The Zuckerberg General Hospital Navigation Center will get 27 new beds for the unhoused, but they’ll come at the cost of 41 beds for residential mental health patients.
There’s a homeless Navigation Center on the campus of Zuckerberg General Hospital called Hummingbird Place, and it’s been there since 2017. The good news is that it’s about to get a couple dozen more very much needed beds! The bad news is that these temporary shelter beds will cause the closure of 41 permanent beds currently being used by an Adult Residential Facility for mental health patients who are unable to care for themselves. The San Francisco Examiner reports that 18 patients at the hospital were served their 60-day relocation notices, while staff and advocates said they were “blindsided” by the move at a protest of the decision last Thursday.
“Mental illness is a real thing- having to live with it is a job. I’m thankful to be alive,” said a 15-year resident of ZSFGH’s adult residential facility, where The City is planning to cut dozens of long term treatment beds for mental health clients. @sfexaminer pic.twitter.com/DETTvEueq9— Laura Waxmann (@laura_waxee) August 22, 2019
“They are churning people through the system in order to juke their stats,” Coalition on Homelessness director Jennifer Friedenbach said at the rally. “So they can say at the end of the day they served so many people. But what they do is they put them in [to Hummingbird Place] and they push them out.”
The Chronicle points out that “dozens of long-term beds sit empty” at the facility currently, which seemingly makes it an obvious choice to remove permanent beds. But hospital personnel tell the paper that the beds sit empty because of staffing issues, not for lack of need. Yet the mayor is sticking with this plan to create more temporary beds at the cost of permanent beds, and her office stresses that alternate beds will be found for all of the permanent patients being moved.
“By expanding Hummingbird into space that was being underutilized, we’re able to help meet the needs of people who might otherwise continue to deteriorate on the street, while ensuring that all current patients continue to receive the same care they have been receiving,” Breed spokesperson Andy Lynch told the Chron.
Mission Local notes that no new patients have been admitted to the residential facility for a year, most likely because of chronic staffing shortages. This brings up the absurd point that there have been empty beds available in a city where thousands of people sleep on the street every night. Moreover, Supervisor Hillary Ronen says that the Department of Public Health had never mentioned the empty beds to her. “Never, in any of our conversations, did this come up. Not once,” she tells Mission Local, underscoring how Mayor Breed’s ambitious plans to combat homelessness can have unintended side effects that exacerbate some of the city’s other difficult issues.
Image: Photographing Travis via Flickr