I am a mother of a beautiful 29 year old son who is directly affected by the City’s decision to close 41 beds at San Francisco General Hospital’s Adult Residential Facility, the only board and care home for severely mentally ill people run by the City and County of San Francisco.
I adopted my son through the foster care system when he was a young child. While I knew his birth-mother was diagnosed with a severe mental illness, there were no signs that he was affected. As a child he had a beautiful laugh, created elaborate Lego villages, loved sports and was named MVP in high school football. During his late teens and early 20s things started to change, but it didn’t seem any different than what other adolescent boys were going through.
And then things really changed…
My son first entered our “system of care” through the jails when he was 26, where he was beaten by eight police officers during what we later found out was his first psychotic episode. He was jailed for a week before we could find him and get him into some care. It took awhile to understand what was going on, which wasn’t helped by him being moved from one program to another. During the first year of his diagnosis he was moved in and out of seven residential treatment programs, as he was passed through the maze of temporary and transitional programs that could not help him. He was hospitalized four times. He was kicked out of programs and moved to shelters where he was at risk of becoming homeless. We were scared and ill-equipped to deal with a system of care that is so disjointed and difficult to navigate. The powerlessness I felt to help my son was unbearable. And his condition was getting worse, not helped by this instability and lack of a permanent places to be cared for.
Eventually he was placed at San Francisco General Hospital’s Adult Residential Facility (ARF). This facility is a long-term board and care for people with severe mental illness. It provides a safe place, a bed, shelter and food and care for people like my son who otherwise may be on the streets. The ARF finally provided a place where he felt safe and could stabilize. Sadly, places like this are closing all over the country and there are very few of them remaining.
The irony is, San Franciscans think the homelessness crisis is bad, but without places like this we would have even more people on the streets — people who need a lot of support to be able to stabilize.
Without the Adulty Residential Facility, my son and others in our community would have no place to go. It is not easy for him to acclimatize to a place, and if he is not able to stay in an appropriate long-term supportive setting, he will end up back in the same cycle of moving in and out of shelters and programs. My worse fear is that he could end up on the streets of San Francisco. Last year alone, over 200 people died on the streets.
I worked for the San Francisco Department of Public Health for 20 years. I believed in our system of care. But something is broken. How can we be getting rid of the very beds we know that this city and our most vulnerable community members/our children most need? Imagine if this was your son? My son is a beautiful man, he deserves to live his life in a safe place, he deserves to be taken care of. I am pleading with the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health to rescind this decision to close this much needed resource. I believe we can do better.
Judith K. is a San Francisco resident and mother whose adult son is a resident of San Francisco General Hospital’s Adult Residential Facility. She has requested that her full name not be used to protect her son’s privacy.