The San Francisco Department of Public Health announced that it will provide free alcohol and tobacco through the Alternative Housing Program, a local initiative that temporarily houses people at-risk for coronavirus complications in vacant hotel rooms, trailers and recreational vehicles.
According to SFGate, the health department has agreed to provide “limited quantities” of the substances, which were obtained through private donations and not with tax money, to some of the homeless people who participate in the program.
“Managed alcohol and tobacco use makes it possible to increase the number of guests who stay in isolation and quarantine and, notably, protects the health of people who might otherwise need hospital care for life-threatening alcohol withdrawal,” said the health department in a statement.
The news agency reports that the people staying in hotels are screened for drug use prior to checking into the hotels, and that the department asks them whether they would like help with rehabilitation. The department also told the news agency that it has provided medical marijuana in certain circumstances, but doesn’t provide recreational marijuana.
It’s not clear whether the drugs are only available to people who want to participate in treatment, but the department has said substances are distributed by licensed doctors.
“Many isolation and quarantine guests tell us they use substances daily, and this period in our care has allowed some people to connect for the first time with addiction treatment and harm reduction therapy,” said the department.
San Francisco has procured 2,482 hotel rooms, slightly less than half of which are currently occupied, according to the Alternative Housing Program data tracker, which the city launched to increase transparency. The housing program focuses on those who are most at-risk for complications from coronavirus, such as people with pre-existing conditions or the elderly.
During the 2019 point-in-time homeless count, which calculates the amount of homeless people in an area on a given day, San Francisco identified 8,000 homeless people in the city, about 3,000 of whom were staying in shelters at the time.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the city has been struggling to house the homeless population amidst an influx of new people who heard about the hotel program and want to participate.
“People are showing up in San Francisco from other places and asking where their hotel room is,” said Mayor London Breed in late April. “That’s a real problem for me.”
“If you are not in this system, and were not in this system as of the beginning of this pandemic, then we will not prioritize you over people who have been waiting,” she said.
The San Francisco housing program is part of a larger initiative from Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) called Project Roomkey, a plan to pay hotel owners to use 15,000 vacant rooms across the state for homeless people at-risk of coronavirus complications.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, the governor announced in early April that local governments across the state “will receive up to 75 percent cost-share reimbursements from FEMA for hotel rooms and motel rooms,” including expenses related to security, maintenance, and food.
“Homeless Californian’s are incredibly vulnerable to COVID-19 and often have no option to self-isolate or social-distance,” said Newsom. “By helping the most vulnerable homeless individuals off the street and into isolation, California can slow the spread of COVID-19 through homeless populations, lower the number of people infected and protect critical healthcare resources.”
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