shelter beds for homeless residents by the end of 2020, which she said is connected to helping people suffering from mental health.

"Part of moving forward with providing more shelter beds also mean making sure that we have more mental health stabilization beds for people as we move them through the system of trying to get them conserved, trying to get them the help and treatment they need so that they can live healthy and productive lives," she said.

The extra beds will become available through a combination of new Navigation Centers and a first-of-its-kind facility called Shelter and Access for Everyone.

According to Breed, SB 1045 is not about forcing people into treatment, "this is about helping people get healthy and stabilized," and getting them out of hospital emergency rooms and jails.

A coalition of several groups, including the Coalition on Homelessness, the Disability Rights Program from the American Civil Liberties Union and others, opposed SB 1045, arguing that conservatorship takes away individuals' civil liberties, affecting decisions about their body, housing and medical care.

"Taking away someone's rights shouldn't be the first step into treatment. We think we should start by providing voluntary services and housing that doesn't exist right now before going to the most restrictive part of the system," said Raia Small with Senior and Disability Action, also part of the coalition.

"We agree that there is a homeless crisis in San Francisco, there's no disagreement there, it's just about what approach should we take," Small said.

SB 1045 was authored by Wiener and Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park.