With the progression of COVID-19, our community looks for resources and information.

The authorities in San Francisco have issued a shelter in place order for the city’s residents in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The measure will be effective until April 7, meaning that people should remain at home except for:

  • Getting food 
  • Taking care of loved ones 
  • Medical reasons
  • Being an essential worker 

This situation has raised uncertainty among the Latino community of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Schools, community centers, and some businesses have been closed in an attempt to stop the virus, which is starting to affect Latino families who are looking for resources and information to get ahead during these difficult times.   

Celina Castro-Saelao is the Family Support Manager at Mission Promise Neighborhood, a program of the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). She, along with their team of Family Success Coaches, helps families with living opportunities, business development, seeking employment, tax filing, real estate and loan funding. 

During this crisis, Castro-Saelao and MEDA have been trying to offer more support to the community. 

“We are supporting schools, creating action plans for the families and making sure they remain connected and supporting their students at home,” said Castro-Saelao.

According to Castro-Saelao, the Latino community—especially those who are undocumented—have been seriously impacted in areas such as:

Illustration: Chiara Di Martino
  • Access to food access and food pantries
  • Health
  • Access to education and technology
  • Lack of employment and salary
  • Undocumented families
  • Confusion and misinformation

Food access and food pantry

MEDA is trying to collaborate with the San Francisco Food Bank to help those who lack food items. Families who don’t have access to food pantries often ask “Where do I go?,” said Castro-Saelao. They’re also sharing information about the San Francisco Unified School District which provides a meal service for students and their families.   

“We have a food pantry in our schools each week and that’s how they get some food help,” she said. 


Castro-Saelao said that MEDA is working closely with Mission Neighborhood Health Center and are referring patients who have concerns and questions. She also mentioned that Instituto Familiar de la Raza (IFR) has counselors available by phone for those who need psychological support.        

“We have been talking with Mission Neighborhood Health Center. They’re sharing their protocol of what we should do and we’re also following the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) protocol.” 

Education and technology access

This area is impacting families with school-age children the most. It’s possible that schools remain closed for the rest of the school year, according to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s comments during his March 17 press meeting. Castro-Saelao said that MEDA is trying to get resources so that families have things to do while at home. She also pointed out that lack of access to technology makes this situation harder. Parents ask her frequently “What else can I do with my child?”

Lack of employment and salary

Castro-Saelao noted that people are undergoing economic hardship with the temporary closure of restaurants and other businesses where they were employees. The owners of small businesses that managed to keep afloat, are also seeing the change in the number of customers, which makes it harder to remain open. MEDA is gathering the correct information to avoid confusion among the people who are looking for help. Families are worried about rent.    

“We have been hearing stories about families where a member has been laid off because there’s not enough work,” she said. 

Undocumented families

MEDA is planning on how to help undocumented families. Castro-Saelao noted that they’re trying to see if the city can offer more money for subsidies. They’re also figuring out who qualifies for financial help and who doesn’t.   

“Right now we’re jotting down the needs. If people need jobs, we’ll be trying to help with that too,” she added.  

Confusion and desinformation

Castro-Saelao feels that the mass media have created fear and confusion, especially within the Latino community. She claims that the lack of proper translation and explanation of the term “curfew” has created exaggerated fear among people who don’t speak English. 

“For us (Latinos) curfew means not leaving their house at all, and if they do it, they fear something bad might happen to them,” she said.

State officials have said that people are allowed to leave the house for essential errands. They added that it’s fine to go out for activities such as walking your dog, as long as you keep a distance of six feet from other people. It’s best to avoid groups.  

“During this time it is important to be kind to one another, to rely on each other…we will be fine,” she said. 

For more precise information please visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the website SF.GOV.  

Please visit Mission Economic Development (MEDA) for more information.