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The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper

What Happened to San Francisco? Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 14, 2023 - 20:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Sara Sidner, thank you very much. We're all going to be watching.

Be sure to tune in all new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY" with Anderson Cooper. One whole hour, one whole topic. That is next.

If you haven't called your mother yet, please call your mother right now and wish her a Happy Mother's Day. I got to see my mom Barb earlier today. We had lunch. It was terrific. But please call your mom.

That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. Have a great night and a great week, everybody. Happy Mother's Day.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Welcome to THE WHOLE STORY. I'm Anderson Cooper.

Tonight brings us to one of the most beautiful and progressive cities in America. It's a city known as much for its social activism as it is for its wealth and innovation, particularly in the tech world. It's home to the highest number of billionaires per capita in the country. But it's also one of the least affordable places to live.

It's San Francisco. The city some say is in steep decline because of crime, homelessness and drug use. More people died from drug overdoses in this city during the COVID pandemic than from the virus itself.

CNN's Sara Sidner heads to the Bay Area, a place she once called her home to show us what it looks like now and find out what happened to San Francisco.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): So when I first laid eyes on San Francisco, I was enchanted. From where I am right now, driving over the Bay Bridge, and it looked like someone had taken an enormous vat of fog and just continuously poured it over the hills, like dry ice being poured over a perfectly sculpted city on a stage. And then you get down into the city and you meet these glorious human characters.

And you get to experience the micro climates and the terrifyingly steep hills that make the city an adventure. Then there's the glorious bridges that sit in the bay and welcome you in to the shining city on a hill. The endlessly diverse neighborhoods, from Chinatown, to the Mission, to the Italian enclave of North Beach, to the pristine presidio, which gives the city its lungs, and down to the Pacific, that rests below, inviting you in, and then biting your skin with its ice-cold touch.

This city was endlessly magic. And I loved this city. I mean, truly loved the city. And I still do. It's just that it hurts to see what's happened to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crisis of homelessness in America has reached a shocking level in San Francisco.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The drugs attract them, the no punishment kind of attitude, and then the resources make them want to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The video showing a group of kids getting off a Muni bus as they try to navigate their way through an entire block of open drug use.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Shoplifting in San Francisco is forcing stores to close. And the thieves, some of the most brazen you will see.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mobs of looters storming and ransacking high- end stores in the San Francisco area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unprovoked attacks on elderly Asians in San Francisco.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One elderly man was violently pushed to the ground, and he died. Why are people feeling empowered that they can do this with impunity?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Crime, staffing shortages, and police response times are all getting worse. What will it take for the city to change?

SIDNER: You really have been a fixture of this town for many, many decades. Three plus you are a columnist with "The San Francisco Chronicle." I think you once said San Francisco in the Bay Area exists so that other people can talk.


SIDNER: About this.

MATIER: That's what I said. What's the purpose here? It's to give people and the rest of the country something to talk about. So for years it was kind of fun, it was cutting edge, it was revolutionary, whether it was gay rights, you name it, we had it. Lately however the stories haven't been on that sort of upbeat fun level that they were before.

The problem is unsafe sex.

SIDNER (voice-over): Phil Matier is one of the most watched and read journalists in this town.

(On-camera): Right outside her bathroom window.

(Voice-over): That was the case back when I was a San Francisco Bay Area reporter at KTVU in the early 2000s. And it still holds true today.

MATIER: San Francisco has always been a boom-bust city. It was built by the 49ers who came here looking for gold. Well, now we have the tech boom.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: San Francisco is the global headquarters of big tech.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're in your 20s, 30s, you want to live in a vibrant environment. There's a lot more cultural diversity, a lot more, frankly, to do in San Francisco.

There has never been a time when the world's economy depended so much on the ideas and the work product that comes out of one location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest problem, they say, is that young, well- paid tech workers are taking up a disproportionate share of the housing and driving up already astronomical real estate prices.

