By Alan R. Beach-Nelson, President
As previously reported in the Eureka! Castro Cares is a coalition of neighborhood groups, businesses, social service and city programs coming together to improve the quality of life for those living on the street and those who live, work, shop & play in the Castro. Castro Cares is concerned about these issues:
People with serious mental illness/drug addiction on the streets
Increase in mostly non-violent crime, drug dealing & petty theft
An increase in bad behavior, public drunkenness, rowdiness and lack of respect for the area from late-night partiers
We, in collaboration with the City of San Francisco and its Police Department, Patrol Special Police and Department of Public Health, are developing locally controlled, long-term, sustainable solutions to these concerns. Castro Cares is a two-year pilot program to fund added compassionate help to those living on the street and additional hours of police patrols, paid for and supervised by Castro Cares.
A key component of Castro Cares that we believe will lead to success is a dual approach outreach to those in need, and increased police presence with a foot patrol like those in days gone-by.
Winter Holiday Soft Launch:
Through an $8,875 contribution from the Castro Community Benefit District the program had a soft-launch in December. It was an amazing success.
On the outreach front:
One hundred care packages consisting of two pairs of socks and toiletries, and a $6 Subway card were distributed to those in need by our dedicated outreach worker. The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District funded the packages, and local volunteer Bob Burnside assembled them for us. Going forward, The Apothecarium is planning on funding this key component to our compassionate outreach.
Further, Castro Cares brought the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) into the coalition early. Due to this collaboration, DPH has funded 4 hours a week of HOT workers dedicated to the Castro/Upper Market beginning in September. Over the past four months these HOT workers have engaged with 74 individuals, 4 people were referred to shelter, 1 person was placed in a room, and 9 were referred to other services and 4 were referred to the LGBTQ Project Homeless Connect. This population typically has a resistance to authority so these numbers are quite impressive, in fact of the 74 people engaged, only 33 resisted assistance.
On the Enforcement Front:
You may have noticed an added police presence in the neighborhood through the month of December. The Castro CBD funded 64 hours of overtime police (known as 10B) on foot patrol throughout the district. Sixteen four hour shifts were staffed in the early evening, 5 to 9PM or late at night, 11PM to 3AM random dates and times from December 8 to December 27. Patrols are divided evenly between Market Street east of Sanchez to Octavia, and West of Sanchez to Diamond and the Castro District - see map.
The holiday program started on Monday December 8th for a 5 – 9PM shift. According to Andrea Aiello, executive director, Castro/Upper Market CBD, "The officer’s first order of business was to call the EMT for an injured homeless man. This is exactly what we are looking for with Castro Cares, to improve the quality of life for all residents (housed, not/marginally housed) and for those who work and play here."
The soft launch of the added enforcement resulted in over 41 citations and warnings on just 9 of the shifts ranging from infractions for verbal assault, trespassing, shoplifting among others. As this was a soft launch we did have some data collection issues that are being worked on.
As the Program Unfolds:
The Castro Cares beat officers will be conducting community outreach and will focus particularly on these types of issues that affect us all:
Late-night rowdy or violent behavior
Bike riding and skateboarding on the sidewalk
Public open-container and substance use/abuse
People going through city and personal/merchant trash cans creating a mess.
To ensure that the 10B officers know the neighborhood and are sensitive to the diverse community in the Castro/Upper Market, Castro Cares requested that the officers all be drawn from Mission Station.
Key Component for Success:
The fully implemented Castro Cares program will provide 95 hours a week of added enforcement and outreach work. The full cost of the Program is over $360,000 per year.
Supervisor Wiener has championed Castro Cares and was able to allocate $100,000 a year for two years in the city budget. The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District is also contributing $15,000 and has secured an additional $15,000 in grants. That leaves $220,000 left to be raised in the community for OUR community.
To succeed, Castro Cares is dependent on YOUR participation AND contributions. Fundraising for Castro Cares began in December and we are pleased that we have already raised $150,000 from grants, business and resident contributions. However, $200,000 is still needed to fully implement the program.
WE NEED YOUR PARTICIPATION: To donate and to learn more go to: www.castrocares.org
With everyone’s involvement, Castro Cares will be a success and it will improve the quality of life for everyone who lives, works, shops and plays in the Castro.
Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association is a charter member of Castro Cares and has played a leadership role in its development.