LAGUNA HONDA HOSPITAL
We all can agree that this City we call San Francisco was once called Yerba Buena - Good Herbs. Then it was called San Francisco.
Anyway you look at it Good Herbs or San Francisco which means Free - we have a common denominator Healing, Compassion, Goodness, Free - and that is all-good. Something to do with getting better.
Before 1849 and afterwards San Francisco had an influx of people - many came to seek gold and make a fortune. Others came to the West Coast and California from the East Coast to seek their fortune. There were others who came to seek their fortunes in Alaska in the whaling industry and elsewhere but stopped in San Francisco for some valid reason. Right here in San Francisco there were all sorts of people in all sorts of business - all trying to make a fast buck. San Francisco was on the world map and mostly most people were thinking of making money.
You had wild people running wild all over San Francisco and beyond. In was not uncommon for people to kill one another. Feuds took place all the time. Vigilantes commandeered certain streets. If one had money - one had power. Prostitution reigned supreme and right where now stands Old Saint Mary's the ladies of the night were busy entertaining so many. So was Maiden Street near present day Union Square. The Barbary Coast that is what they called San Francisco. Baghdad by the Bay. We call know that but do not stop to ponder the past history of this great City.
There were bars, dancing, eating and gambling houses everywhere. San Francisco was a fun city. But with all the fun and all the goings - San Francisco also had many people who were sick from all sorts of illnesses. The cold fog, heavy work in the mines, the fishing industry, ironsmiths, filthy conditions of living and working - sent many of the poor to hospitals or houses where they got some little care.
Doctors were in short demand and so were good qualified nurses. It was not uncommon for anyone to enter a hospital alive and come out dead. We did not have the early treatment and know how that is in place now. In 1867 Almshouse opened its doors to more men and less women - 231 men and about 27 women. As the name denotes the institution was meant to house those that were poor. There was discrimination then as there is now - in those days the rich and those politically connected did not want to have much to do with the poor. We now know Almshouse at Laguna Honda situated opposite the Forest Hill MUNI and Bart Station.
The local and state agencies set aside $20,000 to build four floors to house the indigent sick which was not completed. The final floor was completed by hiring men who at the end the day were given food and whiskey in keeping with the norms of the day. San Francisco was known far and wide as the Barbary Coast. You could hire many poor folks for food or whiskey or for that matter it was not uncommon to barter.
At that time nearly half of the patients - mostly very poor did come from the community and the rest from San Francisco Hospital. Latter San Francisco Hospital was called San Francisco General Hospital.
In 1868 there was a small pox epidemic in San Francisco and the Almshouse opened its door? Many wealthy San Franciscans gave money and so did the Churches. In 1906 and even before that the Almshouse responded to the needs of San Francisco and San Franciscans.
Some able bodied indigent patients worked and even farmed the near by land that we know today as Laguna Honda. At this time, and we have records NO patients were admitted who intimidated others - such as those who had serious mental problem or violent behaviors. Such folks were either sent to the mental asylum or to be incarcerated in the many jails.
Just to side track a little to give one some what of a holistic picture regarding hospitals and the indigent the U.S. Treasury Department opened the Marine Hospital south of Market Street to care at no charge for the sick and disabled Merchant Seamen from all over the world. The hospital took in other indigents too that needed help from San Francisco and the near by areas. Some records clearly state this. In 1875 the U.S. Government built a new Marine Hospital near Mountain Lake and the Presidio of San Francisco by 15th Avenue. Many immigrants were treated at this hospital. It was famous for treating Leprosy that everyone feared.
In 1902 the Marine Hospital was named Public Health Hospital. This famous hospital cared to the Native Americans, the Coast Guard, and the Merchant Seamen. This hospital also included many public health programs such as plague eradication campaigns that helped San Franciscans in the City of San Francisco.
In 1931 the Victorian hospital by 15h Avenue was demolished and replaced with 480 bed hospital and support buildings. In 1952 two wings were added. In 1981 the U.S. Public Health Hospital was closed. The point I am making is that we had hospitals in San Francisco once that catered to the poor and to those who had limited income.
Many do not know about the San Francisco General Hospital. The older buildings could not take care of the patients in the late 1960s and 1970. Around 1970 the activists from the Bayview Hunters Point using the San Francisco Medical Center Outpatient Improvement Program got money from the State Government and built the newer buildings that we see today. The main front entrance of San Francisco General Hospital is one of those buildings.
Eloise Westbrook, Shirley Jones and supporters like Espanola Jackson and others made all this possible. It is amazing how this City forgets its past. The City could not afford to build and expand the San Francisco General Hospital so the citizens worked with Phillip Burton and the State Government and made the impossible - possible.
For a couple of years the State Program that built the expanded portions of the San Francisco General Hospital - paid the salaries of the doctors and the latest equipment. Then the City of San Francisco stepped in after some years and took it over. Now the City has completely forgotten this history. Imagine the people of Bayview and Hunters Point contributing so much to the health and safety of this City and County of San Francisco. The people of Bayview Hunters Point took upon themselves to help the poor patients and other on limited income to seek the best medical care. For years one looked upon Laguna Honda as a place for the Seniors and those who were disabled. I know of hundreds of families who would tell me about their parents or some disabled elder family members that were cared at Laguna Honda.
Over the years I have paid many visits to Laguna Honda. I know, what I saw before and I know what I see today. I do not appreciate young thugs and young men and women that are drug addicts - thrown among the Senior and disabled population.
Laguna Honda was never built to cater to drug addict and those people who have violent tempers. It does not matter if Doctor Mitch Katz wants to divert such patients and create his own agenda. This tactic is a low blow to all that Laguna Honda stands for and an insult to San Franciscans. It is time San Franciscans send Doctor Mitch Katz packing to another State and fire him from his present responsibilities.
San Franciscans voted to rebuild Laguna Honda. We asked for rooms that meet the State and Federal standards. We asked for other good stuff and that is all good. We never, ever asked for a change in the population. Laguna Honda should not accommodate the violent and those who have very serious mental problems - especially if these patients are drug addicts. Throw these volatile patients among innocent and fragile Senior and Disabled patients - mostly San Franciscans.