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San Francisco Mayor Seeks More Homeless Housing Through Conservatorship Law

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco Mayor London Breed has introduced citywide legislation to implement a new conservatorship law that helps house and treat homeless people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.

Senate Bill 1045, authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, allows the counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego to set up a conservator in cases for people who can't care for themselves.

In conjunction with the city legislation, Breed announced that she intends to add between 70 and 90 new beds for mental health patients to the city's navigation centers and hospitals over the next year.

"This is about getting people who are severely ill the help they desperately need," Breed said in a statement. "There is a small subset of our homeless population that are clearly, visibly suffering on our streets."

She said, "They are frequently in and out of the hospital or criminal justice system, but they never receive the comprehensive care they need to stabilize and get back on their feet. It is simply inhumane for us to allow them to continue to deteriorate without intervening."

Breed has directed the city's Department of Public Health to figure out ways to increase the number of beds at the city's navigations centers and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, along with Breed, introduced the legislation to support SB 1045.

"I believe it is imperative that we move the ball forward," Mandelman said. "Everyday that San Franciscans suffer in our streets and jails for untreated mental illness is one day too many. We cannot continue to allow our neighborhoods to serve as open mental institutions and shelters as jails."

He said, "SB 1045 is not a cure all. It does offer a new tool to help people suffering from severe mental illness and addiction ... We must seize every opportunity to improve conditions of those suffering mental illness."

"I am thrilled that San Francisco is moving to implement my bill, SB 1045, which will help some of our most vulnerable residents get the help they need," Wiener said in a statement. "I am grateful to Mayor Breed and Supervisor Mandelman for understanding that the faster we implement this tool, the faster we can help those suffering on our streets."

SB 1045, signed into law last month by Gov. Jerry Brown, is set to take effect on Jan. 1.

According to Breed's office, the city's health department has estimated that the new conservatorship law will impact between 50 and 100 people in the city; individuals who are the most likely to need city services. Last year, only about 12 percent of homeless people who used city services accounted for 73 percent of the costs.

A coalition of several groups, including the Coalition on Homelessness, have voiced opposition to SB 1045, arguing that conservatorship takes away individuals' civil liberties, affecting decisions about their body, housing and medical care.

The Coalition on Homelessness is pushing for Proposition C on this November's city elections, which would use a business tax to provide funds for housing and treating homeless people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.

Breed and Wiener have both opposed Proposition C, arguing that the conservatorship law is the way to ease the city's homelessness crisis.

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