SF Has First Case Of Coronavirus In Homeless Shelter, Supes Demand Action

A homeless man sits on the sidewalk on May 17, 2019 in San Francisco.
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

San Francisco has experienced its first case of coronavirus in a homeless shelter.

Officials with the city’s Department of Homelessness announced Thursday that a resident of the Division Circle Navigation Center tested positive for the virus. The patient is in good condition and is recovering in an isolation hotel room.

Additional masks have been given to the remaining guests and staff at the shelter, which the city says will be thoroughly disinfected. 

In a statement, San Francisco Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney, Dean Preston, Shamann Walton and Aaron Peskin say the city has failed to take necessary steps to prevent an outbreak among the city’s homeless population.

“Despite the fact that there are over 30,000 vacant hotel rooms in San Francisco right now, and hotels have offered over 11,000 rooms to the City for use—the Mayor’s Office and City departments in charge have not moved a single person out of shelters or off the streets before they became or were suspected to be infected. Every moment that we wait in getting everyone safely sheltered indoors puts homeless peoples’ lives at risk and endangers our collective public health system and the lives of every San Franciscan.”

The preparation for this has been objectively awful. There's still no social distancing in most shelters, still no one from shelters or navigation centers moved by the city into hotels, no one from the street moved into hotels, and shelters are closed to new guests entirely.

— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) April 2, 2020

At a press conference Wednesday, Mayor London Breed said significant hurdles remain to moving the homeless into isolated rooms. “The capacity and the resources in general needed to provide the wraparound supportive services for many of these populations make it very difficult to just open the doors and allow anyone to just walk in.”

But homeless advocates say they’re frustrated at the city’s slow response. 

“The city feels like they need to have tons of support services in place before they can put people in a hotel… we can decentralize it, not having just the city providing all those services but having community-based organizations that are willing to step forward,” says Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the nonprofit Coalition on Homelessness. “They already know the populations, they know who they can place in the hotels. They’re perfectly capable of figuring that out so we just need to get this going.”

Supervisors are introducing an emergency ordinance on Tuesday that will require the city to use 1,000 rooms to relocate people who are currently in shelters, where practicing social distancing is difficult. The ordinance will also require the city to lease an additional 14,000 rooms by Apr. 28.