SIDNER (on-camera): I'm going to read you some of the headlines that we have seen about San Francisco in the last couple of years. Decaying. Crime-ridden hellhole. No one or no place is safe in San Francisco. And lastly, a failed city. Is San Francisco a failed city?

MATIER: No, but it's no longer at the top of the class. It could become a failed city. It could become a city that made too many wrong turns. It's been a constant evolution. This latest, however, convergence on tech, the crash in tech, the COVID, the working remotely has changed the entire character of the city.

What we have are these offices, huge, massive office complexes that are empty. They're, in effect, the empty gold mine shafts because the miners have moved away. And what do you do with an empty shaft?

SIDNER: When you walk around the city, what do you see? Especially downtown.

MATIER: What you see is a lot of empty storefronts. You see empty offices, and you see tents. Added into this mix, however, is something that we're seeing across the country that is just like an acid corrosive, and that's fentanyl. You put homelessness, mentally ill, and fentanyl together, and it's worse than the third world. Because it's right under the shadow of the rich and the powerful, and it is not only tolerated until recently it was almost ignored in San Francisco.

SIDNER: It used to be in this city everyone worried about the earthquake, the big one shaking this city apart. But residents now say that's changed. It turns out that COVID, homelessness, drug overdoses, ideology, and policy is what's shaken this city up in the worst way. You know, there were more deaths due to drug overdoses during the height of the pandemic than COVID deaths.

MAYOR LONDON BREED, SAN FRANCISCO: It's time that the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end. And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement, more aggressive with the changes in our policies, and less tolerant of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city.

SIDNER (voice-over): Mayor London Breed is a native San Franciscan. She lived in public housing, attended public schools, and is the first black woman to hold the city's top office. Alumni include Senator Dianne Feinstein and Governor Gavin Newsom.

(On-camera): When you declared the state of emergency you said we have to be less tolerant of all the bullshit that has happened in the city.


SIDNER: What did you mean by bullshit?

BREED: It had a lot to do with the fact that we had people who were selling drugs all over a particular neighborhood in broad daylight, and people who were shooting up in broad daylight, and nothing was really being done.

SIDNER: At one point, there were far more deaths due to drug overdoses than there were COVID deaths.


SIDNER: In this city.


SIDNER: Why is it the drug problem being treated like the epidemic that it is? The emergency that it is, similar to COVID.

BREED: I pushed to declare a state of emergency in San Francisco. Looking at the data of what was happening as it relates to the number of people who were dying from overdoses, and, in fact, the emergency declaration was really about trying to not only staff up aggressively, but more importantly, to set up the kinds of structures that we need in order to make sure we're there to provide services, including a linkage center that we opened that was supposed to be used as a place to help transition people into treatment on demand, help, and services and support.

JACQUI BERLIN, MOTHERS AGAINST DRUG ADDICTION AND DEATHS: When the mayor declared a state of emergency and wanted to open a linkage center, I was really happy about it because I thought that's awesome. My son might be able to get some happy.


SIDNER (voice-over): This is Jacqui Berlin, mother to 32-year-old Cory. And Tanya Tilghman, mother of 23-year-old Roman. TANYA TILGHMAN, MOTHERS AGAINST DRUG ADDICTION AND DEATHS: When I got

out of the Bart Station, like the first thing that I was asked is if I wanted to buy drugs.

SIDNER: For years, they have both scoured these streets, searching for their sons, both of whom have struggled with addiction.

BERLIN: This is really heartbreaking. I'm going to go ask him if he's OK.

Hey, buddy, you OK? I have Narcan. I know you don't need it now. OK. He wants us to help him stand up. Where are you hurting?

TILGHMAN: Are you OK? This one's hurting?

BERLIN: Do you know Cory, Cory Sylvester? No? All right. I hope you get the help you need. Are you sure there's nothing we can do for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple of bucks always help.

SIDNER: They're part of the activist group Mothers Against Drug Addiction and Deaths.

TILGHMAN: What makes me so sad is like I see my son's face in everybody's face almost that I look at that's out on the street.

So this was when he was homeless. This is last year.

