Hunger has come along with job losses during pandemic-related shutdowns. In the Bay Area, food banks continue to see long lines. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank has roughly doubled the number of people it serves since before the pandemic. The cost of procuring that food, meanwhile, is rising as federal aid programs expire.
A new radio series examining how nonprofit organizations in San Francisco are managing challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic begins broadcasting today on KSFP 102.5 FM in San Francisco. “Voices of the Community” is produced by George Koster and will air Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
When Mayor London Breed announced a strict shelter-in-place order on March 16 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, health facilities scrambled to identify ways to safely see patients. For addiction medicine doctors, this presented a particularly difficult challenge: Patients engaged in medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction must be seen frequently, often every few days. Regular doctor visits are not just helpful for people’s recovery but until that point had been required by the federal government for the dispensing of certain opioid addiction medications. As doctors across San Francisco switched to telehealth visits — talking to patients over the phone or through video chat — an unexpected shift took place. Missed appointments, a norm before the shelter-in-place order, became rare.
San Francisco’s housing and homelessness service providers worry that City Hall’s budget decisions will leave them unprepared to face an expected wave of housing displacement. Interviews with staffers at a dozen nonprofits found that calls for assistance have increased by at least 30% and at some organizations by as much as 200% since March when the pandemic forced San Francisco residents to shelter in place amid a recession characterized by widespread income loss. Many providers are concerned expected city budget cuts will hobble their ability to provide vital aid like rental assistance, legal representation in eviction cases, food and emergency shelter, just when clients need help the most. One likely outcome of expected cutbacks they predicted: a worsening of the city’s already daunting homelessness crisis. “We’re all bracing ourselves for a huge growth in the numbers of those who are living on the streets, no question,” said Sara Shortt, director of public policy and community outreach at the Community Housing Partnership, a supportive housing nonprofit.
As Moscone Center began accepting new homeless residents from street encampments in recent weeks, residents and advocates expressed concerns about safety at the convention center and other group shelter settings. Three residents said COVID-19 testing prior to admittance at Moscone Center is inconsistent, residents don’t reliably wear masks and sanitation is lacking. Bathrooms were particularly problematic, they said, citing feces-smeared toilet stalls and showers reeking of urine. “I have yet to see a standardized testing protocol for the reopening of shelters. I don’t know if one exists,” said Brian Edwards, a Coalition on Homelessness organizer and member of the Shelter Monitoring Committee, the city’s homeless shelter oversight board.
Residents struggling to pay for housing due to the coronavirus pandemic have requested more assistance than what is available through City Hall.
Ellen Lee Zhou has a plan to help end San Francisco’s homelessness crisis. And it could involve you. Zhou, a public-health worker, said that if elected mayor, she would pay homeowners monthly stipends to house and mentor some of the city’s estimated 4,300 unsheltered residents. Interested? Sixth in a series analyzing the mayoral candidates’ records and pledges on housing and homelessness.
San Francisco has begun rolling out a new technology platform that officials say will better help the homeless population by giving priority for shelter and housing to those with the greatest need. But the ONE System also functions as a form of rationing of scarce affordable housing.
City native Victoria Ortiz’s path to homelessness began in the East Bay more than two years ago when she was pregnant, working at a Staples and subletting a room. A housemate stopped forwarding the rent to the landlord, and everyone was evicted. This is the story of her determination to find stable housing for her family while living at a shelter in San Francisco.