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Jump in mortality rate among homeless in San Francisco since coronavirus pandemic

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Homeless advocacy groups are calling on San Francisco to act faster in protecting the unhoused community.

This comes after the Department of Public Health reported 48 homeless deaths during the pandemic, that’s twice the number of deaths over the same period, from last year.

The Coalition on Homelessness says this was their worst fear while the data released by the Department of Health doesn’t specify the causes of death, the coalition says conditions during the pandemic have played a role.

“Our greatest fears have come true. We have been calling for the hotel rooms. We already knew this would happen if the city didn’t respond appropriately and sure enough they didn’t,” Jennifer Friedenbach said. 

Jennifer Friedenbach with the Coalition on Homelessness says deaths among the homeless community have increased since the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco.

“What came out yesterday is the Department of Public Health released a statement basically revealing that the number of homeless people who have passed away during covid is double if you compare it to the same time period last year,” Friedenbach said. 

The Department of Public Health reported 48 deaths of homeless people between March 20th and May 24th, while the report doesn’t include the causes of death, they speculate that shelters closing, increased drug use, lack of public intervention and lack of medical care all contributed to the deaths.

“Overwhelming majority of these deaths have happened out on the streets. I mean we’re talking about the last moments of these lives being spent on a hard cold concrete. that’s just unimaginable. San Francisco can do better than that,” Friedenbach said. 

With shelters closing and the need to safely shelter in place during the pandemic, the city was supposed to secure 8,000 hotel rooms for the homeless but failed to do so.

Only 1,000 people have been moved into hotel rooms so far.

“We still have 7,000 people outside. we almost have 2,000 hotel rooms that the city’s paying for that are sitting empty and another 12,000 hotel rooms that have been offered that the city hasn’t taken advantage of so very very frustrating,” Friedenbach said. 

The coalition is now calling on the city to do a number of things:

  • Offer all unhoused people a hotel room
  • Test all of the homeless who die during the outbreak and publicly release the cause of the death

While the city’s moving slowly on getting homeless into hotel rooms, we’ve seen more tents crowd the streets.

In the meantime, the city’s set up what’s called safe sleeping villages, which are sanctioned supervised areas for the homeless to sleep, that are equipped with restrooms and health services.

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