A group of faith leaders and protesters from the Do No Harm Coalition staged a "die-in" outside of Mayor London Breed's Lower Haight apartment on Thursday evening, in order to put further pressure on the mayor to house the homeless in empty hotel rooms.
About 50 protesters, some lying down in the street holding roses, demonstrated outside Breed's home calling for the immediate relocation of unhoused people into hotel rooms — as was called for in an emergency ordinance passed on April 14 by the SF Board of Supervisors.
"We just frankly, we're at wits end," says protester and medical student Olivia Park, speaking to KTVU.
Protest outside Mayor Breed's Lower Haight apartment happening now. Doctors and clergy demanding more hotel rooms for homeless people during the #CoronavirusPandemic. (📷: @christinevans) pic.twitter.com/2tek9arrEM— Heather Knight (@hknightsf) May 1, 2020
There are medical students, residents and attendings here outside @londonbreed’s home, as well as faith leaders and unhoused SF residents. They observed a moment of silence & read names of three unhoused San Franciscans who have died during the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/oJfQ3h46iO— Ariel Boone (@arielboone) May 1, 2020
The Do No Harm Coalition is a group based at UCSF Medical School that advocates for housing and against what it calls "state sanctioned violence" against the public. The group, consisting primarily of healthcare workers, was founded in response to the Frisco 5 protests against police violence in 2016.
Medical professionals have been among the most vocal people calling for urgent attention to the issue of homelessness and this pandemic. One UCSF doctor wrote an op-ed on SFist several weeks ago describing how he had to discharge a COVID-negative patient who was homeless and who, because of a health problem, had lost his bed in a Navigation Center. Because he did not have COVID-19, he had to be discharged back onto the street, where if he did have the disease he would have been given a hotel room to stay in.
As SF Weekly reports, Thursday's "die-in" comes after the positive diagnoses of dozens of homeless people staying in city shelters, and individuals living in SROs with shared bathrooms and common spaces. One homeless man, 38-year-old Ian Carrier, whose family believes he may have had an early, undetected case of COVID-19, was discharged Monday after months in and out of the hospital due to multiple medical issues. He was denied a hotel room, and he died, per SF Weekly, "in his wheelchair on Hyde and Eddy streets" on Tuesday.
The protest was organized as well by the Coalition on Homelessness and the group Faith in Action, as the Chronicle reports, and it was spurred by the city's failure to meet the Sunday deadline set by the Board of Supervisors' resolution to secure 8,000 hotel rooms to house the homeless.
Also this week, a tent encampment in Civic Center has grown, and there were reports that the SFPD was enforcing a curfew there — shooing away anyone who didn't have a tent, and forcing everyone to remain inside their tents after dark.
"People can’t shelter in place without shelter," said protest organizer Rev. Sadie Stone, speaking to the Chronicle. "People can’t wash their hands without access to soap and water, and people can’t stay healthy if they don’t have anywhere to rest."
Per the Chronicle, the city has secured 2,500 hotel rooms to date, but only 1,100 of them are occupied. Mayor Breed has held firm that the hotel rooms would be used only for those who were over the age of 60, who suffered chronic medical problems, or who needed space to self-isolate because of a COVID diagnosis.
Protesters affixed signs to the mayor's entry gate, and eventually dispersed.
Speaking at the event directly to the mayor, per SF Weekly, Dr. Noelle Martinez said, "While those experiencing homelessness bear witness to our society’s greatest faults, our institutions’ greatest failings, they carry that proof in their bodies, in their muscles, in their bones, in their kidneys, in their hearts, and now their lungs. With this inaction you are sentencing them to yet another insult."
Photo: Ariel Boone/Twitter