SIDNER (on-camera): When you look at this picture, you look into his eyes, you look at the state of him, what do you see?

TILGHMAN: I don't see my son.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tanya raised Roman here in this North Beach apartment. She says his addiction started in high school, first with prescription drugs, then cocaine, then meth, and ultimately fentanyl. Things with her son got so bad that she attempted suicide three times in her desperation.

TILGHMAN: I was really excited to hear that there was a place here in the Tenderloin that, you know, Roman could get help.

SIDNER: What started as a beacon of hope for so many soon swirled in controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Officials apparently aren't stopping people from doing drugs now in its recently opened center in the Tenderloin.

SIDNER (on-camera): Let me ask you about the Tenderloin Center. How did you get inside? And what did you see when you entered?

TILGHMAN: So I just had this idea of let me just go and get dressed up, and look like I'm homeless, and sound like I'm on drugs. On a Sunday morning I decided that I was going to go. And I said to them that I wanted to get off drugs and that I needed help. And you know they laughed at me. And the guy at the door said, we can help you do drugs. But if you want help getting off drugs, you're going to have to come back tomorrow.

SIDNER: Tanya, shut up.


SIDNER: Someone at the door of the Tenderloin linkage center --

TILGHMAN: Yes. If you want to come in -- yes. If you want to come in, you can do drugs. But if you want help, you can come back tomorrow. So I was like, OK, well, I have some drugs on me, but I don't have anything to use them with. And he was like, well, we have everything, but we don't have papers.

SIDNER: OK. I've got to tell you, my mind is blown.

TILGHMAN: You know, there's music, there's like rap music. There were people dancing. I saw a few people passed out. There was like a little tiny table, probably, you know, probably like about this big, with maybe some flyers on it. There's like a bulletin board, then they have kind of like an area where you can go and take a shower.

This is where I would have sent my son to go get help. And there's no way that he would have gotten help. Like the minute that he would have seen that, he would have wanted to use drugs. And forget about trying to get help. You should be arresting people for using illegal drugs. Not watching people use illegal drugs. That's almost saying -- almost legalizing it without really legalizing it.

SIDNER: The sort of conservative party politics has looked at San Francisco and said all the things you've said. Drugs out of control, people on the streets out of control, this is because of liberal or very, like, far-left progressive policies. Are they right?

TILGHMAN: Yes. Just look around.

SIDNER: I mean, that's saying something. This is San Francisco. Like everyone knows San Francisco is a liberal place. Has it gone too far, in your mind?

TILGHMAN: Yes, it's too far. And I'm liberal. We're like breaking laws left and right here.


SIDNER: Has your politics changed?

TILGHMAN: My politics have stayed the same, and things have gone crazy around me.

SIDNER (voice-over): Coming up, reports of out-of-control crime lead to a radical recall vote. And later, the Tenderloin Center shuts down.

(On-camera): Do you regret opening that? You tried something, and it failed.




SIDNER: November 2019. Full of promise and hope. This was San Francisco's newly elected district attorney.

BOUDIN: The movement must demand police accountability. Ending racial disparities at every step of the criminal justice system. But listen, we have our work cut out for us. This is not going to be easy.

SIDNER: And it would be far from easy for Chesa Boudin.

BOUDIN: We are never going to police or prosecute our way out of problems like poverty, mental illness, and homelessness.

MATIER: San Francisco suffers from aspirations versus unintended consequences. We say we shouldn't be criminalizing drugs. We shouldn't put users or maybe even sellers in jail. What's the result? More drugs on the street being sold. That is an unintended consequences of our aspiration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amid several high-profile cases involving repeat offenders and the surge in burglaries, Boudin now faces not one but two recall campaigns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the frustrations that are happening because of the pandemic, because of the economy, I mean, all the things that are going on, they're looking to him and they're blaming him for all of it. That's where all the frustration is.

BOUDIN: San Francisco has led the country in property crime for over 10 years. That's not a new problem.

BREED: We had a district attorney what was just not working with us and wasn't working with law enforcement in a cooperative way.

