30-bed drug sobering center proposed for Howard Street office building

Photo: Google Street View
By Jay Barmann - Published on April 13, 2021.

SF Mayor London Breed on Tuesday announced a proposal to lease an empty office building at 1076 Howard Street for use as a 30-bed drug sobering center, making good on a promise first made before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The facility will focus on those living on the streets who are experiencing methamphetamine-induced psychosis.

The SoMa site, which would be similar in nature to the city's 18-year-old alcohol sobering center, would give crisis intervention teams and others an alternative to transporting people too high on methamphetamine or combinations of drugs a place to come down other than SF General's psych ward. And such a sobering center was the number-one recommendation of a meth task force convened by Breed, when they delivered their recommendations to the city in 2019. 

The Howard Street property had been under construction for the last year as office space — something the city currently has a glut of. 

Previously, Breed had pointed to a vacant lot in the Tenderloin, at 180 Jones Street (at Turk), which she proposed as a 15-bed sobering center in February 2020 for the two years before development is to begin on an affordable housing project. The site remained fenced off through the first months of the pandemic before becoming one of the city's sanctioned "sleeping villages" for the homeless, with space for ten tents

Now, the Howard Street site is being proposed, with an estimated annual cost of $4.2 million for its operation, and $2 million in upfront costs. A lease proposal was set to go to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, as the Chronicle reports.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who co-chaired the meth task force, says that the city's need far exceeds just the 30 beds that will be here, but it's a start. "I’m glad that we’re going to move forward and get this done, although I’m sure we’re going to find that we need more than just one," Mandelman told the Chronicle.

Of the proposed center, Mayor Breed said in a statement, "It’s a way we can intervene, address the immediate issue, and then also get them connected to the longer-term services and support they need."

Separately, the Hummingbird psychiatric respite center at 1156 Valencia Street is about a year behind schedule. That 30-bed facility, which will similarly relieve the burden on area hospitals for those who are homeless and having a mental health crisis, is set to open in May.

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