Highlights for the Week Ending March 20, 2022
New Reporting Structure: After receiving community feedback on the public data regarding the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative, the City released a revised reporting structure in early March. The new reports replaced the original seven priority areas with eight goals, which are listed below in the dashboard. However, the new reporting structure does not address the most significant criticism of the City’s data. The City continues to release data on its activities – showing what the City is doing in the Tenderloin – but the data does not reveal whether the City is actually succeeding in achieving its goals.
Overdose Crisis: The main justification for launching the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative was to address the City's epidemic of overdose deaths. The third goal is to eliminate widespread public drug usage. The new reports present data on visits to the Linkage Center. This means that the City is acknowledging that the Linkage Center is serving as a safe consumption site where the staff will treat people who overdose. The sixth goal is to reduce fatal and non-fatal overdoses. The number of 911 medical calls has declined from 340 during the week of January 16 to 288 in the latest report, representing a drop of more than 15%. Since the start of the Tenderloin initiative, the City has distributed 1,280 does of Naloxone and reversed 76 overdoses.
Drug Sales: The first goal is to reduce drug sales and violent crime. Since the start of the Tenderloin initiative, total calls for police service have declined from 1,336 for the week ending January 23 to 1,221 for the week ending March 20, representing a drop of more than 8%. Since January, the police have made 158 arrests for drug sales or possession with the intent to sell, although the reports do not indicate whether the defendants were successfully prosecuted or released. Seizures of drugs have dropped significantly in recent weeks. The police seized a high of 2,479 grams of narcotics during the week of Feburary 20 but only 343 grams during the week of March 20.
Exits from Street Sleeping: The second goal of the Tenderloin initiative is to reduce street sleeping and homelessness. Since the start of the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative, the City has helped 530 people in the Tenderloin exit street sleeping -- 522 into shelter and 8 through the Homeward Bound program. The City's ability to end street sleeping in the Tenderloin depends on having enough shelter and housing for all of the people in need. While this level of activity is significant, it is not clear whether the City is succeeding on this goal because the City does not report data on how many people in the Tenderloin are still unsheltered.
Outreach: The eighth goal is to increase access to behavioral health services. A footnote in the report for the week ending February 20 stated that “[d]ata gathered for Tier 2 Service Connections in previously OPs is being reviewed for accuracy in accordance with a digital data gathering methodology implemented in OP 10.” Since then, this new methodology has produced significantly lower numbers of "meaningful engagements" -- conversations about services that did not lead to a referral -- and "referrals" -- conversations in which the client expressed an intention to connect to a service. Since making these changes in methodology, the data for both meaningful engagements and referrals to services have been significantly lower than for prior weeks. For example, since the start of the Tenderloin initiative, the Linkage Center has made 30 referrals for mental health care and 78 referrals for substance use treatment. These numbers are relatively small compared to the need for these services among the Tenderloin's residents. Moreover, the City's data on referrals does not indicate whether the client actually received the recommended service.
Street Conditions: The fourth goal is to increase safe passage and accessibility. The City's data regarding this goal, such as the number of sidewalks and streetlights that have been repaired, or the number of street interactions conducted by Urban Alchemy, do not actually measure whether street conditions are improving. The fifth goal is to ensure cleaner sidewalks and streets. The City reports data on the amount of trash removed and the number of power washings conducted, but, again, there is no direct measure of street cleanliness.