*Editor’s note: Felicia Hyde is a journalism student in SF State’s Journalism 575 Community Media this spring. Taught by professor Jon Funabiki, the class is a collaboration with El Tecolote.
The COVID-19 outbreak has turned San Francisco’s streets all but into a virtual ghost town, with the exception of homeless and other residents who still need help.
San Francisco City Impact, a 35-year-old non-profit and inner-city church in the Tenderloin continues to love and provide resources for the homeless population.
One of many City Impact ministries is Rescue Mission, where anyone is able to walk-in to receive a hot meal, and have the option to experience a worship service, words of encouragement and prayer. Residents of the neighboring areas have been able to collect to-go boxes and receive prayer during this difficult time.
“Staff are working from home, trips and events have been cancelled, volunteers have to stay home, and our students are learning remotely,” said Emma Michel, sponsorship coordinator for City Impact SF. “Life looks different for everyone right now—but we are thankful that we can still serve our vulnerable neighbors and stay connected with each other as staff, supporters, and volunteers.”
A key ministry of SF City Impact is their Food Bank, which is considered essential by the city of San Francisco. The team has a small on site that hands out hundreds of meals every weekday to their homeless neighbors. They have made adjustments in order to ensure that their staff and community abide by CDC guidelines for physical distancing and preventative measures.
“We remain operating to serve this incredibly vulnerable community by providing essential meals and groceries to an average of 500 people a day,” said Olivia Catanio, executive administrative assistant for City Impact SF. “By remaining open, we ensure that this community, including many who are homeless, is not left without food and resources during this challenging time.”
Aside from these people being in need of food and basic essentials, the city has made efforts to house the homeless in vacant hotels and bring awareness to the community about the risks of not physically distancing during this pandemic.
“With local shelters limiting admission, the homeless population in San Francisco is largely tent camping on sidewalks which has posed challenges for social distancing as many tent communities live close together,” said Catanio.
According to City Impact’s website, San Francisco City Impact has seen a 60 percent increase in the number of families and households seeking services because of the pandemic.
Life for many has drastically changed while those suffering from homelessness are not dealing with anything new, except for the fact that now the problems this community had to deal with before are only amplified.
People are lined next to one another along the sidewalk, a place that they consider home, waiting for when they will be able to have any kind of access to resources again.
“As a staff we grieve the losses and hardship this has posed on the Tenderloin community. We recognize that the homeless and others living in poverty are already in vulnerable situations and this has only been exacerbated by the time of uncertainty,” said Catanio. “During this pandemic, our heart to reach the community has not wavered. We remain committed to sharing God’s love in the Tenderloin and to doing all that we can to relieve the burdens and hardship that the community is experiencing due to the pandemic.”