San Francisco provides media tour of Tenderloin Heart at U.N. Plaza

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — San Francisco has provided a rare look inside what is, in effect, the city’s first safe consumption site for drug users.

What opened as the Tenderloin Linkage Center in January has recently been renamed the Tenderloin Center. The city started with a six-month lease on the building in UN Plaza, a lease which now has been extended through the end of the year.

“The TLC or the Tenderloin Center has been the subject of a lot of questions and interest,” said Dr. Hillary Kunins with the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

City officials know the site has been controversial so they invited the media to see inside this outreach clearinghouse.

“When folks come into the space, they are able to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner,” explained staff member Donna Hilliard. “We have snacks, we have water.”

The original purpose of the facility was to link people to services and that effort continues.

“We can let them know we have harm-reduction supplies,” Hilliard said. “But what we like to talk about a lot is the detox beds that are available.”

Making those connections has proved difficult, thus the “linkage” has been de-emphasized while principal focus is being placed on care.

“By no means are we backing away from a pathway to recovery and wellness,” Kunins said of the name change. “What we’re doing here is, very importantly, creating a space and stopping people from dying.”

Staff say that more than 80 overdoses have been reversed here and they are still trying to get more people into treatment.

Right outside the center, open-air drug use continues. Ending it was one of the mayor’s objectives when this center was announced late last year.

“We’re not just going to walk by and let someone who is using in broad daylight on the streets and not give them a choice between going to the location we’ve identified for them or going to jail,” Mayor London Breed said in Dec.

There may be more facilities like this in the future. The state is moving ahead with plans for official safe consumption sites and San Francisco would like to participate.

“So while this is new, for the moment, in San Francisco, we are working on many fronts to stop people dying of overdose,” Kunins said.

Wilson Walker


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