San Francisco’s Taxpayer-Funded Program Provides Alcohol To Homeless Alcoholics

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health is running a pilot program that provides free beer and vodka shots to homeless alcoholics at taxpayer expense. The “Managed Alcohol Program” serves regimented doses of alcohol to voluntary participants with alcohol addiction in an effort to keep them off the streets and relieve the city’s emergency services.

The program, which started with 10 beds during the COVID-19 pandemic, has since been expanded into a 20-bed program that operates out of a former hotel in Tenderloin with a $5 million annual budget. Nurses provide clients with a motel room three meals a day and enough alcohol “to meet their addiction needs but keeping someone at a safe level of intoxication” according to Alice Moughamian the Nurse Manager of the program.

Critics wonder if the government would be better off funding treatment and sobriety programs instead. “Providing free drugs to drug addicts doesn’t solve their problems. It just stretches them out. Where’s the recovery in all this?” said Adam Nathan CEO of an AI company and chair of the Salvation Army San Francisco.

But San Francisco health officials say the program has saved $1.7 million over six months in reduced hospital visits and police calls made by participants who previously heavily relied on emergency services. The San Francisco Fire Department has also spoken positively about the program stating it “has proven to be an incredibly impactful intervention” at reducing emergency service use for a “small but highly vulnerable population.”