As the dread first COVID-19 case at a Navigation Center has arrived, several supervisors are fuming that transition of unhoused people to safe hotels has barely started.
A grim development that we all knew was coming, but is heartbreaking nonetheless, is that the first Navigation Center resident has tested positive for COVID-19 at the 186-person capacity Division Circle facility. Mission Local reports that the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing put out a statement affirming that the unidentified individual “is in good condition, and is currently recovering in an isolation hotel,” which is encouraging, but probably not so much for the other 185 people who stay at the center. “This is a massive alarm bell,” Coalition on Homlessness executive director Jennifer Friedenbach said in a statement to the Examiner. “If this doesn’t shift things into high-gear, I don’t know what will.”
#BREAKING: A shelter resident at the Division Circle Navigation Center has tested positive for #COVID19.— Coalition on Homelessness (@TheCoalitionSF) April 2, 2020
This is why we have been demanding that the City house homeless people in hotel rooms BEFORE they are infected + infect 150+ people staying there.
Despite headlines like ours saying that thousands of unhoused people would be put up in hotels, this effort is very pointedly not in high gear and thus far has housed a completely negligible number of people. 48 Hills notes the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution demanding 3,500 hotel rooms be made available for the unsheltered, though that resolution is non-binding. “If we do not acquire thousands of hotel rooms by Wednesday we are going to be part of the problem,” that resolution co-sponsor supervisor Aaron Peskin told 48 Hills. For those of you having trouble keeping track, Wednesday was yesterday.
And as you see below, 48 Hills reporter Sam Lew brings the news today that the supes will push a requirement that at least 1,000 of these rooms be made available to the homeless population, though it is unclear if that one will be non-binding as well.
BREAKING: @MattHaneySF @shamannwalton @DeanPreston @HillaryRonen @AaronPeskin introducing an Emergency Ordinance putting into law a requirement that at least 1,000 rooms be used for unhoused people currently in congregate settings like shelters at next BOS meeting— Sam Lew (@samklew) April 2, 2020
The supes’ criticisms are generally lodged at Mayor Breed’s prioritizing of healthcare workers and post-hospitalized COVID patients over the homeless, though a separate Mission Local report notes the mayor is now placing unsheltered people 60 years old and older ahead in the priority line (as well as those with underlying health conditions), and that as of today, 123 people meeting those criteria are now placed in hotels. “We need to stop talking about what we need more of,” Breed said at a press conference. “The city will only communicate what we are able to deliver on.”
Today we spoke with representatives from the mayor’s office and city department heads. They committed to moving unhoused seniors and people with underlying health conditions (that make them vulnerable to COVID), to a hotel room over the next few days. Your advocacy is working!— Shamann Walton (@shamannwalton) April 1, 2020
That’s great, but there is little to show for a transition effort that was announced a couple weeks ago. “Over two weeks into the order, other cities have surpassed us in their efforts to get people into private rooms,” supervisor Matt Haney said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
He’s frankly downplaying this. With the 123 people now in hotels, plus the few dozen housed by supervisor Dean Preston’s effort with the Oasis Inn, this is still a miniscule percentage of the homeless in true shelter-in-place safety. And we now know that the virus has hit that population, so regrettably, we’re probably going to be bringing you more stories with sadly similar headlines to this one.
Related: Despite Social Distancing Success In Bay Area, We Still Have to Brace for Death Toll to Rise [SFist]