BOUDIN: Regardless of what the statistics show if people in my city don't feel safe, if they can't go about their business, and live their lives in safety and comfort then we have work to do.

SIDNER: On June 7th, 2022, San Francisco voters decided it was time for Boudin's work to come to an end.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: One of the most liberal cities tonight recalling its progressive D.A.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a progressive who ended cash bail and tried to reduce the number of people sent to prison.

SIDNER: Boudin did not respond to CNN's request for comments for this documentary. (On-camera): What do you think about why people recalled him? And do

you agree?


BREED: I'll just go back to, you know, people who have been murdered in San Francisco. What has happened in the past, sadly, is oftentimes if there's an arrest made, it's almost as if the person who committed the crime has more rights than the person who lost their life, and the family members who are asking for justice.

SIDNER (voice-over): When it comes to crime statistics, they have been dissected, debated, and cherrypicked by conservatives, liberals, and everyone in between.

SHARKY LAGUANA, SAN FRANCISCO SMALL BUSINESS COMMISSION, 2019-2022: I think you throw in the pandemic, which resulted in crime rates rising all over the country, and in some cases, violent crimes. Not here. Again, going back to other cities love to dump on us but our violent crime rates weren't shooting up, and theirs were.

SIDNER: San Francisco does have lower rates of homicide and other violent crimes compared to other major cities. That's true now and has been the case for decades.

MATIER: The guy wheeling his bicycle into the Walgreens in San Francisco loading up and then bicycling out went worldwide. The mass swarm robbery went worldwide.

SIDNER: Even with some high-profile videos going viral, robberies and larceny, which is property theft without threat of violence, were both down in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to San Francisco police data. While the number of car break-ins was actually higher in 2017. Auto theft, though, did rise in 2022. The highest it has been in seven years.

(On-camera): I'll tell you the number one that I hear.

BREED: Yes, tell me.

SIDNER: The number one that I hear, it isn't necessarily violence. It isn't because those rates are --

BREED: It's theft.

SIDNER: It's the car break-ins.

BREED: Oh, the car break-ins.

SIDNER: By far the thing people always say is like, girl, if you go to the city, don't park your car here or there, or, you know, watch where you park.

BREED: Yes. Yes.

SIDNER: How do you combat that? BREED: Most people unfortunately in some capacity feel like they

either have been or know someone who has been, you know, a victim. I mean, my car got broken into right in front of my home. And then there was nothing in it, so that makes it even worse. It's like I don't even have anything to steal because I know better, right? But it's a tough thing. And we're going to keep working on that to combat it.

DAVID THOMPSON, SAN FRANCISCO RESIDENT: The city has really, really intense problems. There's flight from downtown, crime issues that have been out on the streets, have all been kind of just completely catalyzed by COVID.

SIDNER (voice-over): According to the "San Francisco Chronicle" nearly half of those surveyed in 2022 had been victims of theft. And one in four had been physically attacked or threatened in the past five years.

ALICE LUONG, RED BLOSSOM TEA: Crime and homelessness has really taken our morale down. My neighbor has been hit on the head with a hammer and had to get eight stitches.

AWADALLA AWADALLA, SF HOLE IN THE WALL PIZZA: I mean, the pandemic was bad but not as bad as now. They do graffiti. They defecate on the sidewalk, harass our customers. I had customers that was sitting in a table with his family. Someone just grabbed his beer and ran away.

ALICE KIM, JOE'S ICE CREAM SHOP: Every morning, the first thing we have to check is around our store. If there is any, like, drugs or any human waste. So we have to clean that up. It's a little getting harder to run the small business here because of crime issues, homeless issues and safety issues. Before, it was just homeless people who sleep outside. So if I tell them to just move, but they will at least understand. But now, a lot of people seem to be out of their mind or something, and then some of them can get -- turn really violent when I say something.

