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Tenderloin Community Council

Created in the spring of 2019, this Tenderloin Community Council was formed as a parallel community process to support and engage with the San Francisco City commissioned

Street-Level Drug Dealing Task Force. 

Download TL Community Council 

Framework for addressing harms related to open air drug use and sale

Download TL Community Council 

PowerPoint Report to the Task Force (Feb 9, 2021)

TL Community Council History & Background

Visible and active drug sales and use have been part of the Tenderloin for decades. In fact when Carmen Barsody and Kay Jorgensen moved into the purple building at 234 Hyde St in 2000, the nearby intersection of Turk and Hyde was known as THE place to buy black tar heroin. If further evidence was needed, within a few months Carmen and Kay were awoken by frantic pounding on the front door and screams, “Get out! Get Out!” A meth lab in the building next door had exploded killing at least one person and causing serious damage. Since then the drug market and open air drug use has increased. There have been constant calls to address the situation, and many people recognize that it is a symptom of the deep distress of the neighborhood.

In the spring of 2019, Supervisor Matt Haney called a hearing at City Hall to investigate the situation. Through many hours of presentation and testimony, what became clear was that criminalization had not adequately addressed the situation. Buy busts and other arrest tactics were both expensive and only marginally keeping the market in check. Out of that hearing, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation to create the Street Level Drug Dealing Task Force. This Task Force, comprised of 12 members including a representative of the police department, the DA’s office, and other City agencies, was charged with identifying strategies for effectively addressing harms related to the open-air drug market in the Tenderloin, SOMA (South of Market Area), Civic Center, and Mid-Market neighborhoods.

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SF firefighters survey the damage after the 2000 meth lab explosion next door to Faithful Fools

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A memorial for a beloved neighbor who died from complications related to detoxing (2019)

In parallel with and in response to the Board of Supervisor’s hearing, a group of citizens—residents, small business owners, and non-profit representatives—began meeting at Faithful Fools. The group had a participation list of 65 to 70 individuals with usually 20 to 25 attending any given meeting, and it met twice a month up until the pandemic lockdown of spring 2020. The group called itself a Tenderloin Community Council or TL Community Council. They defined their purpose as “identifying, evaluating, and advocating for effective approaches to addressing the harms related to street level drug dealing.”

As may be evident from the overlap of the Task Force charter and the purpose of TL Community Council, the members of the Council were deeply engaged in shaping the chartering legislation. They successfully changed the composition of the Task Force from almost entirely criminal system representatives (police, sherif, probation, DA, public defender, etc.) to being 9 members from the community and 3 from the criminal system. This plus changing the focus from eliminating the drug market to addressing harms related to it helped to turn attention away from traditional War on Drugs strategies to more broad-based approaches that include public health, economic, and equity strategies.

TL Community Council: Harms Analysis

The first 3 months of Council meetings were almost solely focused on the Task Force legislation, but after that the discussions focused for several months on cataloging and fully understanding the different harms presented by the drug market. The conversations were robust and often conflicted. In discussions about impact on youth for example, concerns related to young children of immigrant families were different from those of youth whose families were often involved in the market, especially among Black families. For youth whose families were intent on shielding them, it is a struggle, often including trauma inducing scenes, to get from home to school or the market without harassment or witnessing sales or use. For Black youth, the struggle is one of identification—it is hard not to identify with the dealer who seems to be respected, in control, and have money. It is equally difficult not to identify with the aunt or uncle who is living on the street, debilitated by either substance use itself or controlling mental health concerns with various substances.

The list of harms extended for 3 pages, but could be summarized as falling into 4 categories:

A) Violence—actual, implied, or threatened

B) Unpredictable behavior—some caused by drug use, some by withdrawal symptoms, some by unrelated/untreated mental health concerns.

C) Visibly deteriorating public health including overdoses, visible wounds (accesses, etc.) and increasing rates of Hep C and other diseases.

D) Interference with daily life—small businesses struggling with dealing in front of their doors, families going from place to place, elders feeling vulnerable, people in recovery being solicited, verbal/sexual harassment and so on.

