San Francisco Slammed For Spending Millions Of Dollars For Vodka And Beer For Homeless Alcoholics
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 28: Homeless encampment and homeless people are seen in Tenderloin District of San Francisco, California, United States on August 28, 2023.
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

San Francisco is spending around $5 million a year to give vodka shots and glasses of beer to homeless people with severe alcohol addiction in an effort to cut down on calls to police and hospital stays, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The city’s “managed alcohol program” started during the COVID pandemic, but came under fire earlier this week after Adam Nathan, the chair of the Salvation Army San Francisco Advisory Board, posted a thread on X, saying he “stumbled upon the building where they have this program.”

“The location is an old hotel in SOMA,” Nathan wrote. “Inside the lobby, they had … kegs set up to taps where they were basically giving out free beer to the homeless who’ve been identified with AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder).”

Nathan said that while “some limited studies” on the strategy have shown “some promise,” he’s concerned about the amount of money the city is spending on the program and the way the program is set up, adding, “people in the program just walk in and grab a beer, and then another one. All day.”

Nathan said the city spends $2 million a year on the program, but the Chronicle reported that the “managed alcohol program” now costs San Francisco around $5 million a year. The city’s Department of Public Health says the program has served 55 clients and has grown from 10 beds to 20 beds, located in a former hotel in the Tenderloin district, an area known for its high rates of homelessness and drug use.

Shannon Smith-Bernardin, a UCSF School of Nursing professor who helped create the controversial program, argued that the goal of the program is to stabilize the alcohol use of the homeless addicts “so they’re not binge drinking or stopping drinking and having seizures,” according to the Chronicle. The San Francisco Fire Department said the program “has proven to be an incredibly impactful intervention” at reducing emergency service use for a “small but highly vulnerable population.”

In a 2020 article explaining the program, the California Health Care Foundation wrote, “Established in countries such as Canada and Australia, a managed alcohol program is usually administered by a nurse and trained support staff in a facility such as a homeless shelter or a transitional or permanent home, and is one method to minimize harm for those with alcohol use disorder,” Fox News reported.

“By prescribing limited quantities of alcohol, the model aims to prevent potentially life-threatening effects of alcohol withdrawal, such as seizures and injuries,” the California Health Care Foundation added.


Other “harm reduction” programs run by the city for drug addicts have been criticized, including by Democratic Mayor London Breed who said in February that they are “not reducing the harm” and “making things far worse.” A man who is in recovery for heroin addiction also slammed “harm reduction” programs, telling the Chronicle, “Are we just going to manage people’s addictions with our taxpayer dollars in perpetuity forever? It seems like that’s basically what we’re saying … I think we should be spending that money on detox and recovery.”

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