(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