The Street Crisis Response Team of San Francisco works in some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods to assist those who may be experiencing a substance problem or mental health crisis.
Every time peer counselor Omar Breedlove enters a Street Crisis Response Team van, he moves further away from his past.
Breedlove explained, “I was able to turn my life around and try to transform through that, and I now use my own experience to assist others.” He has been sober since 2016, but instead of leaving his past behind, he uses it as his greatest asset today.
On each contact received by the Street Crisis Response Team, a small group of experts respond, including a peer counselor like Breedlove who has personal experience with some of the most common problems the team encounters, such as homelessness and substance abuse.
The van is filled with members of the Homeless Outreach Team and paramedics who respond to dozens of inquiries per day. According to their most recent report, the team has responded to nearly 20,000 inquiries since its inception in 2021. Nearly 60% of conversations are resolved immediately.
Unarmed Team Wears Plain Clothes to Provide Less Triggering Response
Some of the responders wear plain clothing to provide a response that is less triggering than a uniformed response. It is part of a novel strategy the city is employing to combat the city’s drug and housing crises.
Breedlove stated, If someone is hungry and has not eaten for three days, a couple can understand what that feels like and what it feels like to receive food.
On calls, the unarmed team travels with snacks, water, spare shoes, apparel, blankets, and medical supplies, including Narcan. Their mission is straightforward: to connect individuals with the services they require.
Meraw has been a paramedic in San Francisco for nearly three decades, and her most valuable asset on the street crisis team is her ability to treat individuals as if they were an old friend.
Breedlove asserts that compassion is frequently sufficient to defuse a situation. Having walked in the shoes of those he now assists, he realizes he is making a difference.
Source: CBS News