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San Francisco proposal would create non-police response to homelessness

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In a proposal that will shake up the town’s day-to-day response to its homelessness disaster, San Francisco neighborhood leaders on Tuesday unveiled a plan to take police out of the equation.

Below the brand new framework, police would now not reply to complaints about encampments or aggressive panhandling, reviews of an unhoused particular person trespassing and different non-emergency calls involving homeless San Franciscans. As a substitute, these calls and extra can be rerouted to civilian members of a brand new Compassionate Alternate Response Workforce, generally known as CART.

The proposal is one other step in San Francisco’s ongoing police reform effort, and comes as cities all through the Bay Space and across the nation are grappling with calls for to “defund” their police departments and reinvest in various packages.

“What we’re doing proper now as a metropolis is totally failing,” San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney, who helps CART, stated Tuesday throughout a Zoom name saying the proposal. “A police-led response to homelessness is dear, it’s harmful, it’s ineffective and it ought to finish.”

San Francisco police responded to greater than 65,000 calls associated to homelessness in 2019. CART supporters say most of these calls consequence within the officer telling the unhoused particular person to “transfer alongside,” with out addressing the underlying points which have landed that particular person on the road. Different occasions, these interactions can result in citations and arrests, and even escalate to violence.

As the town continues its police reform efforts, the San Francisco Police Division and San Francisco Police Officers Affiliation in November agreed to let sure non-emergency calls be routed away from the police division — together with psychological well being checks, well-being checks, requires service at metropolis parks and sure public well being order violations.

“This potential reform is a primary step in a bigger, ongoing course of to reform policing within the Metropolis,” the settlement states. “The (San Francisco Police Officers Affiliation) commits to cooperation with the Metropolis in pursuing police reform.”

CART comes on the heels of one other police reform initiative San Francisco rolled out in November — the Road Disaster Response Workforce. Below that pilot program, groups of paramedics, behavioral well being clinicians and peer specialists reply to sure psychological well being calls as a substitute of cops.

CART would reply to overflow psychological well being calls the Road Disaster Response Workforce couldn’t deal with. However CART additionally would reply to requests for well-being checks, complaints of unlawful tenting or blocking a sidewalk, trespassing, panhandling and suspicious particular person reviews involving unhoused residents.

Responders can be educated to de-escalate the state of affairs and supply battle decision, first assist, referrals to psychological well being, dependancy and housing providers, and transportation to a hospital or service supplier. CART would deal with hiring and coaching responders who’ve been homeless.

Along with hiring paid road responders, CART additionally would recruit and prepare volunteers to resolve minor disputes of their neighborhoods.

“This can be a actually thrilling time, I feel, for San Francisco in that we’re going to be on the forefront of fixing the way in which that our metropolis addresses a lot of these calls with our unhoused neighbors,” stated San Francisco Police Commissioner John Hamasaki.

San Francisco has tried prior to now to offer non-police responses to homelessness, comparable to its Homeless Outreach Workforce. However advocates say these efforts have didn’t correctly distance themselves from police, resulting in mistrust within the homeless neighborhood.

CART would price the town an estimated $6.83 million per yr. San Francisco supervisors have already got authorised $2 million, and CART supporters say the opposite $4.83 million ought to come from the police division’s finances. They are saying CART will generate not less than $11 million in financial savings yearly by diverting calls away from the police division.

If this system is authorised and funded, it’s anticipated to launch in Might.

In January 2020, the San Francisco Police Fee handed a decision calling for a brand new coverage that will stop cops from serving as first-responders to homelessness. Following a quick delay as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, metropolis officers, neighborhood teams and people who find themselves or have been homeless started work on the CART coverage framework in July.

To find out how such a program may greatest serve the neighborhood, they surveyed 95 unhoused San Franciscans about their wants. When requested what they needed from this system, one particular person responded: “To be handled like a human being.”

Cindy Keener, who has been homeless for greater than 15 years and took part within the CART survey, stated San Francisco wants a greater response to homelessness.

“This program can be only a blessing to all people,” she stated.

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