Residents at the community meeting to discuss a proposal to open a community Hummingbird on Valencia St. Photo by Loi Almeron.

Frustrated neighbors packed Monday’s community meeting to discuss a proposal to convert the vacated Salvation Army location on Valencia Street into a Hummingbird Place, a 24-hour behavioral health respite center for homeless people, for the next three to five years.

“I find it shocking that I’m hearing about this today,” a resident named Kristen said. “Why the hell weren’t people in this neighborhood informed of this?” She added that she only found out about the proposal through the neighborhood app, NextDoor.

About 120 people attended the community meeting at 1156 Valencia St., spearheaded by the Department of Public Health. The meeting is part of the city’s process to move forward with its proposal to lease the property owned by The Salvation Army and turn it into a 30-bed community Hummingbird.

“I don’t think anyone in this neighborhood disputes whether or not this is a good program,” Kristen said.

“Everybody in this room is not a monster and everybody in this room absolutely believes that we need to help people who are homeless,” said Kurt, another neighbor aid. “We all think that. No one thinks otherwise.”

“I came here excited,” one resident said. “But you’re not here to address our needs.”

Instead, residents made it clear that they felt the department was pressing a big proposal on them without adequately informing them of what was going on ahead of time.

Even after The Salvation Army, PRC/Baker Places, and the Department of Public Health presented on the behavioral health respite program, the room was filled with confusion, especially after community members found out that they are only being given three weeks to share comments and concerns regarding the proposal. That proposal will be presented at the Health Commission meeting on March 3.

“This is shameful,” another resident said. “You didn’t give us enough time for this.”

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced a resolution last week to approve to authorize the Department of Public Health to lease the Salvation Army property for $404,000 per year for a three-year term, with the possibility of two one-year extensions.

The Department of Public Health plans to open the Hummingbird Place later this spring.

“There’s a citywide imperative to find places for folks to come off the streets,” Mandelman said. “Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed that there are other supervisors who are accommodating hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of folks coming into neighborhoods.”

According to the Department of Public Health’s presentation last night, 370 people are experiencing homelessness in District 8, as of its January 2019 point-in-time count.

In Mayor London Breed’s 1,000-shelter-bed initiative this year, there are currently no shelter beds available or planned in District 8. This psychiatric respite, however, is on the border of District 9, which includes many of the city’s resources for the homeless. 

“If we’re actually gonna solve this, we’re gonna have to find not just this,” Mandelman said. “This is not the last [District 8] spot.”

As the property lies close to the border of District 9, some residents said that there seems to be a lack of “due diligence” to inform and include District 9 in the planning process.

Kelly Hiramoto, project manager from the Department of Public Health, said that the respite center will prioritize referrals of homeless residents who are from the neighborhood. She also clarified that the center is for clients with behavioral health diagnoses who need a place to contemplate whether they want, or are ready, to enter into treatment and receive care.

“This Hummingbird intervention is something we know works,” said Dr. Mark Leary, a Mission resident who is also a psychiatrist working at the Psychiatric Emergency Services at San Francisco General Hospital. “We know that it allows us to engage people that are afraid to come into services and take that first step. It’s not easy but it’s been successful.”

Aside from feeling like they could have been “involved sooner,” another big concern that residents raised was on safety and security.

The proposal stated that it assures the community of a “24/7 on-site security” and that clients will be “escorted in and out” of the facility. It further includes a partnership with the San Francisco Police Department and a hotline for neighbors to report any onsite issues.

But residents worry about security outside the facility, citing instances of encampments and drug deals in the neighborhood.

Officials at the meeting told residents that crime generally decreases “around areas where facilities like this exist.”

Some residents shook their heads in disbelief.

“Could you share that data with us?” some asked. Officials from the Mayor’s Office said they will share the data to the public.

(Note: Officers from the Office of Mayor Breed was speaking of decrease in crime around Navigation Centers, which Hummingbird isn’t. “The comparison to the previous Hummingbird site is made even more difficult given that the previous site is operated out of SF General Hospital,” according to Andy Lynch, deputy communications director at the Mayor’s office.)

Mandelman said that at least one more community meeting about the proposal will be held before it is presented at the Health Commission meeting on March 3.

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20 Comments

  1. In this photo: a room full of white techies say they’re all for services for the homeless while at the exact same time fighting against those very services. Sorry you don’t get to say “We’re not monsters, we want services for the homeless” while preventing the creation of those services. That’s not compassion, it’s the cruelty of cowards who want to make life worse for the most vulnerable and avoid responsibility for the cruelty of it by virtue-signalling (fake) support for poor, old, addicted, mentally ill and un-housed people. (as long as someone else has to do it as far away from them as possible) It’s disgusting.

