(adapted in part from Michelle Alexander’s article America, This is Your Chance)
As we settle into month 5 (!) of COVID-19 response, City Hope is continuing to build relationships and meet the basic needs of our most marginalized neighbors. Even though we can’t gather indoors, the points of connection we provide at City Hope are critical to the social and emotional health of our guests. City Hope guest Thomas Coy emphasized, “It’s not only the meal, the meal is important, but it’s meeting our friends two to three times a week that matters to us.”
The data on COVID-19 is both encouraging and deeply disappointing. The good news is that COVID-related infections and deaths among the homeless in San Francisco have been low - only 5% of documented cases and 1 of the 50 deaths according to City data. Unfortunately, inequities persist as Black, Latinx and Indigenous people - who are underrepresented in San Francisco but overrepresented in those experiencing homelessness and/or working low wage, essential jobs - continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID.
The added stress of COVID-19 has also led to increased deaths among those struggling with addiction. "Homeless deaths due to overdose and addiction have increased from 3-4per week to 8-10 per week since mid-March,” says Dr. Barry Zevin, MD, Medical Director, Street Medicine and Shelter Health for SF Department of Public Health. He believes the current increase in deaths are a direct result of decreases in intake to and closures of shelters, drop-in centers, and clinics due to their risks of spreading the coronavirus.
“It’s hard to social distance out here. People don’t give you the respect of 6 feet. I got people standing over my shoulder with no mask on.” - Franklin Porteor, City Hope guest
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an online meeting with Jeff Kositsky, Director of HSOC (Healthy Streets Operation Center) on COVID-19's impact on our unhoused neighbors and the city’s response in the Tenderloin in particular. While the low COVID-19 infection rates among those experiencing homelessness are attributed to the relative safety of living outdoors, stopping the spread also requires maintaining 6 feet of spacing. Alleys are being cleared of tents and people are being relocated to the city’s alternative housing sites (approximately 3,000 units). At City Hope we are keeping a close eye on the official data and a close listening ear to our community so we can continue to provide accurate information, implement best practices, and offer our guests the best City Hope experience possible.
“The hardest part is keeping our hands washed, keeping a mask on, just staying safe, and keeping sane.” - Ruthie Torrey, City Hope guest
City Hope is committed to keeping our neighbors, volunteers, and staff safe. Aside from the additional sanitization, enforcing mask use, and reconfiguring our space for volunteer distancing, we are handing out PPE to guests and implementing new temperature monitoring prior to admitting staff or volunteers into the building.
While we are unsure what the fall and winter will look like for City Hope we are staying informed and thinking creatively about ways we can provide a safe - and just - community for our unhoused neighbors. Regardless of what else 2020 hurtles at us, we appreciate your ongoing support and partnership!
San Francisco 2019 Data
National 2019 Data
SF Homeless Count & Survey Report - 2019
City Hope Friends,
These past couple of weeks have been particularly hard. Trauma has been heaped on top of trauma as we’ve once again borne witness to death, injustice and immeasurable pain. Many of us feel angry, overwhelmed, and discouraged. We wonder how to respond and what ‘doing better’ looks like. As a biracial Black woman whose life is intrinsically wrapped up in all that is happening and whose human dignity is part of what is up for debate in this country, I personally wrestle with the tension between lament and hope, wondering when - if ever - change might come.
The results of these systemic injustices that have for generations disenfranchised Black and Brown people are evident to us at City Hope. These hard times have a face on the streets of the Tenderloin, in the eyes of our guests, and in the recurring oppression that tinges so many of their stories. At City Hope, we don’t turn away from these realities. We can’t turn away because truly loving our neighbor means seeking to fully see our neighbor and to fully see the world we all live in for what it is.
To those who are hurting right now, we at City Hope see you and we are hurting with you. We will continue to work to address the hard stuff - the pain born of injustice - right in front of us. While City Hope meets basic needs with hot meals, groceries, and, in these COVID-19 times, masks, our organization has always existed to meet the fundamental human need for community and belonging. We all need a place where we are seen, heard, and believed.
Going forward we will bring you deeper into the City Hope journey. Watch this space for continued stories ‘from the field’ - the stories of our guests, in their own words - as well as resources and personal reflections on justice, equity and the intertwined systemic issues that so deeply impact us. We invite you to learn and understand alongside us, and are grateful to be in this together with you.
Co-Director, City Hope
Through these cold and rainy weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to have a home. A place where we are welcome, where we find protection, provision, peace. A place among our people, where we are known, loved and respected.It’s something that each of us needs and deserves. It’s balm at the end of a difficult day; the moment we can exhale and fully relax.
The reality for many of our neighbors is that they never get those precious moments to unwind, to feel at peace in a place of their own.
In San Francisco there are an estimated 7,500 people without housing. Only about 3,100 of that population find any kind of shelter by the time night falls. We simply do not have enough housing or shelter for all of the people living on our streets, and we may not for some time.
This is a complex problem and it’s not one that we’re going to solve overnight. But at City Hope we are determined to make an impact in people’s lives, even while they wait on housing. We’re working hard to provide as many elements of home as we possibly can for our neighbors on our streets.
For 25 men and women this is an actual home. The City Hope House is a two-year sober living environment where people grow in their recovery, job development, and prepare for their next opportunity.
For hundreds of others, this is the City Hope Community Center - a living room for those without living space. It is the dignity of bathrooms and hot showers, basic human necessities like a toothbrush or socks. It is a healthy home-cooked meal, prepared and served to you by those who know and love you. It’s a place where we have fun, a place to laugh even when you’re struggling. We play games, watch movies, and even sing to each other. Most importantly, City Hope is a community where strangers become trusted friends. A place where your friends become your family. It is a place that believes everyone deserves to belong and to be loved.
Working to provide home for the homeless is hard work but when we work with creativity and courage, wisdom and compassion; when we keep faithfully serving our neighbor and placing our faith in them - we will see lives transformed, we will see our city transformed.
When you partner with City Hope, you are part of this unique work – restoring dignity and humanity to our neighbors so often ignored. Thank you for your support, for your partnership in bringing home to the homeless each and every day.
Thursday, March 22 | 5:30 - 7 PM | City Hope Community Center | 45 Olive St
Snacks and drinks provided
Join us as we launch City Hope's new learning workshops! Each workshop is designed to help you better understand a particular issue, with practical tools for meaningful engagement. Current and future volunteers are strongly encouraged to attend - all are welcome.
City Hope's first workshop “Addiction 101: Understanding Addiction at City Hope and in the City”. Tyrone Kelly will be teaching about the basics of addiction and practical ways to interact with people experiencing addiction at City Hope and around the City. Join us at 5:30pm - snacks and drinks provided!
We will host a second workshop in the spring, focusing on the transgender community. Check back here for registration!
I love San Francisco and after 12 years of living here and raising my family here, I can easily say that every inch feels like home. Yet there is a painful paradox to this city - it is both extremely rich and poor. This can be uncomfortable to talk about and difficult to face.
It has been an exciting and busy start to the new year for City Hope. I am happy to say that our new two-year transitional sober living house is now fully occupied with 26 residents. The residents are amazing and inspiring people who are now leading and expanding our programming at the community center. The City Hope House and City Hope Community Center are working hand in glove to serve our most vulnerable homeless neighbors and build a stronger healthier community in the Tenderloin.