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San Francisco Needle Exchange loses funding

by Sarah Thibault (sfne666 [at]
The San Francisco Needle Exchange, the only exchange in the Haight-Ashbury which primarily serves young homeless IDU, lost its funding this past week. The SFDPH Aids Office has chosen to stop funding this program, a decision that is extremely socially irresponsible. We are asking for community support in a mass letter writing campaign to the board of supervisors and Aids Office.
On Friday, April 8th, we were informed that the San Francisco Needle Exchange would no longer recieve SFDPH AIDS Office funding (this is the only funding for SFNE and administative funding for HAYOT, the homeless youth drop-in that shares staff and a building with SFNE).

It is surely obvious to you how sociallly irresponsible this decision is. SFNE began in 1997 as an underground exchange and it only became legal 3 years ago when we began to recieve city funds. It has and continues to be the only Needle Exchange for the homeless youth and housed IDU of the Haight and also partners with the Women's Community Clinic and Mission Neighborhood Resource Center to have a women's exchange in the Mission. We have been recognized by our clients, neighbors, collaborators, and even local police as providing a vital service. We strive to deliver culturally competant services, including clean needles, harm reduction education, overdose prevention, HIV testing, medical services, drug treatment referrals, food and hygiene supplies, overall support, and more.

We are asking you to show your support by writing our district supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, Tom Ammiano and send copies of these letters to our center manager Mary, Jimmy Loyce, and Steven Tierney.

This particular needle exchange is vital not only to the clients it serves, most of whom are homeless and marginally housed youth who are unlikely to visit other exchanges, but also to the community as a whole.

Please see the sample letter at the end of this article. Use that letter, or create your own. Sign it, date it, and send it to the addresses below. We intend to personally deliver them to the parties involved with funding in the coming week, so time is of the essence.

Lastly, please spread the word to EVERYONE YOU KNOW who you think would be supportive of this effort.

The addresses for all those people are:
1. Ross Mirkarimi 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place Rm
244 SF CA 94102-4689 or Ross.Mirkarimi [at]
2. Tom Ammiano (same mailing address as above) or
Tom.Ammiano [at]
3.Mr. Jimmy Loyce 25 Van Ness Ave. Suite 500 SF CA
94102-6033 or Jimmy.Loyce [at]
4. Steven Tierney (same mailing address as Jimmy
Loyce) or Steven.Tierney [at]
5. Mary Howe (SFNE and HAYOT manager) 1696 Haight Street SF CA 94117 or sfne666 [at]

Here is a sample letter:

To Whom it May Concern;

I am writing to express my outrage at the Department of Public Health AIDS Offices’s decision to defund the San Francisco Needle Exchange program.

San Francisco Needle Exchange is one of the oldest and most successful needle exchange programs in the city. On a budget of $100,000.00 a year, this program does far more than just dispense free and clean needles. It also provides food, clothing, medical care, psychological services, HIV testing, social service and detox referrals, and free classes on wound care and overdose prevention for hundreds of clients a year. Most importantly, it is a life-line to it’s mostly homeless and marginally housed clients. Often, the two staff members and numerous volunteers at the Needle Exchange provide the only meaningful interaction that these clients have with any city agency. As a result, the Needle Exchange is often the place where clients begin their road to recovery from drug addiction.

Since 1997, San Francisco Needle Exchange has been one of the most solid safety nets for our most vulnerable populations, and one of the cheapest. But it provides more than just a safety net for its clients. It also provides a crucial role in the city’s public health network, reducing the incidences of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Please reconsider your decision to cut funding for this extremely important and cost effective program.

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