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San Francisco’s free (booze) shots & a cot homeless strategy versus Manteca’s efforts
homeless drink
San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood has a hotel the Department of Public Health took over a few years back, where homeless alcoholics get free booze and a bed.

There is “free” beer and vodka awaiting you in San Francisco.

It comes with a “free” hotel room in the Tenderloin, historically one of the seediest neighborhoods in The City.

To access the free shots and a cot, all one has to be is a homeless individual that is an alcoholic.

Your waitress, I mean nurse, will “dispense regiment doses” of vodka and beer.

Apparently, the program discriminates against the homeless that are partial to whiskey and such.

The nurses provide the booze at special times daily as outlined in personalized care programs.

The goal of the $5 million a year endeavor is aimed at addressing sobriety.

Rather, it is primarily to decrease emergency room use and hospital stays as well as calls to police and ambulance service.

It does also focus on improving the overall health of homeless alcoholics by making sure their addiction is fed in small doses instead of full-blown drinking binges.

Any bets Betty Ford is turning over in her grave?

The San Francisco Department of Public Health program that has been in place for several years isn’t something public officials have been bragging about.

Instead, it came to attention of the taxpaying public after a posting on X by Adam Nathan.

He’s the CEO of an AI firm.

Nathan also chairs the advisory board of the Salvation Army in San Francisco and has a somewhat successful track record with helping homeless get sober.

And that doesn’t include multiple happy hours throughout the day.

Nathan came across the former hotel where the managed alcohol treatment program is housed as he navigated the Tenderloin with its homeless encampments, strung out addicts, and the debris they dump on the street including when they do the No. 2.

So what does $15 million over three years buy taxpayers?

It has — according to the city health department — saved hospitals $1.7 million annually by not having to treat the 54 “clients” that have had rooms during the last few years at the hotel to feed their demons with access to a mattress to sleep it off instead of concrete.

It should be pointed out this is not a drop-in program where the homeless can walk in off the street, down a few beers, and leave.

Rest assured, we are told, that a few of those that have occupied the 20 beds have managed to start the road to sobriety or at least aren’t drinking to the point they black out.

Kind of makes you feel good to know your money is going toward providing a free flow of alcohol to homeless not required to get sober, while they enjoy the relative luxury of a hotel room.

Keep in mind, this is going on as the governor is using accounting tricks to reduce school funding and making other outright cuts to deal with a $68 billion state budget deficit.

There is a good reason why the department kept it under wraps and you’re not going to like it.

Simply put, it’s the need to deal with the true cost of homeless ever since laws imposed by legislators with the help of the courts have made it impossible for cities to navigate the legal system to address homeless issues often rooted in addiction and mental illness.

The day is coming when someone is going to get a court to agree that one has a constitutional right to be addicted to alcohol and drugs to such a degree they have carte blanche to trample on everyone else’s rights.

And with the somewhat protected class conferred on the homeless, it is a double whammy.

To be clear, the “somewhat protected class” isn’t a swipe at court rulings that being homeless per se isn’t a crime nor court decisions that homeless doing things one needs to do to live such as sleep and go to the bathroom needs to be allowed.

But what is happening are legal restrictions on local communities’ ability to find workable solutions means the homeless can basically ignore efforts to house them et al because they don’t like various conditions and/or restrictions.

A local example of addressing the homeless in the right way is Manteca’s HOPE Family Shelters.

They have a documented 52 percent success rate of homeless families, once they have been on their program, being able to obtain shelter by renting.

And in one instance, a single mom and child went from the shelter to being able to buy a modest trailer in a mobile home park.

That’s five times better batting average than most shelters.

The difference? HOPE Family Ministries, that operates three shelters with programs aimed at addressing what is making people homeless is faith-based.

But they don’t proselytize and such. Far from it. But they do require parents to be sober whether it’s drugs or alcohol.

Simply because the non-profit was formed by churches it is next impossible for them to secure federal and state grants despite how effective they are.

The de facto government policy is not to pump money into such efforts with connections to the faith community regardless of the religion that have proven track records such as HOPE Family Shelters.

Instead, it goes into endeavors such as the Tenderloin hotel where “clients” can basically call their own shots, figuratively and literally.

And if the truth be told, if a conservative city like Timbuktu in Iowa justifies such a program that kept homeless alcoholics in free booze as a cost effective way to take pressure off the health care system and reduce taxpayer expenditures on emergency room visits, hospitals stay and ambulance rides they’d be more than a few people howling about how cold, cruel, and calculating it is.

That’s because it doesn’t help the homeless addict get better.

Instead, it keeps them in booze at an acceptable level that allows less money to be spent on them for healthcare.

But given San Francisco is clearly a town with liberal leanings, it opens the door for the conversation no one is really having.

The managed alcohol program is a concession that a large chunk of the homeless can’t be helped or doesn’t want to be helped.

That means to address homelessness as people on the left, on the right, and the middle demand, you might have to force them to accept help in some manner that passes constitutional muster.

This is not just a San Francisco problem.

Manteca Fire, in a given year, sees 3 to 5  percent of the calls they roll on tied to homeless issues.

Some are warming or cooking fires. Most are medical related.

It was running close to 10 percent five years ago.

The big difference is the community resource officer program Manteca instituted to address homeless issues.

It has led to many homeless getting needed heath care before it becomes a full blown emergency and an expensive hospital stay.

Meanwhile, based on 2023 stats, 23 percent of the 9-1-1 calls the Manteca Police Department handle are homeless related.

They run the gamut from property-related and they issues to brandishing weapons and individuals passed out on the streets.

The city would still have police and expenditures if homelessness magically ended. It is more of the opportunity cost of what public safety resources Manteca can do elsewhere to enhance community safety that is the issue.

That said, there is a real cost Manteca District Ambulance and Doctors Hospital incur that many people help pay indirectly.

Those costs can be reduced by making sure there is access to health services long before it reaches the point they, or someone seeing the homeless, in distress call 9-1-1.

It is why what Manteca is doing is much more effective in terms of results and reducing costs than San Francisco’s free booze and a cot strategy.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at