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San Francisco stabbing: Social workers need more protection, union says

People walk past The Windsor, a single-room occupancy hotel at 238 Eddy St. | Source: Google Street View

Two days after a social worker was stabbed at a residential hotel in San Francisco’s rough-and-tumble Tenderloin neighborhood, his union is accusing the city of not doing enough to prevent the attack.

“Adding to the tragedy of the attack itself is a travesty: It was preventable,” Theresa Rutherford, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said in a statement.

The victim of the stabbing was a social worker for San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, who has not been named. He was providing services at the Windsor, a single-room occupancy hotel on Eddy Street, on Wednesday when a resident attacked them with a knife.

READ MORE: Man Arrested After Stabbing at Residential Hotel in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

But the stabbing did not come out of the blue, according to Rutherford. 

As far back as Aug. 15, the suspect, later identified as 27-year-old Oscar Chatman, had made threats against the employee, which were reported to the homelessness department, she said.

“Management took no action to ensure his or his coworkers’ safety,” Rutherford said. “This is simply unacceptable.”

A spokesperson for the department said she could not comment on personnel matters.

Shortly after the attack on Wednesday, police detained Chatman and recovered the knife allegedly used in the attack. He was booked the following morning on suspicion of attempted murder, vandalism and second-degree burglary.

Chatman remains in custody as of Friday and has not appeared in court for arraignment. 

According to union president Rutherford, the attack highlights the dangers faced by its members, who are on “the front lines of some of the biggest issues facing this city: homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse” and have been reporting safety concerns for years.

For this reason, the union has been requesting increased security for high-risk workplaces, particularly in the Tenderloin and the South of Market neighborhoods, Rutherford said in the statement. So far, the only result has been signs posted about penalties for assaulting a city worker.

“It is crucial that the city recognize that the high-risk, high-stress nature of these working conditions contribute greatly to its staffing crisis,” she added, “which also makes the jobs less safe.”