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Gov. Newsom makes surprise visit to San Francisco's crime-ridden Tenderloin neighborhood

Gov. Gavin Newsom makes unannounced visit to San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood
Gov. Gavin Newsom makes unannounced visit to San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood 03:25

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gov. Gavin Newsom walked the streets of the Tenderloin  Wednesday to get a first hand look at the fentanyl crisis plaguing San Francisco.

JJ Smith is out on these streets everyday, building relationships with those that are homeless and addicted to drugs. He had the chance to meet the Governor and ask a question but he didn't get the answer he was hoping for.

He shouted, "Hey Gavin, tell me what you're going to do about the fentanyl epidemic?"

Smith said Newsom told him he's working on the issue now. 

"I feel like his response wasn't a response," Smith said. "It wasn't no answer to my question because if you were here to work on it, you would actually talk to the people that actually see what's going on."

Smith documents the hard realities of the fentanyl crisis. From the overdoses and deaths, but he also shares stories of hope. Addicts that have taken a step to get help.

 "The first step is actually speaking to them," he said. "Trying to be their friend. Once you become their friend, and they trust you, then you can start offering them those things I offer them like getting treatment, going to rehab. It's just that you have to build a relationship with them. And in order to build a relationship with them, you got to get out and speak to them."

Businesses like Golden Gate Rides in the Tenderloin welcomes any effort to solve the crisis on the streets.

"I think everybody sees it on tv, but to actually feel it, is a little different," owner Bigyan Koirala said.

Kiorala says business has slightly improved of late but knows more can be done to bring customers into his store. He hopes the Governor will have more concrete solutions after his visit. 

"I think if you see the ground reality, I think it helps, I think it's a step in the right direction," he said.

The Governor's office says the state has spent more than a billion dollars to tackle the fentanyl and opioid crisis but JJ Smith wonders where the money is going. 

 "I'd tell Gavin look man, people are out here on the streets," Smith said. "Some are suffering. They are dying. Some are losing their mind. It's like some way we all have to come together and give in and see what is a better solution that's going to fix this problem that has created."

The Governor has pledged to spend nearly  $100 million more to fight fentanyl, with a focus of getting Narcan into communities to combat overdoses. 

Smith feels it's another measure that's not getting to the root of the problem.

 "They're so busy worried about giving them a safe place to use drugs," he said. "Why not find out let's give them a safe place to get off drugs."

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