San Francisco Homeless Center Drops ‘Linkage’ From Name After Few Linked to Services

By Ilene Eng
Ilene Eng
Ilene Eng
Ilene is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area covering Northern California news.
May 31, 2022 Updated: June 7, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO—The Tenderloin Linkage Center (TLC) has dropped the word “linkage” from its name after very few people were linked to drug recovery services and other programs.

The center opened in January and was scheduled to remain open until at least June 30. While it’s been approved by the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors for another six months, the center is reportedly operating more like a safe drug consumption site.

During a May 27 virtual press conference opposing Senate Bill 57, Michael Shellenberger, author of the book “San Fransicko,” said the TLC was designed to keep the open drug scene contained in one area, but instead, it has spread across two neighborhoods: Tenderloin and South of Market.

Epoch Times Photo
Paramedics respond with a stretcher at the Tenderloin Linkage Center in San Francisco on Feb. 5, 2022. (Cynthia Cai/The Epoch Times)

“The whole program is contrary to how they do it in Europe. In Europe, they pressure addicts engaged in dysfunctional, inappropriate behavior. They do not normalize drug consumption in those European cities. San Francisco is normalizing hard drug use, open-air drug dealing, and public camping as somehow normal behaviors that should be expected from people using hard drugs,” Shellenberger said.

According to reports released by the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative, linkage center visits quickly reached thousands per week. While the total number of visits increased on average over time, there were fewer completed linkages with a low success rate.

A completed linkage is when the person seeking help is referred, signs paperwork, and is transported to the next location to receive help.

Epoch Times Photo

In an email statement to The Epoch Times in February, the San Francisco Department of Public Health stated that the linkage center is meant to be a safe place where people can get meals, showers, other basic needs, and human service resources.

“The expectation is not that all guests are seeking linkages or that all visits to the TLC end in a linkage,” the email reads. “However, providing rapid and accessible linkages to care and services remains a priority.”

Shellenberger wasn’t the only one opposing the use of such facilities for safe drug consumption.

During the virtual press conference, leaders of multiple organizations voiced their strong opposition to Senate Bill 57, also known as the Controlled Substances: Overdose Prevention Program.

State Sen. Scott Wiener introduced the legislation, and the California Senate passed it in April 2021. The intention was to create drug consumption locations that would have medical staff on-site to avoid overdoses. The sites would be established in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles County.

Epoch Times Photo
An “Overdose Prevention Community Space” in the Tenderloin Center in San Francisco. (Courtesy of the City of San Francisco)

But opponents say the injection sites only make drug use easier and also encourage people to use drugs even if they aren’t at the site. They warn that it would pave the way to legalizing all drugs.

Shellenberger said data show there are more drug deaths in areas where an injection site is opened.

“The reason so much attention is being drawn to it recently is because the deaths come from well-to-do families,” said Assemblyman Jim Cooper, a Democrat.

San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported 192 accidental overdoses (pdf) between January and April. Fentanyl was the No. 1 cause of overdose, followed by methamphetamine, cocaine, medicinal opioids, and heroin. The locations of the deaths were mostly in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods.

Those opposed to SB 57 also said safe drug consumption sites bring down the quality of life.

Epoch Times Photo
Mothers Against Drug Deaths hold a chain of posters in front of the Tenderloin Linkage Center in San Francisco on Feb. 5, 2022. (Cynthia Cai/The Epoch Times)

According to Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, co-founder of Greater Harlem Coalition in New York, there’s a site just blocks from her home, but people still use drugs right on her stoop.

“I’ve gone out to say, look, there’s a safe injection site literally five blocks away. Why don’t you just go there and use that site? And they don’t want to go that far. They said why? And I get it. Because when they have drugs in their hands they’re going to use it,” Asberry-Chresfield said.

“Moreover, the injection sites always become a magnet for drug dealers, drug addicts, robbers, and the like, hurting the nearby communities seriously,” said Frank Lee, president of the Organization for Justice and Equality.

Asberry-Chresfield said, “Not only are you saying that it’s legal to take drugs, but it’s also legal to sell drugs? I mean, what kind of road are we going down at this point?”

A hearing for SB 57 is scheduled for June 1.

Cynthia Cai contributed to this report.

Ilene Eng
Ilene is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area covering Northern California news.