Center for Social Justice: Advocacy Roundup
A critical part of GLIDE’s work as a social justice organization is to drive systems change by shaping policies that have the greatest impact on the lives of those we serve. Our Center for Social Justice is influencing policy in the fields of housing and homelessness; community health; racial justice and reconciliation; and intergenerational support for women and families of color. In the first installment of the CSJ Advocacy Roundup, we share some of the top policy issues in the focus areas of community health and racial justice.
Overdose Prevention Sites
San Francisco and communities across the country have been struggling with an alarming rise in drug overdose deaths. Tragically, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened, and the need for associated services has amplified. More than 700 people died of an overdose in 2020 alone in San Francisco – more than twice the number of people who died of COVID-19. As of September, 511 San Franciscans have died of an overdose in 2021.
On October 26, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution, urging and supporting Mayor London Breed in declaring a state of emergency around the overdose crisis. As an important step to addressing the crisis, advocates and constituencies such as the Safer Inside Coalition are urging the City to immediately implement overdose prevention sites to scale, also known as supervised consumption sites. Earlier in November, Mayor Breed announced a City acquisition of a property in the Tenderloin, which has been earmarked for potential use as a safe consumption site.
In response to the passage of the resolution, Wesley Saver, GLIDE’s Senior Policy Manager, said, “There’s an immediate challenge to sustain this momentum, and a substantive task of effective implementation, but for those who have lived in isolation and fear, lacking compassion and care, this is their moment and an acknowledgment of the humanity of people who use drugs.”
This comes at a time when several other states and federal agencies are having similar conversations around mitigating the effects of the overdose crisis with the implementation of harm reduction strategies like SCS. Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to authorize overdose prevention programs and will implement a two-year pilot program in March 2022. Similarly, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made an announcement on November 30 that two safe consumption sites will open in the city.
As a member of the Safer Inside Coalition, GLIDE supports overdose prevention programs, as harm reduction, because they are a humane, dignified, and compassionate approach to improving the health and safety of those who use drugs and are essential to creating a healthier San Francisco. Overdose prevention sites allow people who use drugs to do so in a safe and clean space, be treated with dignity and respect, and access supportive services and treatment options that can open pathways to health, while reducing the traumas associated with public use. They have been in successful operation around the world for several decades, and there has never been a death from overdose in any such site.
“With gratitude to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, the time to implement supervised consumption services is now. The longer we wait, the longer we continue to lose two of our neighbors to overdose each day in San Francisco, and we cannot miss the opportunity to enact proven lifesaving interventions,” Saver said.
On Wednesday, December 8, the Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing to decide whether the City should purchase a building for use as a supervised consumption site. To join CSJ and the Safer Inside Coalition and submit supporting public comments, learn more here.
Beyond the local advocacy work in San Francisco, GLIDE has been actively supporting State Senate Bill 57 (as well as previous iterations of it). The bill is authored by Senator Scott Wiener and would authorize overdose prevention sites in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. So far, the two-year bill has passed the Senate and will be heard next in January 2022. Read more on the Safer Inside website.
Ending Racially-Biased Traffic Stops in San Francisco
Traffic stops are the most common way people come into contact with law enforcement. Police officers often use low-level traffic stops as a mechanism to detain and search people, a practice that disproportionately impacts communities of color and often leads to violent and deadly consequences, while having minimal impact on improving public safety. San Francisco mirrors the state and nation in over-policing communities of color via pretext stops.
Though Black San Franciscans make up less than 5 percent of the population of the city, they accounted for 27 percent of all traffic stops and 37 percent of subsequent searches between July 2020 and June 2021. And, since 2018, officers of the San Francisco Police Department searched Latinx individuals 38 percent more frequently than white individuals. While many other local jurisdictions have already banned these “pretext” stops, San Francisco has yet to do so.
According to Wesley Saver, GLIDE’s Senior Policy Manager, “If we are serious about equity, we have to take on Americans’ most common interaction with law enforcement — traffic stops. Police officers often use low-level pretext stops as a mechanism to detain and search people, a practice that disproportionately impacts Black San Franciscans and can lead to violent and deadly consequences. We can end pretext stops in San Francisco, and in doing so, begin to address disparities in local policing.”
In recent weeks, advocacy has ramped up for the Coalition to End Biased Stops, of which GLIDE is a member organization. This group of community organizations and advocates is mobilizing to address the broad discretion that SFPD officers have to perform pretext stops. In a recent support letter to Malia Cohen, president of the SFPD Police Commission, the Coalition urged for non-safety-related traffic stops to be prohibited. Some examples of this include stops for tinted windows; objects hanging from rearview mirrors; or sleeping in a vehicle.
GLIDE and other members of the Coalition delivered public comment at the November 17 Police Commission meeting to verbally lay out our arguments against pretext stops. We will continue to advocate to end these racially-biased, harmful stops through engaging with the Police Commission and other key stakeholders.
Are you part of an organization that wants to help? Sign on to the support letter here.
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