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San Francisco Quick To Fight COVID-19, Slow To Help Homeless

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed has received nationwide praise for taking drastic early measures in opposition to COVID-19 that appear to have spared San Francisco the catastrophic destiny of New York and different cities.

But she hesitated over what to do with the town’s estimated eight,000 homeless folks throughout the pandemic — till the difficulty got here again to chunk her.

A COVID-19 outbreak on the metropolis’s largest homeless shelter had sickened a minimum of 105 folks by Friday, a few tenth of your complete San Francisco caseload. It led the town — which had deliberate to pack the homeless into the Moscone Center, the town’s gigantic conference corridor, and different large venues — to immediately change instructions.

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While solely 123 homeless folks had been housed in six motels as of April three, final week the town mentioned it had moved 447 folks from shelters into a few of the 2,082 rooms it had rented. That included all 340 residents of Multi-Service Center South, the shelter run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society the place the outbreak occurred.

“It’s really a massive undertaking that has the city’s entire focus now,” mentioned Abigail Stewart-Kahn, the town’s director of the division of homelessness and assistive housing.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors — San Francisco’s metropolis council — on Tuesday unanimously handed an emergency ordinance requiring the town to hire eight,250 lodge rooms by April 26 for homeless folks, discharged COVID-19 sufferers and uncovered front-line employees.

The board, in addition to advocates for the poor and well being care employees in San Francisco, had for weeks lashed out at Breed for her method to the homeless, saying it epitomized the town’s disgraceful dealing with of its most weak inhabitants.

The pandemic has uncovered San Francisco’s “deep disregard for the humanity of our unhoused people,” mentioned Dr. Rupa Marya, an internist at UC-San Francisco Medical Center. “COVID-19 is exposing the fracture lines of our society and bringing to the forefront who we don’t care about.”

While negotiating room charges with lodge and motel house owners for extra rooms, San Francisco opted first to place solely homeless folks with confirmed COVID-19 infections into motels, whereas getting ready mass shelters for others dwelling on the streets.

Breed declared a state of emergency on Feb. 25, 9 days earlier than the town reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, and took middle stage as six Bay Area counties issued stay-at-home orders for all residents on March 16.

But the mayor resisted utilizing her authority to offer lodge rooms for the homeless, citing logistical difficulties. Staff and assets have been wanted to make sure “chaos” didn’t overtake the motels, she mentioned.

“I know that people are asking: Why don’t we just open the doors and let everyone who is homeless have access to a hotel room? I wish it were that easy,” Breed mentioned at a information briefing.

Some progressives took issues into their very own arms, transferring folks out of shelters and into motels regardless of the town authorities’s reluctance. City Supervisor Dean Preston put up $10,000 of his personal cash to assist reserve a minimum of 30 rooms on the Oasis Inn close to City Hall.

On April four, one other supervisor, Matt Haney, led a guerrilla motion with six workers members and about 25 friends from Hospitality House, one of many metropolis’s oldest shelters. The residents put their belongings on transferring carts and pushed them to a close-by vacant lodge.

Hospitality House prioritized these age 60 or older or these affected by underlying well being situations. They made positive these folks might look after themselves in a lodge room, mentioned its government director, Joe Wilson.

“People are loving having their own bed, their own private bathroom,” Wilson mentioned a couple of days later. “We’re urging the city to really step up and accelerate its actions.”

“Our position all along has been to get people into private rooms,” mentioned Jennifer Friedenbach, government director of the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco. “Why not do it early? The city is paying for the rooms.”

City officers estimate that renting eight,250 rooms will price $58.6 million a month, together with meals and safety. Up to $40 million of that could possibly be reimbursed by the state.

On April three, Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative that aimed to open up 15,000 lodge rooms to the state’s homeless inhabitants, with a 75% reimbursement charge from the federal authorities.

Around that point, Los Angeles — dwelling to the state’s largest focus of homeless, about 58,000 folks — started transferring folks into lodge rooms, pulling them out of shelters, hospitals and entry facilities, or off the streets. But Los Angeles has additionally moved slowly.

The aim was to deal with homeless folks in 15,000 lodge rooms, mentioned Heidi Marston, interim government director of Los Angeles’ Homeless Services Authority, however as of Friday solely 629 had moved in.

“It gives them an opportunity to rest and recover,” Marston mentioned. “It’s a good opportunity for us to engage with folks without the stress of having to live on the streets. We’re committed to not going back to where we were.”

Unlike San Francisco, Los Angeles hasn’t had a big outbreak at a homeless shelter, although authorities reported final Monday that four people staying in shelters in L.A. County have examined optimistic for the virus.

In San Francisco, the town initially appeared into giant venues that could possibly be used to “thin out” the shelters. A plan to deal with 400 folks on the Moscone Center was scrapped after a publication for the homeless, Street Sheet, confirmed the plans concerned placing mats on concrete flooring divided by masking tape.

The metropolis has repeatedly cited logistical issues in transferring folks into motels, whereas saying that many dwelling on the road most popular to remain there.

“We don’t want to be renting 3,000 rooms that sit empty for a couple weeks, but we want to be flexible enough to be able to manage the medical surge, as well as manage the need for our vulnerable populations, both in our shelters and on our streets, as well as in our single-room occupancy hotels,” mentioned Trent Rohr, director of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency.

Advocates for the homeless mentioned the Multi-Service Center South outbreak could possibly be repeated until lodge rooms are shortly made obtainable.

“It’s very scary to think about what’s going to happen with them and very painful to know this could have been prevented,” Dr. Juliana Morris, a major care doctor at UCSF who works with sufferers at shelters, mentioned at a digital information convention.

“While Mayor Breed should be commended for her acting so rapidly to protect so many people in San Francisco, who got left behind were our unhoused,” Marya mentioned.

Use Our Content This story will be republished without cost (details).

This KHN story first revealed on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Brian Krans: @citizenkrans

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