At least two homeless women took over a vacant house in the Castro on Friday as part of a protest demanding housing for all people during the coronavirus pandemic.
The women, from a newly formed group called Reclaim San Francisco, moved into the home at 4555 19th St. while protesters gathered outside holding signs.
The group streamed the protest live on Facebook. Wearing masks, police officers stood outside the property while the women looked out the second-story window.
The protest comes after a group of homeless mothers occupied a vacant property in Oakland last November, drawing widespread attention on social media.
The homeless women in this protest are Couper Orona, a former firefighter who lives in a recreational vehicle and rides a bicycle around San Francisco offering medical services, and Jess Gonzalez, a dog walker who was recently evicted.
“I love my city and I am there for my community, but the way our leaders have ignored our pleas for support is heartbreaking,” Orona said in a statement. “We need permanent housing, and we need it now.”
The group is calling on Mayor London Breed to use vacant units to house people during the pandemic who are living in residential hotels, on the streets or in shelters.
“In terms of our total homeless population, San Francisco has done more than any city in the country to move people into hotels, RVs, and other alternative housing sites,” Andy Lynch, a spokesman for Breed, said Friday. More than 1,000 people have been put in hotel rooms that have been acquired and staffed, he said. “We’ve secured over 2,700 rooms in total, and just this week we opened another four hotels with 294 rooms. We’re continuing to move more people into these sites every day as we respond to this pandemic.”
The house at 4555 19th St. is an “investment property” that has been vacant for years, according to the activists.