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Drug crisis: Massive rehab center proposed for downtown San Francisco

The Salvation Army has applied for a permit to turn a lot at 850 Harrison St. in San Francisco into an 8-story drug rehab facility. | Source: Courtesy Google Streetview

The Salvation Army has applied for a permit to build an eight-story drug rehabilitation center in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood for people who are recovering from drug addiction. 

The charity aims to demolish its property at 850 Harrison St. and replace it with a high-rise that would serve up to 220 people who have completed the first step of drug treatment. 

Currently, the lot houses a one-story commercial kitchen and parking lot where the Salvation Army trains homeless people in the culinary arts.

Part of the nonprofit’s the Way Out program, a fundraising initiative and treatment apparatus with the goal of expanding drug treatment access in San Francisco, the planned treatment program in SoMa is geared toward providing job assistance and eventually transitioning clients into independent living. 

The charity is lobbying the city to help fund the programs and others that it believes can help people recover from addiction. 

Darren Norton, a divisional commander with the Salvation Army, said the Harrison Street project project is in its very early stages.

“We’re exploring things with the city to see if it's something they would approve,” he said. “We don’t want to go to our donors and get them excited if it's not going to meet the city’s requirements for housing.”

Fatal overdoses are occurring at a record rate in San Francisco, with 473 people dying due to drugs over the first seven months of this year, according to preliminary data from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.

The planned rehabilitation center will not take people directly from the street who are homeless and suffering from addiction, Norton said. Rather, these will be people who have graduated from a treatment program and are now moving to extended supportive, transitional housing.

If approved and constructed, the facility will feature support, training and amenity spaces on the first two floors and the eighth floor. Floors 3 through 8 will feature five-bedroom, five-bathroom suites that can house 10 participants each. The participants will also share kitchen, dining and living spaces.

The planned complex will also include a two-bedroom guest suite, shared lounge and classroom space for the Salvation Army’s programs.

There will also be a commercial teaching kitchen on the ground floor, which the Way Out plans to use for its culinary program. Most of the building’s roof will feature solar panels.

The SoMa neighborhood is home to a large number of drug treatment, homeless services and low-income housing complexes. 

This has led to pushback from some locals who believe the neighborhood is being forced to shoulder too much of the burden of addressing San Francisco’s most pressing issues.

At the same time, the proposed project would be located just a stone's throw from other Salvation Army facilities, including its South of Market Corps Community Center and the Silvercrest Residence, an affordable apartment complex that reserves 40% of its units for low-income seniors.