Back in June, I was overjoyed. The vaccine was being administered throughout San Francisco and City Hope was reopening! No more food line, no more to-go meals, no more double masking. Finally, we could welcome our guests inside, offer them a seat, a warm, plated meal, and give them a big hug!
But then...not so fast. As news of the variant spread, we at City Hope realized we needed to rethink our operations once more. It felt like a punch in the gut, but we needed to ask the question once again, “For the safety of our guests, staff, and volunteers, do we return to serving all of our meals outdoors?”
The answer soon became clear when the SFDPH and Mayor of SF, London Breed, issued the Safer Return Together Health Order for San Francisco. Vaccinated San Franciscans were still able to dine indoors, so we decided to offer the same opportunity to our guests. In August, we pivoted to a hybrid model--guests that can show proof of vaccination are welcomed to dine indoors, while those who cannot, are offered a to-go meal.
This hybrid model of serving free meals certainly comes with its challenges. For one, it has created more work for our program staff and volunteers. Chef Justin Gabbert once again increased the amount of delicious meals in to-go packaging while Program Manager, Jacey Massetto devised a new system of service. Our vaccinated guests would be prioritized first and would be seated and served one hour before we began delivering our to-go meals. When serving those who experience the trauma of homelessness, you never want to create a barrier to service, but we felt this was the best course of action.
One positive result of the hybrid model has been that it has created a “membership has its privileges” type of atmosphere. Now our guests who have vaccine cards quickly jump the line and proudly show us their vaccine cards. Of course, not every person is happy about or understanding of this new model, and we often have to remind them that this is part of a city-wide policy, that we will still serve them a great meal, and that they can get vaccinated.
In fact, they can get vaccinated at City Hope. City Hope will host a vaccination team from the San Francisco Department of Public Health to administer shots on September 29th and October 6th during our Movie Night Dinner. A free meal and a life saving vaccine--that’s an amazing combination!
In all of these efforts, City Hope takes another step forward. Diligently working toward and patiently awaiting the day in which ALL of our guests are welcomed back inside and offered a place at our table. We certainly could not do this without your commitment to volunteer, your financial support, or your encouragement. Thank you for moving forward with us!
Pastor Paul Trudeau
Co-Director, City Hope SF