San Francisco, the technology capital of the fentanyl era

United Nations Square, San Francisco. Rescuer Dereaus Stewart is on duty. In his bag, a nasal spray of Narcan, the drug that erases the effects of opioids on the body. “This morning I resurrected another individualHe explains. A young white man, 24 years old. When he woke up he was furious. But then he thanked me. »

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Camouflage jacket, balaclava, dark glasses, the man wears the uniform of the Urban Alchemy association, born in 2018 to bring back “peace and respect in chaotic urban areas”. Since 2020, the NGO has been under contract with the City of San Francisco. Its employees are ex-cons, trained “downgrade” crisis, and were paid $21 (€19.6) an hour, or $5.50 more than the local minimum wage.

From 5 in the morning they work to clean the streets, to dissuade drug addicts from lying there and to comfort the shopkeepers who can no longer bear having to step over corpses to open their shop. Dereaus Stewart is proud of his track record: in three years he brought thirty-three people back to life. “Without us, San Francisco would be a garbage can”proclaims.

Two deaths a day

A garbage can, the “city by the bay” to the dizzying roads that plunge into the blue of the ocean? Startup capital with thirty-seven billionaires? A part of the population is not far from thinking so, furious at the decrepitude into which the city center has fallen.

San Francisco has not recovered from the health crisis. Empty offices, fleeing businesses, declining tourism, drugs, precariousness: the center is dragged into a vicious circle that the authorities are no longer able to control. This “cycle of fate” (” Vicious circle “), according to the expression of fashion, however, it concerns only the city centre. The rest of the city is fine. The price of real estate hasn’t dropped one iota.

The spiral of decline started with the confinement, in March 2020. The city has mainly relied on the technology sector. She emptied herself “technicians” that nothing kept in the offices. The homeless are left, more visible than ever. Three years have passed, but the city center has never found the liveliness of before. Only 43% of employees go back to work every day. Thus, 30% of office space is empty, the highest rate for a major US city.

THE homeless they are no more numerous than before. The latest count, dated February 23, 2022, shows 7,754 people “know a homeless situation” (official terminology): 4,397 restless sleepers; 3,357 in a shelter. In fact, their number began to decrease: − 3.5% between 2019 and 2022.

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