As tragic stories about COVID cluster deaths in Black communities begin to emerge from New York and Detroit to Georgia and beyond, many are pointing out the dangers of ignoring racial disparities when it comes to healthcare, economic opportunity, and government support.
Now, the Bay View newspaper, Beds 4 Bayview, and several community groups and activists are calling on the city to provide emergency aid for essential community institutions such as Mother Brown’s Dining Room, which provides “food, fellowship and a place to rest are elderly, disabled or have chronic health problems, making them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.”
“We, the community of Bayview Hunters Point, demand a robust emergency response from our local government to ensure that our basic needs are being met,” reads an open letter to Mayor London Breed and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, published in the newspaper March 30.
The letter also called for correcting the homeless services disparity facing the district, which contains the second-highest number of homeless people (1500) in the city. “Yet there are very few homeless services, compared to neighborhoods like SoMa and the Tenderloin that also have many people in need,” says the letter.
The letter also demands more contact with the community about COVID risks and aid, as well as a demand that unsheltered people in the district, who tend to be elderly, disabled, and suffer from underlying health conditions, be housed in empty hotel rooms as part of that effort. As Beds 4 Bayview activist Gloria Berry says in a video accompanying the letter, while steps like opening the Moscone Center to unhoused people are laudable, very little COVID-aid attention has been directed to the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood.
Emergency COVID-19 aid needed in Bayview-Hunters Point
Open letter to San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton
While the City of San Francisco has taken dramatic steps in the face of the COVID-19 crisis – declaring a state of emergency, ordering shelter-in-place and opening the Moscone Center as an emergency shelter – very little of the response has been directed towards the Bayview. This is part of a longstanding pattern of ignoring the Bayview unless there are condos to build or a sewage treatment plant to locate.
We, the community of Bayview Hunters Point, demand a robust emergency response from our local government to ensure that our basic needs are being met.
Our present crisis is stressing service providers who are already overburdened. District 10, which contains Bayview Hunters Point, has the second highest unsheltered homeless population in the City with over 1,500 going without shelter. Yet there are very few homeless services, compared to neighborhoods like SoMa and the Tenderloin that also have many people in need.
The USDA considers Bayview-Hunters Point to be an “urban food desert,” which means community kitchens like Mother Brown’s, which cooks hundreds of meals a day, have to work overtime to meet the needs of food insecure residents even in normal times. With the economic downturn, closures of businesses and suspension of some community meals and pantries, it has become even harder for poor and homeless Bayview residents to find a meal.
The City should be working closely with and providing emergency aid to Mother Brown’s and other community resources during this time, not turning its back.
We demand emergency funding be made available so that Mother Brown’s and other organizations can hire adequate staff to cook additional meals, safely provide additional showers and hygiene services, and deliver meals to seniors and disabled members of the community. Alternatively, the City could directly provide staff to aid in these life-sustaining activities.
In addition, with no way to shelter in place, the large unsheltered population in the Bayview and surrounding neighborhoods is at severe risk of contracting coronavirus. Since these individuals are disproportionately elderly, disabled and with health conditions that put them at increased risk of severe symptoms if infected, we demand that they be housed as part of the City’s emergency efforts to secure hotel rooms.
Since there are no hotels in the neighborhood, the City must make an effort to locate temporary housing options in the Bayview and surrounding neighborhoods, so that people who are temporarily housed don’t lose contact with their support networks.
Lastly, we demand that representatives from the Mayor’s office, HSH (Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing), DEM (Department of Emergency Management) and HSA (Human Services Agency) be in regular contact with service providers like Mother Brown’s and with other community leaders in the Bayview so that its unique needs can be taken into account and so the neighborhood is not forgotten in the implementation of emergency measures.
San Francisco Bay View newspaper
Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates
Beds 4 Bayview Coalition
Gloria Berry, Delegate for Assembly District 17
Ralph Hall Jr., Homeless Bayview Resident, Expecting a Child
Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, MD, Principal Investigator, Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program
Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
Democratic Socialists of America, San Francisco Chapter Homelessness Working Group