SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- When San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced her emergency declaration for the city's Tenderloin District, she talked about more police enforcement. She also acknowledged that a lot of people would need a place to get help. That site, The Tenderloin Linkage Center, is now open.
"I guess just walking by, I noticed there was something going on," said resident Russell Mathison. "My girlfriend found out about it and told me. I thought it was awesome. It was really unexpected, too. I didn't know."
Like most of the center's first patrons, Mathison and his friends just stumbled upon it. They immediately asked for three things.
"Showers, a place to do laundry," he said. "And housing is a big thing, too."
"There are options for housing," explained Gary McCoy, Director of Policy for HealthRight 360. "There are respite options here on site. We have a lounge indoors. There's a shower right here across the street."
HealthRight 360 is one of the handful of service providers now working out of this six-story building leased by the city.
"A lot of service providers had concerns with the initial announcement on what this initiative would look like," McCoy said.
Right away, it has changed the look of Civic Center Plaza. There are more foot patrols - police and Urban Alchemy - which could be a preview of what the effort might look like as it expands the Tenderloin's more troubled corners and sidewalks.
Tackling the problems across this neighborhood required having a place to send those who need help. There is still the open question of whether or not police will compel people to visit the center, or threaten them with jail.
The early reviews have been positive with a number of visitors telling they will be back.
"It's hard to take anybody seriously if their heart is not backing it," Mathison said of the linkage center's staff. "They seem really cool in there."
"And so that's helped build a relationship, even over the last day," said McCoy. "Folks have been returning this morning, plus some, looking for more services and how we can best help them."
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