JENNIFER FRIEDENBACH, COALITION OF HOMELESSNESS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: The difference that I've seen over time is the acuity level of people on the streets. So people have really difficult medical situations that they're struggling with. Much higher levels of substance use that they're struggling with. Much higher levels of mental illness. And so, you know, you really see homelessness in a much more visible way. And so even though the raw numbers might not be increasing, it seems like it's worse, because there's such visible suffering that you can witness.

ADAM MESNICK, BUSINESS OWNER: Your name, for the order.

SIDNER: This is Adam Mesnick. He documents what he sees and posts it on his Twitter account, Better SoMA.

MESNICK: It was a combination of homelessness, needles, and feces that were the biggest issues.

SIDNER (on-camera): What do you think are the politics of homelessness? What does that mean? MESNICK: It's politics before people. So people come second to the

politics. The ideology, the social activism, the opinions.


It is a drug and mental health issue. And it's really not a homeless problem.

SIDNER (voice-over): He's a business owner in SoMA, or South of Market, as it's called, a neighborhood in San Francisco. He's been sounding the alarm for years.

MESNICK: You cannot drink a bear on the street right now, but you can shoot heroin, open air.

SIDNER: That's Adam in 2018 on the drug crisis. Things were bad then, but 2020 brought a worldwide pandemic, which closed shelters and sent tent camps sprawling around the city. And then a fentanyl crisis.

MESNICK: I've likened what's gone on over the last couple of years to the gold rush. The fentanyl rush, basically people have been given an opportunity to come here to use, to buy, to steal from stores, and really -- and really create a situation where there are no rules, there are no consequences.

SIDNER (on-camera): Do you think that the issue that has happened here with homelessness and drugs and mental illness is a policy failure?

MESNICK: One thing to note, the fentanyl on the streets is the cheapest here in the entire country. Go figure. And the giveaways here are as --

SIDNER: Free needles.

MESNICK: Free needles, free foil, free tents, free food, free assistance. When 2014 and 2015, if you would have asked me if I'd still be fighting about this in 2022, I would have told you that it probably wouldn't have been possible. How could they not have fixed any of this? But it's only consistently gotten worse.

SIDNER (voice-over): Coming up, lessons from leaders past and life on the streets.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the "Voice of the Voter Debate, the Race for Mayor."

WILLIE BROWN, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: This campaign is about the city and its future. It's also about dealing with the issue of homelessness and poverty. Not with the cops. But a way to give people jobs who desperately need it.

I do. SIDNER: More than 25 years ago, Mayor Willie Brown won office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the mayor.

SIDNER: Promising to solve San Francisco's homeless problem.

(On-camera): Do you find it interesting that here we are in 2022 and homelessness and mental illness, coupled with drugs, is one of the number one issues San Francisco has to deal with now?

BROWN: It's kind of amazing that now some 30 years later, that's the same symbol of our city. The photograph of a guy pushing a shopping cart, crimes involving people having their cars broken into.

SIDNER (voice-over): Mayor Brown served San Francisco from 1996 to 2004 during much of the dot-com boom. From his time in office until now, he has one key belief about the root cause of the homelessness problem.

BROWN: It is not designed to be solved. It is designed to be perpetuated.

SIDNER (on-camera): You said it's not designed to be solved? Is that how you say it?

BROWN: That's right. It is to treat the problem, not to solve it.

SIDNER (voice-over): From the 1990s until this day, mayor after mayor, the same tensions have played out for decades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like many cities, San Francisco hasn't made much progress unreducing the numbers of destitute.

SIDNER: Police clearing homeless people from one block, only to end up on another days, sometimes just hours later.


SIDNER: Unhoused people refusing shelter or medical treatment, and the city's inability to force anyone to accept help.

FRIEDENBACH: There's people who truly don't believe that homelessness is solvable. And those people tend to really believe that people are choosing to be homeless, and they then by association support cracking down on homeless people, and that if you make it uncomfortable for them, they will simply disappear.

SIDNER: Jennifer Friedenbach is the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. Her group has repeatedly sued the city for things like homeless sweeps, destruction of unhoused people's property, and a lack of affordable housing.

