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New Tenderloin Linkage Center nears opening as doubts remain about emergency measures

The imminent launch of the “Linkage Center” in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood became apparent Friday as workers in UN Plaza were seen erecting a fence around the building at 1170 Market St.

The facility, which is scheduled to open in mid-January, will serve up to 100 clients suffering from drug addiction and mental distress, according to city officials. The site is inside the mayor’s new exclusion zone that strictly prohibits street vending in the area and is across the street from a safe sleeping village that was sanctioned under the COVID-19 emergency declaration. 

When opened, the site will offer essential services such as access to food, water, hygiene resources, and a referral system for specialized rehabilitation programs and supportive resources. 

For drug users in the area, the initiation of the site could offer a much-needed opportunity to get clean.  

Kenny Mckinnon, a resident in the Tenderloin, said he lost his job during the initial Covid outbreak after being sober for six years. He fell back into a habit of using opioids. Since then he has been unable to kick his addiction, but he said the linkage center could provide him with valuable resources. 

“If I were to walk in there today, and if I can get into an outpatient through them, I would jump on it so quick,” Mckinnon said. 

Mayor London Breed touted several data points last week as part of the “broader” efforts to improve conditions in the Tenderloin. But a closer look at the numbers her office provided showed many of the initiatives were already underway before the mayor’s emergency declaration. 

The lack of follow through has drawn the ire of some Tenderloin organizers who are eager to see results after the mayor held a string of press conferences promising immediate interventions last month. 

Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, told The Standard that his staff drove around the neighborhood twice on Thursday and saw “huge numbers of dealers but no police.” 

“The overwhelming concern of people in the Tenderloin was the drug dealing and we need to see action on that,” Shaw said. “I think it’s really important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that the linkage center was never part of the demands of families.”

Breed indicated during a press conference on Wednesday that 132 SFPD officers were missing work due to COVID. 

“Our workforce is stretched but they are holding through this surge to provide the services that our residents need,” Breed said.

James Wyatt contributed to this report.

David Sjostedt can be reached at