Formerly incarcerated people are getting trained in San Francisco in the art of conflict resolution in a neighborhood notorious for homelessness and street crime.
“Client Safety Services started with the idea that instead of enforcing rules or laws or calling the police all the time on behavior, we have a relationship with the folks where we are meeting them where they are at. We are trying to provide safety for all parties involved,” said St. Anthony’s Advocacy Program Manager Calder Lorenz.
Seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. the program’s employees are paid $20 an hour to walk or ride Segways to roust and direct homeless people to public services.
The program is a sympathetic replacement to the police being alerted to homeless individuals using drugs, sitting and sleeping in the vicinity of businesses.
Employees are taught how to administer the opioid antidote Narcan. They’re also certified to carry handcuffs and make “citizen’s arrests” in accordance with Penal Code 837.
Approximately 40 employees strong, St. Anthony’s has recently contracted out its security force to other organization and business in the Tenderloin section at roughly $35 a hour.
“We are trying to provide safety for all parties involved,”
“What we’re seeing is multiple organizations and businesses hiring through a single contract and identifying which area on the block supports the work or via an agreement with the safety block groups,” Lorenz told the Examiner.
“We wanted to create a blueprint that the Tenderloin neighborhood or other parts of the City would be interested in using, so a curriculum was set up.”
The Examiner interviewed six Tenderloin community members, and all felt harassed by the program’s employees.
A 61-year-old community member identified as Mike told the Examiner he felt threatened by the program’s employees patrolling the block in front of the Christian Science Church on O’Farrell Street.
“It’s a mystery to me why someone like him thinks he’s got the authority to run everybody off a sidewalk no matter what they are doing, and to threaten you physically like he’s going to fight you if you don’t,” said Mike.
A program employee identified as Charles said, “We are basically up here to prevent the guys (from) being a nuisance here, (those) leaving trash and needles (and) smoking drugs or stuff like that – that’s what we are up here to do.”
David Knego, executive director of the Curry Senior Center on Turk Street, said his staff felt overwhelmed by the drug dealing and other safety issues outside of the center.
“One of our nurses got assaulted in the neighbor- hood store,” said Knego. “I thought we had to do something.”