Mayor: Let’s target ‘chronic inebriates’

San Francisco will begin targeting “chronic inebriates” and the liquor stores that sell them alcohol as part of an effort to address the problems associated with homelessness, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.

“Our current system for dealing with these quality of life issues is, from my perspective, abjectly ineffective,” he said. “It’s ineffective for you, and it’s ineffective for the person that you have to step over on the street corner.”

As early as March, Newsom said he hopes to have two initiatives in progress.

The first would involve the formation of a “Community Court” that would initially only focus on the crimes associated with public drunkenness.

Although San Francisco police issue citations for such crimes as aggressive panhandling or drinking in public, those cases are not being adjudicated by the courts.

“Nothing happens,” Newsom said. “They’re being thrown out. We’re going to stop that.”

The second part will create an “alcohol impact area” in the Tenderloin that will restrict the sale of alcohol between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. and bar the sale of single containers of high-alcohol products.

Newsom, who was elected into office three years ago on a pledge to reduce the number of homeless plaguing The City’s streets, said the two-prong plan is the next strategy in his homelessness plan that began with reducing the amount of cash homeless individuals receive and moving chronically homeless into apartments.

There were 5,642 homeless people living in San Francisco in 2004, according to a city count, although advocates for the homeless say the number is much higher — as many as 12,000. Since January 2004, San Francisco has placed 2,590 formerly homeless individuals into permanent housing, according to city data. Most recently, Newsom directed city staff to remove homeless encampments from Golden Gate Park while also offering housing and services to those people removed from the park area.

The City has failed to deal with the crime and the “chronic behavioral health issues” associated with the alcohol and substance abuse that often comes with homelessness, Newsom said.

San Francisco officials are looking to similar municipal programs in New York, San Diego and Washington state, according Newsom.

San Francisco officials are also looking at adopting elements of San Diego’s Serial Inebriate Program and New York City’s Community Court system. Last week, representatives from numerous city agencies — including the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Health, the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office and the Department of Human Services — traveled to New York to learn about that city’s system.

“The models are treatment as the carrot, and the stick looming behind that is incarceration,” said Trent Rhorer, executive director of the city Department of Human Services.

beslinger@examiner.com

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