Homeless people battling addiction while living in San Francisco’s hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic will be administered “limited quantities” of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco, the city said this week. This is an action being taken in the interest of harm reduction.

In a statement that was reported by SFGATE, the San Francisco Department of Health confirmed the practice, saying that doing so helps keep the addicts in isolation and, thus, prevents the potential spread of the coronavirus. 

“Managed alcohol and tobacco use makes it possible to increase the number of guests who stay in isolation and quarantine and, notably, protects the health of people who might otherwise need hospital care for life-threatening alcohol withdrawal,” the statement said, as reported by SFGATE.

“Many isolation and quarantine guests tell us they use substances daily, and this period in our care has allowed some people to connect for the first time with addiction treatment and harm reduction therapy,” the statement continued. 

The agency has also administered methadone to individuals suffering from opioid addiction.

Homelessness, Addiction, and Coronavirus

The publication reported that San Francisco has “undertaken a major effort to house people experiencing homelessness amid the coronavirus pandemic and has established a number of alternative housing options, including private hotels, congregate sites, trailers, and recreational vehicles.” By Thursday, according to SFGATE, “the city has placed more than 700 people living on the streets in housing, and more rooms are being prepared.”

Although the dangers posed to addicts by withdrawals are well-documented, many observers were stunned and outraged by the practice, prompting the city’s department of health to clear up confusion on Twitter.

“These harm reduction based practices, which are not unique to San Francisco, and are not paid for with taxpayer money, help guests successfully complete isolation and quarantine and have significant individual and public health benefits in the COVID-19 pandemic,” the agency said in a tweet directed at an individual who called the practice “wrong” and “enabling.”

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