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A month later, new SoMa ‘Drug Sobering Center’ is getting mixed reviews

A month later, new SoMa ‘Drug Sobering Center’ is getting mixed reviews

More than 300 visitors have accessed the new SoMa Rise sober living center in the first month it’s been open, but it’s still unclear whether it’s producing any good results or justifying the $4.2 million-a-year price tag.

We’re now just over a month into the operation of San Francisco’s long-planned drug sober center, originally billed as a meth sober center, which opened June 27 on Howard Street near Seventh Street. It goes by the official name SoMa Rise, and my original question with all of this was ‘Is anyone actually going to use this thing?’

Image: SFGov

It turns out that yes, 315 people visited the center to get sober in the first month (although those are total visits, not unique visitors, so a person who visits multiple times will be counted over and over). There’s a photo of the interior above, and according to their website, it “welcomes intoxicated people struggling with substance abuse from the streets to a safe place indoors” where they “get access to clean bathrooms, showers, food and a place to rest.”

And apparently the purpose is twofold, not only to help people get sober, but also to take some of the burden off the hospital emergency room—for example, when a person is brought to the emergency room because of meth-induced psychosis and mostly just needs to get sober . The Chronicle spoke to a few visitors to the sober living center, which does not allow drug use on site (it’s a sober center). They apparently have yet to turn anyone away, though the Chron found that “Two people who tried to help friends get into the center in the past week told the Chronicle that staff told them they had to go to the Tenderloin Center to get a referral.”

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There was at least one success story, or the basis for one, in a mother who wrote a letter of support to Mayor Breed about the program. She is the mother of a 37-year-old user who has been at SoMa Rise “three or four times a week” since it opened. The mother said “it’s the only drop-in center she knows of that isn’t on a block full of drug activity, one where he can call her, sleep safely and be treated with dignity by the staff.”

Other visitors complain that there is no housing connection element for people experiencing homelessness, or really any functions other than sobering up, getting some food and a shower and hoping to get you into treatment. A drug user who told the Chronicle he had been to SoMa Rise at least once suggested it should do more, such as provide job training or classes of some kind.

Homeless individuals seeking housing placements still have to go elsewhere, such as the Tenderloin Center, for referrals.

The sober center has only 20 beds, and it has not yet had a day when it was completely full.

There is also the question of whether this will remove some of the disease affecting that part of the South of Market area. The consensus among business owners in the corridor is that it hasn’t necessarily hurt, nor really helped. Convenience store Starco Mart (located right next door) complained to the Chronicle that “while business got a boost when the center opened, so did shoplifting.” But this could just be coincidence.

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The $4.2 million a year center is still a work in progress. They will be adding more beds and it will switch to a 24-hour facility sometime early this month. It still seems like a pretty small solution to the drug crisis in that area, and may never have a noticeable impact on passersby. But it will certainly be less controversial than sites that allow open drug use, so the public will likely be more patient with this particular program.

Related: The long-planned “Sobering Center” will finally open Monday near Howard and Seventh Streets [SFist]

Image: Google Street View

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