Originally billed as a ‘meth sobering center’ and then simply as a ‘drug sobering center,’ the new facility SoMa Rise is raising tensions among neighbors who think it’s only making the area near Seventh and Howard Streets worse.
The idea of what is now the “drug sobering center” known as SoMa Rise was at first described as a “meth sobering center,” which is not particularly good branding. So by the time it opened on June 27, its reference materials were calling it a “drug sobering center.” And in its first month of operation on Howard Street near Seventh Street, it was getting at best mixed reviews from both the center’s intended clients and from neighbors of the place.
𝗕𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗕𝗮𝘁𝘀 + 𝗧𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗿𝘀: that’s what some— Dion Lim (@DionLimTV) October 18, 2022
SOMA residents are arming themselves w/ after the opening of the city’s first drug sobering center. “𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘢 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺” says 1 resident & business owner. https://t.co/WeNwRrfwkr #SanFrancisco pic.twitter.com/pbLlDDbdYq
Those reviews are trending a little less mixed, and not in a good way. A new report on KGO describes street violence and chaos outside SoMa Rise, and says that neighbors have “resorted to arming themselves with baseball bats and tasers.” One neighbor tells KGO the center had led to “More troublemakers settling in, feeling comfortable doing their drugs, pissing and shitting in the street blocking the sidewalks."
In many ways, that report is a formula outrage-generator designed to drive San Francisco-bashing traffic by getting picked up by Fox News (and that is exactly what it has done). But SFist has also received very similar reports, independent from those on KGO.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in addicts loitering outside,” one person who works nearby tells SFist. “The center seems overwhelmed, in fact. Today, I encountered two folks passed out in front of my office door and a crowd of addicts threatening me for asking them to move.”
Misleading. I live right next to SoMa Rise. After it opened the area around the block is quieter. Before, tents were parked behind the vacant building for 2 years with people breaking in every night. Violent addicts are a symptom of another kind, don’t blame the sobering center. https://t.co/HeNJGsdxMe— Noone (@maskmyhood) October 18, 2022
We will note that is not the consensus opinion, as is seen above, And the director of the nonprofit HealthRight 360, that runs the center along with the city’s DPH, notes there will be growing pains for the city’s first-of-its kind program.
"I would go so far as to say, be patient with us," HealthRight 360 CEO Vitka Eisen tells KGO. "We can't fix everything, but we're a piece of that; a piece of the city trying novel things to respond to people experiencing homeless and street drug use and mental illness."
The center says it has made modifications to assuage the complaints (not handing out food or drug paraphernalia, to combat a littering issue). But maybe there ought to be more security here? It is technically an interim program, slated to run for 18 months, with a fiscal 20122-23 budget of $4.2 million. So it may not last, but SoMa Rise is still slated to operate on Howard Street through December 2023.
Related: One Month In, New SoMa ‘Drug Sobering Center’ Gets Mixed Reviews [SFist]