(On-camera): Do you think that the perpetuating of the homeless issue and the drug issue is partly from the very people that say they're helping?

BROWN: And they would argue with me and they would treat me as if I was a part of the Trump movement.


Anybody who says it's OK for people to sleep on the streets, they are literally saying they're taking away my right to use those streets, and that I should not be.

SIDNER (voice-over): More than 4,000 people live on these city streets. Drug addiction, mental illness, and skyrocketing rents all play a role here. The median rental cost in San Francisco for a one- bedroom is more than 3,000 bucks a month.

COOPER ARONA, COALITION FOR HOMELESSNESS MEDIC: At nighttime, I'd go to different encampments and help the folks that need help.

SIDNER: This is 50-year-old Cooper Arona, a former firefighter turned street medic for the Coalition on Homelessness.

ARONA: I'm disabled, so I couldn't be a firefighter anymore, so I had to figure out what to do.

SIDNER: She says she was injured on the job and then about seven years ago, a bad divorce was the final blow that landed her on the streets.

(On-camera): We're in this alleyway, but you do see these scenes all over the city. There are residents who are fed up. Do you understand they're looking at this saying we cannot live like this?

ARONA: Yes, and I understand that and I feel it. And then I hear. But the thing is like, then why isn't the city putting people in housing? Most of the people, you don't choose to be homeless.

SIDNER: If you could make a policy on how to deal with the folks that have no homes, that are living on the street, how would you handle it? What do you think the best way to deal with it is?

ARONA: You know, I'll go to encampment after encampment. Get yourself squared away, keep -- you know, just enough for a wheelchair to pass by. You know, be respectful of your neighbors. Don't be loud. We're all still San Francisco residents. The only difference between them and unhoused folks is the housings have a roof over their head.

SIDNER (voice-over): As we walked down Eerie Alley, I met a few other residents. Notably, no one was from San Francisco.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honestly, I mean, there's a lot more assistance for sure out here, you know, compared to everywhere else.

SIDNER: Ryan and Kaya are a young couple from Fresno. By their count, they've had to move their tent about six times in the past four months due to city sweeps.

(On-camera): Do you feel like there is more assistance for you in this city compared to Fresno or other places that you've been?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, in a way, they definitely -- they give you more food. That, I can see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Place to shower, you know. But like living-wise, I mean, they say they try offering us assistance and stuff, but they always try --

SIDNER: Housing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they always try splitting me and her up.

SIDNER (voice-over): Everyone we talked to here had been offered some type of housing. But all came with conditions they simply were not willing to accept.

(On-camera): So they are basically saying you have to sign your disability checks over to us.

ARONA: Yes, yes.

SIDNER: And in exchange, you get housing.

ARONA: Yes. Or SRO, yes, which is a single-room occupancy in a -- not a nice place, you know. I'd rather stay on the street.

SIDNER: There will be people that hear this and go take the housing, it's safer. What do you say to them?

ARONA: Yes. I say no, it's not.

SIDNER (voice-over): Crystal Erickson came here from Portland for a boyfriend, and soon, she says, got hooked on drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been offered a room a couple of times, and each time I end up like slipping up, just because I don't make the curfews.

SIDNER: Back in 2020 and 2021, when the COVID crisis shut down homeless shelters, the city turned to alternatives, like hotel rooms, trailers and tent sites like these where residents could isolate and quarantine.

FRIEDENBACH: The city opened up some tent encampments that were kind of organized spaces, and that was very expensive. They were spending $70,000 per tent, per year. They have to bring in all the electricity. They have to bring in the bathrooms. They have to bring in the showers. Most of those sites have closed down now.

SIDNER (on-camera): In the encampment, each tent costs anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000. If the city was just to give you 60,000 bucks, and say, here's this, what would you do with it?

ARONA: For myself, probably --


ARONA: I'd probably go and buy more tents for folks and sleeping bags.

SIDNER: But what about your housing? I mean, could you not afford something in the city for that?

