SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Teams of street outreach ambassadors are sent into San Francisco’s roughest neighborhoods daily where extreme poverty, mental illness, homelessness, and crippling drug addictions are rampant.

The teams, organized by Urban Alchemy, reversed 138 drug overdoses in the city within the past 12 months, according to the nonprofit’s one-year impact report released Thursday.

Ninety-six percent of Urban Alchemy’s staff are people who previously experienced homelessness or incarceration. Hundreds of the nonprofit’s staff members spent the past year walking block to block throughout the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods helping people in crisis.

About 7,000 San Francisco residents are currently experiencing homelessness, according to Urban Alchemy’s data. The nonprofit says it is transforming people and places through respect and compassion.

(Image courtesy Urban Alchemy)

“Love, compassion, and respect heal communities. As we expand our services, so will our positive impact,” said Dr. Lena Miller, CEO of Urban Alchemy. “Our Practitioners are on the streets every day helping our most vulnerable, and our latest impact report demonstrates the efficacy of our work.”

From March 2022 to March 2023, Urban Alchemy’s street teams facilitated:

  • 1,318,742 positive engagements (1-3 minute engagements with neighbors to build positive relationships and serve as a community connector.)
  • 328,811 inviting space interventions (Interventions with neighbors or residents to invite them to participate in creating a safe and inviting public space for all. Practitioners make good faith efforts to interrupt anti-social behavior in the service area, including but not limited to public urination/defecation/drug use, littering, and general noise disturbances.)
  • 48,910 de-escalation interventions (Practitioners assist with relational and other interventions to help contain mental health episodes and/or prevent or interrupt street violence.)
  • 138 overdose reversals
  • 82,870 littered drug needle disposals
  • 44,213 trash bags filled with garbage
  • 2,010 responses to 311 requests
  • 259 responses to 911 requests

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to extend the organization’s contract to continue serving and improving the Tenderloin and Mid Market neighborhoods. Urban Alchemy’s contract will now run through the end of December 2023 and allow the organization to hire 20 more ambassadors to serve in and around UN Plaza.

Urban Alchemy provides essential services through respectful and compassionate community engagement, safe sleeping sites, hygiene service, and street cleaning.

The nonprofit is also launching an all women-led program, LOVE (Leading Outreach with Value & Engagement), for connecting women and families with services and support. LOVE will focus specifically on the urgent needs of women — whose trauma often includes domestic and sexual abuse.

“Urban Alchemy is an important partner in our public safety strategies to make our neighborhoods more welcoming and safe for residents, workers, and visitors,” said Mayor London Breed. “They work tirelessly every single day to serve the Tenderloin and Mid-Market communities while treating everyone with dignity and respect. Urban Alchemy is creating career pathways for people who are often counted out.”