San Francisco Mayor London Breed is attempting to create a new medical and social service response program for the city's homeless residents as an alternative to police responses to 911 and 311 calls for non-violent behavior.
The Street Wellness Response Team would respond to well-being checks and situations that require medical or social assistance, but are not extreme enough to warrant police, such as a call about someone sleeping in the street or having obvious physical injuries.
The SWRT would be composed of paramedics and EMTs from the San Francisco Fire Department and members of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Homeless Outreach Team.
Breed's proposed budget for 2021-2023, which she will submit to the Board of Supervisors on June 1, will include $9.6 million for five SWRT teams over two years.
If the funding is approved, which could happen at the end of July, the SWRT will deploy at least one team by January 2022, and build five teams by April 2022.
"Many calls to 911 or 311 about someone who appears to need help on our streets don't require an armed police response, and often the services and care people need would be best provided by a paramedic or outreach worker instead of a police officer," Breed said.
"As we work to recover from COVID-19, part of making our city stronger and healthier requires pushing forward on our efforts to help people experiencing homelessness and who are on our streets in need of assistance and connections to housing," Breed said.
The teams would render medical treatment should people need it in addition to connecting the recipients to services and housing. In 2019, there were roughly 18,000 calls to 911 and 311 which were categorized as "well-being checks," according to a news release from Breed's office, and the SWRT would be another specialized team responding to these events rather than the police.
The SWRT would work alongside other city services, such as the Street Crisis Response Team, which responds to non-violent mental health crises in San Francisco's streets.
"The Street Wellness Response Team will provide dignified and compassionate care to people experiencing homelessness on our streets and in our neighborhoods," said Shireen McSpadden, director of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. "We appreciate this investment in making our communities safer and more humane for all residents of San Francisco."