Public health emergencies tend to expose the cracks in our society — this time, particularly, around our ability to help SF’s queer elders and those who make a living in the city’s gay nightlife scene amidst times of crisis. In the age of COVID-19, here’s how you can support those two cohorts.

The Castro, more or less, went dark yesterday; 1015 Folsom recently dropped their entire March calendar; Openhouse, a provider of services to SF LGBTQ+ seniors, suspended all senior programs and group activities. The GLBT Historical Society moved its planned 35th-anniversary party — online.

Know you’re not alone in your hellacious anxieties about what’s to come of this coronavirus pandemic. But, alas, now’s not the time to wax oh woe is me; count your lucky, burning celestial orbs, if you’re fortunate enough to still have both your health and livelihood intact.

With today’s advent of technologies, even twiddling your despondent thumbs can lend to a bout of benevolence and well-wishing. (Fun fact: actively participating in gratitude and charity bolsters the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain [endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine], improving your overall sense of well being and sense of self.)

Things could be a hell of a lot better, sure. Let’s face it: we have a president who won’t yet take accountability for his own actions and his administration’s hand in our COVID-19 catastrophe.

But! Let’s be gracious — tender, charitable — to one another, San Francisco, and bestow some unapologetically queer love from a socially-distant stance. Here’s a rundown on how you can directly help illuminate the lives of those among us left in uncharted darkness.

Our Queer Elders

Reach out to someone in the community. Sincerely ask questions like: How are you doing? Anything I can help you with? I’m here and willing to hold space if you need to talk. One of the kindest, most important things you can do is acknowledge someone’s humanity, importance, and presence. You could, in fact, be saving a life — or helping extend one.

Help them secure Congregate Meal Program assistance. The City of San Francisco Human Service Agency (HSA) just switched over to only providing takeaway meals at HSA senior centers. Consider offering an elder in your life, queer or not, a ride to pick up said no-cost meal. A full list of locations can be found here.

Ask Openhouse for ways to help. Open House is still in need of volunteers and support with outreach assistance. Try calling (415)-296-8995 to speak with an employee or getting in contact with them to learn about specific ways to help.

Help them navigate applicable financial assistance programs offered by the City of San Francisco, as well as relevant tenant right laws. Juanita MORE! has done a phenomenal job rounding up certain local government programs and tenant legislation that traditional renters and residents of SROs — which are increasingly now occupied by seniors — can reference below:

  • The City is working on a moratorium on evictions for tenants who can’t pay rent because of the COVID-19 outbreak
  • The City announced a $5 million package to clean shelters and single-room-occupancy housing to comply with Minimum Environmental Cleaning Standards
  • Details are forthcoming, and we are working to extend these protections to commercial tenants as well
  • Your landlord cannot engage in price-gouging during a state of emergency
  • If you receive a notice for a rent increase over 10%, contact the SF Rent Board right away

Our Nightlife Entertainers and Workers

Embrace Venmo — and tip a queen. Joe Wadlington did the Lord’s work and wrangled up local drag queens who would appreciate a few (digital) dollars thrown their way. Find those regal beings — and their Venmo usernames — in the tweet reel, below:

Donate to someone on this COVID-19 Financial Solidarity Google Doc. Kind, effervescent soul Doe Taryn has created an open Google Spreadsheet that those financially affected by the coronavirus — gay, straight, fluid; male, female, non-identifying — can, without judgment, write in at and ask for help. Read through the litany of testimonies, and send funds to the appropriate Paypal, Venmo, and CashApp accounts you see fit.

Inform them of employment-related financial assistance programs they can utilize. Admittedly, those who make living through completely self-employed means might struggle to find SF-aided solvency, but most of us have a side-hustle — that’s backed by an employer. Juanita MORE!, again, has done us all a favor and compiled a digestible scroll to reference. See below:

  • San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance requires employers to provide paid sick leave to all employees (including temporary and part-time)
  • The Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement has a multilingual paid sick leave hotline at (415) 554–6271
  • Employers are required to maintain health care benefits if you take leave to care for yourself or your dependents
  • Unemployed workers have access to health care through Covered California and undocumented workers still have access to health care through Healthy San Francisco
  • If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim
  • If you’re unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim
  • PFL provides up to six weeks of benefit payments
  • There will be more support announced in the coming days
  • See more City and State resources for workers here

Wash your hands. Be compassionate, boundlessly patient, and empathetic toward members of our city and community. Take responsibility for the amount of human contact you have, wave and say “Hi!” to your neighbors. Don’t be a dickhead and board a plane leaving SFO whilst feeling unwell — with COVID-19-like symptoms — to hookup on the East Coast.

We’ll all get through this together, with the support of one another, queer family.

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