Dozens of senior citizens who live at the Altamont Hotel at 3048 16th Street have reportedly resorted to begging on the street or scrounging for food after a food pantry that had delivered to them weekly stopped doing so for safety reasons several weeks ago.
Speaking to KTVU, Kimberly James, one of the residents of the SRO hotel, says, "We've been shut down, the food banks. Ever since this started." She took her complaints to the news station after she felt ignored by the management of the hotel — while the management says that residents had been given a pamphlet with other free food options. James says those options aren't sufficient for many people in the building who are elderly and homebound, because they involve going to pick up the food themselves.
"Our seniors can't go out and do this," she tells the station. "We're shelter-in-place! They've been delivering to us for over 10 years."
Problems like this are bound to keep arising during the shelter-in-place order, which will disproportionately impact seniors and low-income wage workers across the Bay Area.
The Altamont Hotel is an 88-unit affordable housing site operated by the Mission Housing Development Corporation. The organization says the SRO is "of the oldest and largest hotels in the neighborhood... having been built in the Post-1906 reconstruction period." And it provides supportive housing for the formerly homeless and very low-income adults like Ms. James.
SROs like this one, though, can potentially be vectors for the coronavirus, because residents must share bathroom facilities and are therefore not entirely isolated. The SF Board of Supervisors and the mayor are working to potentially relocate vulnerable SRO residents as well as the unsheltered homeless to hotels that are being pressed into service as emergency shelters. The city is in talks to lease at least 8,500 hotel rooms for this purpose, with more possibly to come.
In the meantime, volunteers and workers at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank are reportedly nervous about making food deliveries during this pandemic. And a representative for Meals on Wheels tells KTVU that its waiting list for seniors who wanting to sign up for its meal delivery program grew by 50 percent in the last week.
Photo courtesy of Mission Housing Development Corporation