The controversial Tenderloin Linkage Center has been quietly renamed to simply the Tenderloin Center, and the SF Board of Supervisors just approved it staying at UN Plaza another six months, for the rest of 2022.
Mayor London Breed’s once much-ballyhooed Tenderloin Emergency Declaration ended with a whimper in mid-March, and at the time, we reported that the Tenderloin Linkage Center at the heart of the plan was slated to remain open until June 30. That’s coming up! But at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, the board considered a motion to extend the lease on the center until December 31, 2022, and SFist can report the board unanimously approved that motion.
The Tenderloin Linkage Center has dropped the word "linkage" from its name—perhaps because it has linked very few people to services.— The San Francisco Standard (@sfstandard) May 12, 2022
In fact, from the very start, many involved in creating the Center viewed it primarily as a safe consumption site.https://t.co/vJv5G7Pl4Z
Except it’s no longer the Tenderloin Linkage Center. The SF Standard reported earlier this month that the facility quietly changed its name to simply the Tenderloin Center (like it was a neighborhood basketball arena or something), apparently taking the emphasis off the “linkage” part of the equation. The local media have not really gotten the memo on that secretive change, and reporting from as recently as two days ago continues to use the “Tenderloin Linkage Center” verbiage.
Why the change? Per the SF Standard, “City data indicates that few people have been linked to services.”
That report focuses on the facility being a “de facto consumption site” for illegal drugs, and it certainly bears considering that this comes with some legal risk. Shortly after it opened, we learned that people were allowed to openly use illegal drugs there. That discovery came when fringe political candidate and underemployed Substack author Michael Shellenberger gate-crashed the facility, and per the Chronicle “was escorted out of the facility last week after purportedly scaling a fence and entering an off-limits area.” The city is indeed pushing a boundary on allowing a consumption site whose legal status is in, at best, a gray area.
But it seems very reductive to portray this facility as merely a sanctioned drug den. Journalists are not allowed in to monitor things, but I’m pretty sure people are indeed taking advantage of the hot meals, showers, laundry, and free Muni passes. And while I have never had the burden of trying to kick a fentanyl habit, I imagine it does help to have clean bathrooms and food on the table, as opposed to not having those things.
Probably some of these other services are not being accessed as much. But if the city's most downtrodden recovery clients have dignified bathrooms, showers, and three square meals a day, this may not be the moral abomination that critics portray it as.
Breed can (and knowing her, probably will) pivot back and claim this Tenderloin Center formerly known as a Linkage Center among her successes. And if there are some success stories that come from this, then that's just awesome. Either way, the Tenderloin Center just bought another six months to try to achieve that.
Image: @SFHumanServices via Twitter