Jenna Lane, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Health, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the city has provided a range of substances—including tobacco and medical cannabis—to 43 homeless people with addictions in a bid to discourage them leaving the hotels that have been adapted as temporary quarantine facilities, and in so doing helping to prevent the spread of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, the novel coronavirus that emerged from China and causes COVID-19.
“They’re doing San Francisco a great service by staying inside,” Lane told the publication. “We’re saying, ‘We’re doing what we can to support you staying inside and not have to go out and get these things.’”
It follows an exchange on Twitter between a user who self-identifies as a recovering homeless addict, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health account.
“I just found out that homeless placed in hotels in SF are being delivered Alcohol, Weed and Methadone because they identified as an addict/alcoholic for FREE. You’re supposed to be offering treatment. This is enabling and is wrong on many levels,” the Twitter user wrote, with the department seeking to justify the practice in its response.
“These harm reduction based practices, which are not unique to San Francisco, and are not paid for with taxpayer money, help guests successfully complete isolation and quarantine and have significant individual and public health benefits in the COVID-19 pandemic,” the department wrote in the reply.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle report, the city is using hotels to house a total of 270 homeless people who have either tested positive for the virus or are considered vulnerable to infection.
“With regard to supporting people who are at risk, or who need to be in quarantine or isolation because they’re COVID positive, our focus needs to be on supporting them,” said Dr. Grant Colfax from San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. “Meeting them where they are so that they can be cared for in the most appropriate way. In the way that’s good for them and for our community.”
Last month, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council issued a memo warning that if city programs can’t find ways to accommodate the use of substances among the vulnerable, the consequences could be deadly.
“Failure to accommodate substance use disorders will likely mean increases in fatal overdoses/dangerous withdrawals, higher rates of vulnerable people leaving I&Q [isolation and quarantine] against medical advice, and compromised individual and public health,” the council noted.