SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Alcohol, cannabis and tobacco are being delivered to some homeless isolating or quarantining in San Francisco hotel rooms.

The city’s health department defends the program as a way to keep COVID-19 positive addicts indoors.

KRON4’s Maureen Kelly talked to a formerly homeless addict turned advocate who is concerned the city is blurring the line between harm reduction and enabling.

“He said they were bringing him alcohol and weed,” Thomas Wolf says.

Wolf says he heard about the city’s practice of delivering booze, cannabis, and cigarettes to those in quarantine or isolation from a man he knew back when he was living on the street. He said the friend told him that he got the delivery while in one of the hotels being used to house the homeless or marginally housed people either infected with COVID-19 – or exposed and waiting for test results.

As a recovering alcoholic and addict, Wolf said this practice concerns him.

“Has he been examined by a medical professional or were they just asked a series of questions? Because if it was me and I was addicted, I would answer yes to everything,” Wolf said. “Yes I want everything, yes I’m a heroin addict, yes I’m an alcoholic, yes I need weed for anxiety and boom there you go. To me that’s blurring the lines between harm addiction and enabling.”

The Department of Public Health says everyone who comes to the hotel housing program is screened multiple times by health professionals and social workers to determine what substances they would be uncomfortable without and offered support and counseling if they want to try and quit.

The goal is to make sure infected people stay inside and away from others.

“Our focus is using the best evidence to help people manage their addiction and in some cases, this will include helping to manage their alcohol use and their nicotine years so they can stay safe and in place as much as possible to help their community and to help themselves,” Dr. Grant Colfax said.

They have arranged for delivery of prescribed opioid replacement drugs like methadone and in a handful of cases so far — helped facilitate patients in buying medical, not recreational, cannabis.

Private donations, not tax payer dollars are underwriting the purchase of tobacco products and booze for some. But DPH says the alcohol is for those who would get the shakes without it and they are given the minimum medically appropriate amount with meals.  

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