SF supervisors look at opening safe-consumption sites in wake of Tenderloin Center's closure

A coalition of San Francisco supervisors and health advocates will hold a news conference on Tuesday to announce plans to fast-track wellness hubs that would include safe-consumption sites in the wake of the Tenderloin Center's closure. 

The Tenderloin Center, located near Hyde and Market streets at U.N. Plaza, was opened less than a year ago after Mayor London Breed declared a temporary emergency ordinance in place for the Tenderloin due to the worsening opioid crisis, open drug dealing, and open use of substances such as fentanyl. 

This past spring, Breed assured the response in the neighborhood wouldn't end with the emergency ordinance, but the Tenderloin Center closed on Dec. 4 as winter approached. The center also provided basic services such as food and showers to those in need.

Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Ahsha Safai, Dean Preston, Matt Dorsey and President Shamann Walton are expected to discuss the details at Tuesday's 11 a.m. conference. In a news release from Supervisor Hillary Ronen's office, they said the city's Department of Public Health was set to open wellness hubs, but that the "entire program was pulled last minute by the Mayor's office."

The Chronicle reported on San Francisco's Gubbio Project, a nonprofit that was set to open a permanent wellness hub in the Mission. However, the plug was pulled by city officials. The site would have involved a supervised drug consumption tent in the church's parking lot. The nonprofit said legal reasons were the rationale for the city pulling back. 

Sup. Ronen in a Twitter thread citing that article, said SF Department of Public Health planned on opening the wellness hubs, but added, "Where is the courage? Where is the leadership? If the Mayor will not own these centers, then I will join the brave low-wage (workers) that run them & we will own them together. We are not willing to wait longer for action. I will (introduce legislation) on Tues moving these Centers forward."

The mayor has been a proponent of safe consumption sites and had explored opening behavioral sites where drug users could safely inject and consume drugs under supervised conditions, but the news release characterizes Breed's recent actions an "about face." 

Ahead of its closure, protesters decried the gap in services from the loss of the Tenderloin Center, saying for some, it could be deadly. The city's website provides information to harm-reduction and other drop-in services. 

Representatives with Healthright 360, the Gubbio Project, Code Tenderloin and Glide Harm Reduction Manager are expected to be at Tuesday's news conference.