    Every one of you should pack your Away(tm) bags into your Tesla and get the f out of the
    City of St Francis. If you’re not going to be part of the solution, get out.

    1. How can you tell a techie from some other a health care worker or teacher or shop owner or activist? Certainly not by a pic.

    2. Wow, this is rich! Tech is responsible for homeless people’s substance abuse problems? No, sorry, that’s a choice THEY made. There are a multitude of services available in this city that can help an addict get clean, but it’s ultimately up to the individual to make the CHOICE to get clean. Many of these folks live this way because they WANT to live that lifestyle. To lay this at the feet of so-called ‘tech’ is lazy and you know it. Want someone to blame for the housing crisis? Blame real estate speculators, NIMBYs, Prop 13, and failed housing policy of the last 40 years. But this is typical SF—try and project how much of a ‘local’ you are and bemoan anything and everyone that doesn’t perfectly align with your utopian, unrealistic ideal vision of ‘what should be’. Maybe it’s you that should get out? I live a few feet from the proposed location, and I don’t have a problem with it. If it keeps Marlon from pulling guns and knives on folks then I’m all for it. Do you know Marlon? Probably not. Do you ever leave the house, keyboard warrior?

    3. First of all why does skin color matter? That’s a red flag.
      Second of all, there are 4 schools in the immediate vicinity.
      Just wait til they surprise you with a homeless center in your backyard.
      You’ll all be NIMBYs

    1. Are we looking at the same picture? I don’t see many young techies in the crowd – looks like the same bunch of white, boomer, house-poor, long time residents that block everything else around here in the name of local control and preserving the character of the community. Techies don’t go to community meetings..

      1. Agree with Dennis re: the photo, that’s not a crowd of techies. Lazy argument to throw all the problems at the feet of boogey-men techies. I agree it’s NIMBYism, but agree with Dennis that it’s a boomer crowd.

    2. This looks like mostly older people… Regardless I’m not sure it’s really possible to tell where somebody works just based on looking at them. Seems like you’re heavily stereotyping/projecting here.

  2. Did these people forget who and what they voted for? They voted for people whose number one priority is the homeless — not the taxpayers, not the voters, not anything else but the homeless. They create the incentives by giving the able and drug-addled alike taxpayer money directly – which they turn around and use on drugs since they don’t have to pay for rent, food, transportation, or smartphones. And they indirectly get every kind of free service under the sun by the NGOs, which are paid for, again, with taxpayer money. So save your tears, you are responsible for making your streets what they are.

    1. Marcos is exactly right. It is the progressives virtue signaling on a macro level. And when it comes down to accepting what you vote for, when it’s next door, then everyone has second thoughts.

      Also, isn’t it amazing that to open a restaurant or a laundry with beer, it takes months and months of community meetings, compromises, MOU’s, and mandated neighborhood notification, but the city can seemingly bring a mental health facility into the neighborhood as a fait accompli with nary a few weeks notice to the community.

      But fellow neighbors, the people here are already in the on the streets in the neighborhood, among us, with little to no shelter or care. I think that they–and we as a community–will be better off providing care and shelter and guidance.

  3. I was disappointed by this reporting. I don’t think it is accurate.

    The article ignores (or to be more generous: “completely downplays”) the fact that MOST neighbors at the meeting were supportive of the proposal. I suppose that the author sort of implied this by the one quote ““I don’t think anyone in this neighborhood disputes whether or not this is a good program,”” but that is quote is quite vague.

    There were a couple of loud NIMBYers who invoked unrelated, fear-inducing arguments (like being upset about gangs – what does that have to do with getting people with mental issues off the street?). But I was really surprised (and relieved) that most of the people there were very supportive – There were many clear and passionate comments in support of using this location to get house-less neighbors off the streets and into care (I would have liked to see one of the many who said this well quoted). I agree that some neighbors were frustrated by the lack of communication but almost all of them clearly stated (more clearly than the ambiguous quote that was cherry picked) that they support the project. It seems dishonest to report on only HALF of what they said.

    A more accurate headline for the article could have been “Community Supportive of Hummingbird Place on Valencia Street But Ask for More Transparency From City Leaders”. So Loi and ML editors, I really appreciate the local coverage but my suggestion/request: please try to be less sensational and more accurate with your reporting.

    1. as a non-techie present from the beginning to the very end of the meeting, I agree with Standish. ML got the reporting wrong. Almost all people that spoke, said “I support”. Many did have criticisms —- but those were mostly related to time between the press release (Feb 4, In the Chron) and when they learned of the meeting.

