CHEER$: S.F. spending tax dollars giving beer, vodka shots to homeless

San Francisco’s program, which began during the pandemic, is being described as enabling alcohol addiction amongst homeless and vagrants.

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health is operating a “Managed Alcohol Program” that provides free beer and vodka shots to homeless alcoholics as part of a pilot program.

Driving the news: The program aims to keep homeless individuals off the streets and relieve the city’s emergency services, but critics question whether funding treatment and sobriety programs would be a better approach.


  • The program started during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent alcohol withdrawal among homeless individuals placed in hotel rooms, and it has since expanded to a 20-bed program with a $5 million annual budget.
  • The program offers resources for securing identification, psychiatric care, wellness activities, and connections to community-based organizations.
  • While the program has had success in stabilizing patients, some critics, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, argue that harm reduction does not address recovery and may exacerbate problems.

What they’re saying: Nurses provide participants 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 Managed Alcohol Program.

  • “By prescribing limited quantities of alcohol, the model aims to prevent potentially life-threatening effects of alcohol withdrawal, such as seizures and injuries,” explains the California Health Care Foundation.
  • San Francisco health officials claim the program has saved $1.7 million over six months in reduced hospital visits and emergency services utilization.
  • A 2022 study in Canada found that participating in managed alcohol programs reduced the risk of death and hospital stays for homeless individuals struggling with severe alcoholism.
Related Posts