NEWS
San Francisco Is Delivering Weed and Alcohol to Homeless Residents in Quarantine
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As the COVID-19 crisis rages on, San Francisco is trying to take care of its most vulnerable population, while social media critics scoff at the harm reduction approach.
Published on May 7, 2020

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As San Francisco continues to confront the coronavirus crisis head on, city officials have come under fire for a program that provides homeless people with hotel rooms, and supplies them with alcohol, cannabis, methadone, and other intoxicating substances.

According to local FOX station KTVU, the compassionate support program is a harm reduction technique being used by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) to better serve the city’s homeless drug users. The plan is to keep people quarantined inside of hotel rooms, and to help them avoid exposure to the virus that comes with trips to liquor stores, cannabis dispensaries, or methadone clinics.

"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," Dr. Grant Colfax from San Francisco's Department of Public Health told KTVU. "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."

Critics of the substance support measures quickly took to social media to rail against the Department of Public Health. But in a response to angry Twitter users, SF officials made it clear that they were not the only city in the US offering such services, and that city officials were not making trips to liquor stores or requesting pot deliveries with taxpayer funds.

“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 SFDPH wrote on Twitter.

As of print, the SFDPH said that 10 percent of people housed in hotel rooms have had tobacco delivered to them, while 11 individuals have been given enough alcohol to prevent addiction withdrawals. It is not yet clear how many newly-housed residents have had cannabis delivered to the hotels they’re quartered in. 

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Zach Harris
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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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