      The attendees also exhibited a great sense of community esprit and caring for people who have been suffering on the streets with addiction and trauma (made me proud to be there and realize the community can band together in assistance). Many also had great questions about the facility, how it will operate, how it will help with being respectful of those with businesses and/or who call the area home. The answers to those questions require more clarity — the plans were not made as specific as I would have liked. However, there was a promise for another public meeting, and a regular touchpoint with neighbors to see what’s working/what’s not, and a phone number to call when there are issues. Sooo, we need to hold the Mayors office and Dept of Public Health accountable.

      I particularly liked that the way people would ‘come into’ the respite center was by referral…from health professionals, the homeless outreach team, and from the local community. This last piece seems particularly helpful as you see and know and have the trust of many of the ‘regulars’. This is different from other facilities that require some strange algorithm in order to be prioritized, More details on how the referral process will work would be good.

  4. I live a block and a half from the proposed facility and went to the meeting.

    At best, this article is an incomplete take on what was discussed. Emphasizing the legit concerns expressed about i.e. safety without noting the many statements in support of the facility enables the uninformed comments made in response to your article. The room was not full of techies. I assume there were techies, but there were plenty of other occupations represented as people stated when introducing themselves.

    The room was full of quite a few white people, including myself. For the record, I am not a techie and think tech should be soaked and driven out of the Bay. There was an obvious lack of color in the room, but it was hardly a room full of white techies. If it helps, the main presenters included people who were not white.

    There were many people who spoke in favor of the facility. Most identified themselves as working in some capacity with homeless people or for organizations that provide services to homeless people.

    I fully agree that notice of the meeting was inadequate. I fully appreciate, again, the legit concerns about safety expressed by various people. I’ve lived in SF and NYC for over 30 years, including in neighborhoods that were flooded with dope. I really did go to school while stepping over bodies, some dead some not, with needles stuck in arms and blood trailing off into the gutter. No one wants that and no one wants children to see that.

    That is why I support the facility. People will be able to stay somewhere and hopefully sober up or get clean for long enough to make some healthy decisions. I’ve watched neighbors become homeless and descend into insanity. I assume that’s pretty common and comments to that effect were made at the meeting. My retired mother lives with me and I worry about her walking around the neighborhood, and the city, all the time. Recently, a female friend of mine, born and raised in SF, was clocked by a presumably homeless person having a breakdown at Market and Church. I don’t want any of this.

    There were no stats presented that show an increase in crime because of the presence of a facility like this. I’m guessing that the people who shook their heads in disbelief were looking at the handout from Nextdoor and/or crimemapping.com. Nextdoor is the hotbed of NIMBYism that people rail against. The stats have no substantive explanations. Wielding them is equivalent to saying homeless people live the high life because a useless NGO gave out some cell phones or drug use increases when you give people clean needles.

    I understand tech is here and that homeless people were here before tech. That said, tech and the politicians they buy have destroyed the Bay and made thousands and thousands of people homeless and/or at risk of being homeless. As long as their rampage continues, we’ll keep going to meetings and haggling over 29 beds, which, in the larger scheme of things, is nothing.

    1. Tech has brought millions in tax revenue to the city coffers that would otherwise not be there. The fact that the city is wasting this money instead of providing services is NOT tech’s fault. It’s the fault of the city and NIMBY’s.

      The city could erect tents in city parking lots and have paddy wagons driving around and offering services/beds/food. Put these tents in the cheapest part of town or even in another city if it saves enough money. Then drive folks to these locations. If these refuse service, then let them starve. Sorry, they are either grown adults and can make decisions for themselves, or they are mental children and should be forced to receive help. This would concentrate the care in a few areas which helps efficiency.

      If you truly care, you will FORCE help on these folks who obviously can’t help themselves. Make it illegal to panhandle and hand out tickets to the folks giving money to panhandlers. If they didn’t get so much cash everyday from the bleeding hearts, they would be forced to start working or maybe might seek help.

      It’s not Compassionate to give money to homeless folks. for many of them, you are feeding their drug habit making you just as bad as the drug dealers selling them the goods.

      Slobek is a Russian bot.

  5. People need to stop it with these knee-jerk worries about safety and security. “But residents worry about security outside the facility, citing instances of encampments and drug deals in the neighborhood.” The encampments and drug deals (? drug use?) are here already. Providing shelter doesn’t increase people camping or doing drugs in the vicinity. The navigation center at 26th and S. Van Ness was proof of that.

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