Meth Arrests at San Francisco Coronavirus Shelter Lead to Program Changes

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The Civic Center Motor Inn is meant to be a safe place for San Francisco's homeless during the pandemic, housing those who have nowhere to go to avoid COVID exposure. 

But over the weekend, it was the site of a drug bust that included the discovery of what some claim was a meth lab. 

“Some of the property that we seized is suspected narcotics, some people are using the word ‘meth lab’ but we are investigating what narcotics were being made,’” said SFPD Officer Robert Rueca.

It started Saturday when police responded to a call about a chemical odor from a guest room at the motel.

Police linked the smell to a batch of chemicals used to make narcotics.

Two people at the motel were arrested on narcotics-related charges and in the days since the arrest, the city says that because of  the incident,  it has decided to update it's guidelines for the "COVID Shelter" program.

These include: 

  • Revised wellness checks
  • Room inspections
  • Emergency safety checks
  • Safe exit policy revisions 
  • Training and oversight measures

Revised wellness check procedures will now include visual inspections by program operators. Previous checks didn’t require guests to open the doors to their rooms.

Also, immediately removing individuals from the site if there is evidence they're manufacturing or selling illegal drugs. 

“We’re talking about adults, mostly people of color, we don’t need to treat them like infants or toddlers,” said Jennifer Friedenbach from the Coalition for Homelessness.

She believes this was an isolated incident and just hopes these changes don’t lead to overreach.

“It’s great to make sure people are safe, we don’t have an issue with that,” Friedenbach said. “But all of this needs to be done with the underserved housing community themselves.”

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