(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco isn’t dying, but it is at a crossroads

If you have an hour to spare I highly recommend a YouTube video called “Seattle is Dying.” It asks the question “What if Seattle is dying and we don’t even know it?” It is about people who are compassionate but no longer feel safe in their city, no longer feel they are being heard. It is about lost souls who wander the streets with no home or reality chasing a drug that, in turn, chases them. It is about the damage they instill on themselves and the fabric of their city. Property crimes are out of control. This story is about a beautiful jewel that was violated and in current crisis. Sound familiar?

Seattle is a place where people who grew up in don’t recognize anymore. Numerous residents, business owners, and city employees talk about their disgust. Seattle police fear retaliation that could cost them their jobs and pensions if they speak out. One officer said anonymously “Yes, I am frustrated because I am told NOT to enforce the law.” Another officer noted, “People come here because it’s called Free-attle and get free food, medical treatment, mental health treatment, and be free of prosecution for just about everything, and they are right.” Another noted, “…it started with the legislature decriminalizing felonies and dumping convicts onto the streets.” Sound familiar?

A concerned resident said Seattle is a different place from the one he grew up in. It is one of the most beautiful regions but looks like sh—. He started a Facebook site called, “Seattle Looks Like Sh—.” It’s not meant to be funny, it’s meant to be sad.

There is a disconnect between Seattle officials and the frustrations of residents and businesses. It’s not legal to live on sidewalks but is allowed. Seattle ranked second per capita in property crimes in our nation in 2017. Only one city was higher — San Francisco.

I listen to friends and neighbors complaining about people shooting up on our streets, even shooting each other up. I have called police numerous times on people sleeping on our streets. I went to Safeway on Taraval Street and there was a homeless man in a sleeping bag next to the elevator. My wife drives up Santiago Street and sees the same homeless woman. I read on Nextdoor that a neighbor’s car was broken into or a package taken. As I write this, a neighbor’s car was stolen last night.

We have an $11 billion dollar budget, but still Muni is a mess, streets are congested and continuously being worked on and we need affordable housing. Further, The City continues to dump bond initiatives on our taxpayers.

How do we protect our society at the same time showing compassion to those sick and struggling? That is the big question. We cannot ignore or arrest our way out of this. People are dying and there is something we can do. It is inhumane to continue allowing this.

Seattle, like San Francisco, struggles with the same problems, but an answer may have come from Providence, Rhode Island called the “Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)” program. First thing they do is enforce their laws. Drug dealers and people who steal and commit crimes to get their drugs end up in a correction facility. Every day at the facility, they line up to get their medicine. There are three opioid blockers (Methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol) that are FDA approved to get people off heroin. The inmates choose what blocker they want. These blockers stabilize them physically to handle the emotional work needed to address the disease of drug addiction. The MAT program provides counselors to help them return to the outside. Many inmates were thankful for being arrested. It has saved lives.

In December, I proposed a resolution to tackle our crisis by providing a small portion of the Candlestick Park site for a larger navigation complex, and a temporary parking lot for 500 RV’s to offer respite from life on the street and providing room and board while case managers work to connect them to relatives, income, public benefits, health services, shelter and housing. This would result in a higher quality of life in our city by providing safer and cleaner streets, and substantially reduce the costs of City services.

Is San Francisco Dying? No. Our city has come to that proverbial fork in the road and we are in crisis mode. I have seen changes over the years, but nothing like it is now. It is time for all of us to look at the problem straight on. The future of our city and posterity depends on it.

John Farrell is a broker/realtor with Farrell Real Estate and a former assistant assessor. He can be reached at farrellreinvestments@yahoo.com.

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