Response to Mayor’s Tenderloin Plan

Dear GLIDE Community,

Mayor London Breed has declared an unprecedented State of Emergency in the Tenderloin, a bold step with the intention of disrupting illegal activity and making the Tenderloin a safer, more livable place for the families who call the neighborhood home. At GLIDE, we appreciate the intention behind this effort because we know strong leadership and radical solutions are needed to revitalize the Tenderloin and protect all of its residents.

If this initiative is to have any chance of success, its anti-crime fervor must be matched with an equally strong commitment to the underlying causes that are perpetuating destitution and crime in the Tenderloin. In other words, the antidote to what we are seeing on Tenderloin streets cannot be a war simply on violence, crime, and drugs. It must be a war on poverty, homelessness, addiction and mental illness that takes on those things we have not yet gotten right as a city – the solutions required for lasting transformation of human lives, as well as the systemic changes necessary to stop the endless flow of new people into our lines and onto the streets.

At GLIDE, we see the challenging realities of the Tenderloin every day. We are painfully and acutely aware that violence and despair have escalated in the Tenderloin. Layered underneath are the devastating health and economic impacts of the pandemic and the pre-existing crises of unaffordable housing, food insecurity, poverty, addiction and lack of opportunity. Combined, the TL can feel unlivable – for everyone.

Anchored in the Tenderloin for nearly 100 years, GLIDE has been witness to countless efforts to eradicate the poor, unhoused, mentally ill, addicted and marginalized from our streets with no permanent or lasting effect other than perpetuating trauma. The violence, crime, and drug use we are seeing today are dangerous symptoms of deeper systemic and institutionalized inequities – and they need systemic solutions that go well beyond basic services. These are not simply actions of individuals who have lost their way, but the widespread effect of our neighbors being excluded from actively participating in San Francisco’s social safety net.

We agree that immediate solutions, dedicated resources, and a collective focus on the Tenderloin are required. However, this approach must be anchored in what data and experience tell us will be effective for both the immediate and long-term: a two-tiered approach that changes both people and systems. First is the coordinated and customized continuum of care and services (that actually work), coupled with access to safe and dedicated housing that is required to transform individual lives. Second is the systemic change to laws, policies, practices, funding and institutions that are failing those most in need and perpetuating poverty, inequity and homelessness in our city.

San Francisco has a historic opportunity to marshal and focus its tremendous resources to address the many issues plaguing the Tenderloin. GLIDE is already on the frontlines every day helping hundreds of families, seniors, unhoused, and mentally unwell to emerge from crisis, get off the streets and transform their lives for good. While we are increasingly focused on systems and changing laws, policies and institutions that drive inequity, the scale and scope of the problems in the Tenderloin go well beyond what any one agency can do alone. GLIDE is actively increasing our efforts to help more people in crisis, and we remain ready to collaborate with the City and our community partners to help design and deliver coordinated, humane, and equitable solutions.

Throughout the pandemic, the people of the Tenderloin and the City of San Francisco have turned to GLIDE and we have been here to help. While that commitment remains, our mission to serve the most vulnerable in our city is our guiding compass. We stand unequivocally with the Tenderloin, and the city’s most marginalized, and we will continue to do so always and unconditionally.

In solidarity,

Karen Hanrahan
President & CEO, GLIDE
(@KarenJHanrahan) · Twitter