ARONA: Here's the thing. It's like, first, last deposit is crazy. I mean, and there's not any real housing anywhere. There's nothing like affordable in this city right now.

SIDNER (voice-over): Coming up, more on those $60,000 tents for the homeless.



BREED: San Francisco is spending a billion dollars over a two-year period to support challenges around homelessness, which includes addictions, substance abuse disorder.


It includes people who struggle with mental illness. And we spend money on a lot of programs so where is the disconnect between those programs that are serving or supposed to serve this population?

SIDNER (on-camera): That number is huge, a billion dollars over two years.


SIDNER: To try and get people off the street and off of drugs.

BREED: Yes. Yes.

MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER, AUTHOR, "SAN FRANCISCO: WHY PROGRESSIVES RUIN CITIES": People wonder how San Francisco can spend so much on this problem and only to see the problem get worse and worse.

SIDNER (voice-over): While the overall number of unhoused people is actually down over the last three years, those who remain on the streets are worse off.

SHELLENBERGER: What we call homelessness is fundamentally a problem of untreated mental illness and drug addiction.

SIDNER: The biggest critics of the city's approach to homelessness call it misguided compassion, ineffective, even inhumane.

SHELLENBERGER: They're spending moneys in ways that attract people and incentivize people to come to San Francisco and behave in the ways that they do.

SIDNER (on-camera): Where are y'all from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're from Modesto.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Modesto is a hard place to be homeless. It's way easier. I love it here. I love it here.

SIDNER (voice-over): Like so many people we've met on the streets here, Keely and Justin came to San Francisco and never left. That's Keely's dogs, Baby Peanut. On this morning, we found Keely packing up.

(On-camera): What is happening? What are you being asked to do now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They make people move. I mean, I could move like to the next corner, and that would be fine. But like give these people a break here in this apartment.

SIDNER: How did you end up on the street?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drugs. I go to rehab, I get cleaned, and something, whatever it is, pulls me back.

SIDNER: That's the story of a lot of people in this country. Like you're absolutely not alone in that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love heroin. I mean, that's the straight-up honest --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't do heroin any more, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean it's --

SIDNER: But it does change you, and you will hear people saying they love it. That's why their whole life sort of chasing it, right?

Do you think that the services that San Francisco offers people who are on the street encourages people to come to this city and stay at this city?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Encourages homeless people?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I don't know.

SIDNER: Justin, what makes you so certain about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I know people, that's why I -- just common knowledge, like, oh, go to San Francisco.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it's the housing that encourages them to come.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's the cheap drugs. I think it's the hearing about what you can buy for how much money and how you can use outside and not get arrested.

SIDNER (voice-over): On this day, the city's homeless outreach team offered Keely a spot in the safe sleeping site. It's the last cluster of those controversial and expensive city-run encampments.

(On-camera): What has this cost the city?


SIDNER: Is there a number per tent? I heard upwards of $60,000? Is that an outrageous number?

DODGE: I don't know the latest costing for this but it's not free.

SIDNER (voice-over): In fact, that cost has gone way up. The latest number is more than $90,000 per tent, per year, according to a Department of Homelessness report released in March 2023. And for some city officials, it's a price worth paying.

DODGE: The opportunity cost of people trying to live a life on the street, not making progress, going backwards, and their mental health, and their physical health, being preyed upon by drug dealers and, you know, violence, that's the real cost that we should really be worried about.

SIDNER: This is Sam Dodge. He's the director of the Healthy Streets Operations Center. His team offers services to people before their tents are cleared by the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You let us know when you're done, and we'll come free and clear.





SIDNER (on-camera): Can you give me a sense of the numbers of people who are experiencing homelessness in the city?

DODGE: It varies over the year, but at any one time it's about 8,000 people. And most of them are living unsheltered.

SIDNER: There's a lot of criticism. You all face criticism, the city faces criticism. What do you say to people who are like, I don't want to see any of this, I don't want to see a part of the city, throw them out, push them out, sweep the streets and don't let people live like this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's understandable, like especially for the amount of money people paid to live here.

