SF organizations fill gaps in COVID-19 aid to help heavily impacted Latino community

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — In San Francisco, the Latino community has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic — making 50 percent of reported cases in the city, the most among any ethnic group. 

Despite the city’s recent announcement of expanding outreach and support to Latino communities impacted by COVID-19, there is still a substantial need for assistance among the community. 

In the Mission District, the majority Latino community has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases throughout the city as local data reveals Latinos are disproportionately impacted by the virus. 

SF Latino Task Force

In response, San Francisco’s Latino Task Force, a group of more than three dozen community based organizations is addressing the multiple needs of immigrants, elders, homeless and many other populations severely impacted by COVID-19. 

“The Latino Task Force came together by some old-time activists and organizers who were raised in the mission and we said we have to respond to COVID-19 as soon as this shelter-in-place took place here in San Francisco,” said Valerie Tulier-Laiwa, coordinator for the Latino Task Force.

“We knew that there were going to be immediate needs that our community was going to need … we want to be a resource for families.”

Educating the community

Originally, the LTF was formed to connect Mission District community-based organizations with various city government resources. 

The group quickly identified basic needs among the community — forming three committees focused on communication, outreach, food and education. 

“We had to educate the community and walk up and down Mission Street and let them know that they couldn’t be congregating,” said Tulier-Laiwa.

“They needed to know to socially distance, this was a time before masks were mandatory.”

What started off as a once a week food hub distribution site providing culturally relevant food — serving nearly 500 families once a week has now expanded to 13 active committees offering COVID-19 testing and financial assistance and many more. 

Rooted in culture

Now, three times a week the LTF serves over 7,000 families at the Mission Language and Vocational School also known as the Centro Social Obrero — which was founded by Mexican-born Abel Gonzalez in 1962, aimed to unify immigrant labor workers through education and job training. 

“This became a powerhouse, our city hall of the Mission,” said Roberto Hernandez, founder of the Mission Food Hub — one of the many community-based organizations serving the Latino community. 

“How appropriate it is that here, decades later, it’s going back to its origins of serving the people of most need.”  

Essential services

Essential Services Hub

On the second floor, the essential services hub offers various services including economic relief, job assistance and health resources. 

LTF serves city-wide in partnership with over 30 community based organizations involving various officials and representatives from local, state and federal government — including the Mexican consulate. 

“We are just one piece of a larger societal problem and also a government responsibility … we did not wait for the government necessarily to give us the answers,” said Tulier-Laiwa.

“Everything we do is community-led, community-driven and community-implemented … we bring government to the table so we can partner with them to see what resources they can offer to support our efforts in addressing this issue.” 

Online, a one-stop multilingual website helps the community throughout the city be informed and stay connected with vital COVID-19 resources. 

Offering important information in English, Spanish and Maya — is one of the many avenues the group is responding to the needs of their community.

“It humbled me as a person because I was taking stuff for granted and seeing how these people  are desperate just for a box of food is crazy … I think it’s very important to help out my community,”

“These people need this help, people sometimes come here and are treated like they’re not human … I make sure these people get treated with respect because at the end of the day they’re human,” said Pena Sanchez, intern with the SF Latino Task Force. 

“I am making sure that our people are good, we come here, we work hard and we just look out after our people, that’s what we do here,” said Alberto Perez, with the SF Latino Task Force. 

The LTF offers food and essential services every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday — including mobile testing every Thursday at the Mission Language and Vocational School located at 2929 19th Street. 

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