People line up outside the St. Vincent de Paul Society Multi-Service Center on Fifth Street. A new city order will set minimum cleaning standards for homeless shelters, SROs and resource centers serving the homeless. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF to spend $5M to protect seniors, homeless from coronavirus

Funding will pay for more cleaning, meals in SROs and shelters

San Francisco will spend $5 million to better protect seniors living in single-room occupancy hotels and homeless residents staying in shelters from catching COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Mayor London Breed announced Monday.

The funding will pay for expanded cleaning in homeless shelters, SROs and permanent supportive housing. It will also pay for increased meal deliveries to those living in SROs, where many low-income seniors live, to reduce the need for tenants to leave home.

The announcement comes after San Francisco confirmed five new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 13 cases. The City announced its first two cases four days ago on March 5.

Breed’s announcement said that “The City will fund roving cleaning crews to provide rigorous cleaning in congregate settings” and that “additional janitors will move amongst the City’s shelters, resource centers, and Permanent Supportive Housing that contract with the City.”

The additional funding also comes with a new Public Health order issued by the Department of Public Health establishing minimum cleaning standards for privately-operated SROs and city-funded homeless shelters and resource centers.

“We know that many of our most vulnerable residents—those who could get very sick or die if they contract COVID-19—are living in congregate and semi-congregate settings like shelters and single-room occupancy hotels,” Breed said in a statement. “We have to do more to keep these places clean and work to keep people healthy as this disease spreads within our community.”

“This emergency fund and this Public Health Order are part of our work to respond aggressively to the challenges presented by COVID-19 each and every day,” Breed continued. “Everyone should continue to follow the best health practices, and we will continue to do the work to deliver more protections for those in need.”

Owners of the SROs will have access to some of the funds to help them meet the mandates of the public health order. The City will also establish a team through the Emergency Operations Center to inspect the premises.

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said that seniors and those with underlying health conditions are most at risk of becoming severely ill or dying if they catch COVID-19.

“That is why we are recommending that people over 60, or with certain underlying health conditions, stay home as much as possible,” Colfax said. “For vulnerable people in SROs or shelters, this investment will help them limit their outings, by assuring that food and shelter is available, and that congregate settings are clean environments.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district includes many SROs and a large senior population, supported the plan.

“These are the City’s next steps, informed by meaningful community input and a close collaboration between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors that will help ensure the public’s health is protected,” Peskin said in a statement.

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