SIDNER (voice-over): Here's the thing. This is Keely's second time staying at this sleeping site. Last year, she took the housing that was offered but wound up back on the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I moved into a congregate shelter. It's, like, SRO but with roommates. And I just didn't really like it. And I just need to be somewhere alone and camp, the safe place here is my favorite option.

SIDNER (on-camera): So they started at 10:00 a.m. telling them they had to clear their stuff. It's 10:45. It's clear. It's taking a few people from the city and some work on the part of the couple, but they're now off the streets for now.



BREED: The time for finger-pointing and blaming other people is over.

SIDNER (voice-over): Mayor London Breed appointed Brook Jenkins district attorney after Boudin's recall, and voters elected her in November last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, District Attorney.

BREED: Having a district attorney who believes in prosecuting people for the crimes that they commit is going to be a game changer for our city.

SIDNER: While there has been little measurable difference in crime rates thus far, "The San Francisco Chronicle" reports that police are bringing 20 percent more cases for prosecution to Jenkins' office compared to her predecessor. As for the controversial Tenderloin Center, its doors closed in December 2022.

BERLIN: The linkage center didn't do anything to make anything better. I see it as an absolute failure.

SIDNER (on-camera): The linkage center. You had the Tenderloin Center not far from here. Do you regret opening that or was that something that you feel like you tried something and it failed?

BREED: I don't regret opening it. We needed to try something different.

DODGE: Through the Tenderloin Emergency, 1,000 people get shelter and housing. We reversed hundreds of overdoses. So it didn't solve the drug crisis or the open-air drug markets, it's part of the reason why it needed to come down.

SIDNER: What did it turn into? Why did you close it?

BREED: We heard of a lot of drug use, which we weren't adamantly opposed to. But it needed to lead to something. Also we were struggling because of the legalities of safe consumption sites and the federal and the state laws. But more importantly, for me, the big issue was the linkage of what was supposed to happen did not happen.

SIDNER: Do you think the city's policies and practices around drug use in the city are failing?

TILGHMAN: It's not only just failing the person who's addicted to drugs, but it's failing homeowners, business owners, all the residents.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tonya's son is no longer on the streets. Roman served time in jail in 2022, then a court-ordered mental health and treatment program.

DODGE: San Francisco has not hid from our problem and our struggles with homelessness and housing and poverty and mental health crisis and drug crisis. We wear them on our sleeves. We debate them openly. We make investments. We experiment with different interventions and try to see what may work. Nothing is off the table.

SIDNER (on-camera): Do you get annoyed with the way people talk about this?

BREED: Oh, yes, I do. You hear people talk, and it'll be about a moment in time and not the complete picture of the experience here.

SIDNER (voice-over): We met during the holiday season, and Mayor Breed is quick to point out the glimmers of hope and revitalization in her city.

BREED: I mean, look at this line. This place must be the place to eat.

SIDNER: From the ferry terminal and farmers market to a cleaned-up Union Square and other shopping areas with a beefed-up police presence.

(On-camera): Have you changed because partly of the pandemic and because of the drug use and the influx of fentanyl? Did you feel yourself change?

BREED: I went back to how I felt growing up in San Francisco, when I didn't feel safe going outside. I was really heartbroken over the fact that people are living like that in this city. And it made me angry.

SIDNER: You went back to your roots.

BREED: It has been hard. It's been frustrating. And it doesn't mean we give up. We're not throwing up our hands. We're going to keep fighting to get this community to a place where these kids who are growing up there can go outside and play without fear.


COOPER: One of the moms you met in this hour, Jacqui Berlin, continues to search the streets for her son, Cory. And in late April, California Governor Gavin Newsom called on the state's National Guard and Highway Patrol to help San Francisco deal with the fentanyl crisis and try to stem the flow of the drug into the city.

Join us next week for an hour you won't forget on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which happened nearly a year ago. We'll show you some never-before-seen footage and hear from some of the survivors themselves about that day.

I'll see you next Sunday.