Glen Park killing spurs call for hearing on COVID-19 impacts on mental health services

Supervisor Mandelman says pandemic has made it harder for city to help homeless, struggling


San Francisco Examiner, June 3, 2020

By Bay City News


A San Francisco supervisor on Tuesday called for a hearing on how the COVID-19 pandemic has addressed the city’s response to the behavioral health needs of unhoused people following the killing of a 94-year-old Glen Park resident by a homeless man last week.


Leo Hainzl died after being attacked while walking his dog around 8:15 a.m. on Memorial Day in the first block of Elk Street. Police said Peter Rocha, 53, was found nearby and arrested shortly afterward.


Supervisor Rafael Mandelman at Tuesday’s board meeting said Hainzl’s death “is all the more tragic because it feels like it was preventable,” saying the accused assailant was known to neighbors and merchants who had called the police repeatedly about Rocha’s aggressive behavior.


Mandelman said Hainzl, who had once spent time in a World War II resettlement camp in Germany and had lived on Sussex Street in the Glen Park neighborhood since 1967, was well-known there, making repairs to his house, frequently going on walks and reminding neighbors to move their cars on street cleaning days.


The supervisor said a succession of mayors and Boards of Supervisors in San Francisco have struggled to address the mental health needs of the city’s unhoused population, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.


“The behavioral health status quo is not acceptable,” Mandelman said.


The hearing, which will be scheduled at a later date, will allow the city’s Department of Public Health and other relevant departments to discuss how the pandemic has complicated their work with the city’s homeless.


Mandelman said the financial impact of the pandemic will only hinder San Francisco’s ability to help the homeless, since the city is also now facing a large budget deficit as a result of the crisis.


State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who previously represented the district that Mandelman now represents, last week wrote on Twitter about Hainzl’s death.


“Leo Hainzl didn’t have to die & shouldn’t have died. His death is an indictment of a system that doesn’t take needed steps to ensure severely mentally ill & addicted people on our streets get the help they need – even if that help is compelled,” Wiener wrote.

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