Out of the discussion of harms, it became clear that poverty and homelessness were deeply linked to these harms as well. The same list—violence, unpredictable behavior, deteriorating public health, and interference with daily life—can be enumerated for poverty and homelessness. The details are a little different but the impact is much the same. This realization lead Council discussions to the work of Dr. Howard Pinderhughes of the Prevention Institute.

Dr. Pinderhughes, inspired by observations of his hometown of Roxbury, MA, created a framework for talking about the multifaceted, multilayered characteristics of a community that has suffered persistent and long-term trauma. It’s important to highlight the fact that such traumas include the personal traumas we often think of when we talk about trauma (adverse childhood experiences and illness among other life-altering and life-threatening events), but traumatized communities are also shaped by historical and structural racism and poverty. The characteristics or symptoms of a traumatized community are threefold:

A) Dysfunctional relationships: These can be dysfunctional family relationships including partner violence and sexual abuse, lack of trust with city agencies (especially criminal systems), exploitive employment relationships and so on.

B) Decaying physical environment: Public parks are locked or ill kept, roads have potholes, streetlights are broken, and private property is often in disrepair or boarded up.

C) Lack of economic opportunities and investment: few small businesses, few jobs, difficulty getting loans for property improvement or business start-up, poor educational opportunities, poor health care, etc.



You will find more information about Community Trauma, its sources, and how some communities are addressing their experiences of persistent trauma including historical and structural racism, and generational poverty by visiting the Prevention Institute website

<click here>


Download a PDF of Community Trauma and Resilience published by the Prevention Institute.

<<Download PDF>>

TL Community Council: Report to the Street Level Drug Dealing Task Force

By understanding that harms affect both individuals and the neighborhood as a whole, the next question was “What can we do about it?” After hearing the review of the efforts by police and other parts of the criminal system at the Board of Supervisor hearing, there was much interest in what other options there were. It was clear to members of the Council that police efforts were at best only maintaining the status quo and at worse reinforcing or making worse the experiences of racism, being a containment zone, and poverty (e.g., street homelessness). The Council then spent a few months looking at these other ways of addressing drug dealing and drug use.

Following Discussions in Council meetings focused on three main topics:

A) Trauma informed systems focuses on the impact of trauma on an individual. It explains for example the hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, and unpredictable behavior of people who have experienced extreme or repeated traumatic events. Programs and policy built on trauma informed systems address underlying trauma by providing stable relationships, safety, and compassionate responses. For example, when faced with someone who is resisting services, a trauma informed approach asks, “What happened to you?” rather than “What is wrong with you?”

B) Harm Reduction begins with the premise that in the face of disruptive or dysfunctional behaviors it is often impossible to coerce a correction. In the place of coercion there are strategies for mitigating harm while moving to more healthy behaviors. In the case of the drug market, rather than trying to eliminate it in the short term using only treatment, arrest, and incarceration, there are strategies that impact the behavior of both users and dealers that can reduce overdoses, violence, and chaotic behavior.

C) Restorative Justice provides what the criminal system cannot: Addressing the harms done to the community and individuals. The criminal system is focused on punishing the offender but it has little facility for addressing the needs of the victim, the community, and offender as a way of preventing future harmful acts.

D) Anti-violence programing focuses on community strategies rather than law enforcement alone. There are a number of strategies that include street outreach, direct intervention with individuals most likely to commit violent acts, and hospital based interventions. None function without law enforcement collaboration, but they are effective because they mobilize larger pools of resources including those outside of city or state agencies—families, neighborhood groups, healthcare providers, etc.



This page only summarizes different strategies for addressing the harms related to the open sale and use of drugs. For more information, follow the links below.

Trauma Informed Systems

in Action

<Download PDF>


Trauma Informed Community Building


Harm Reduction Principles

<Download PDF>

Restorative Justice

Until We Reckon


Danielle Sered

<Download PDF>

Anti-violence Programing

<Download PDF>

Download TL Community Council 

Framework for addressing harms related to open air drug use and sale

Download TL Community Council 

PowerPoint Report to the Task Force (Feb 9, 2021)

Report to the Task Force
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