Local Bay Area governments and advocates are concerned about homeless people dealing with the unhealthy air quality caused by the Camp Fire.
Impacts are being felt across the region as air quality has worsened, fluctuating between “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy.”
In response, a number of homeless advocacy groups are expanding homeless outreach services.
The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing in San Francisco—which combines key homeless serving programs and contracts from the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Human Services Agency (HSA), the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), and the Department of Children Youth and Their Families (DCYF)—is expanding shelter space and checking on people in the streets.
Randy Quezada, the department's Communications and Community Relations Manager, says they have expanded their shelter to include 75 additional mats, and are performing wellness checks, offering masks, water and transport to the shelter for unsheltered people.
“We’re concerned about unsheltered people, because the best advice we’ve been getting from the Department of Public Health is to try to be indoors,” Quezada said. “So we are trying to create opportunities for people to come indoors through our expanded shelter. And for those people who cannot come in, we have been offering masks. At this point we’ve distributed 1,400 masks and almost 700 bottles of water, but our goal is to get as many people in as we can.”
Jennifer Friedenbach is Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, a homeless advocacy group in San Francisco that is coordinating with local government and civic organizations to ensure they are distributing masks, providing shelter, and getting the word out to homeless people about the various resources available to them.
She says there are anywhere between 7,000 and 10,000 people homeless on the streets of San Francisco at any given time.
“You know, the health warnings coming down are telling folks to go inside. And all these folks are outside 24/7 and already have compromised health situations as a result, because human beings are not meant to live outdoors,” Friedenbach said. “So they’re at particular risk. Many of them are elderly, and there’s also a lot of homeless children. We have about 3,300 homeless children in San Francisco, and the schools are now closed and they don’t have the school to go to to get out from sleeping in their cars or where they might be staying. So they are at particular vulnerability for the poor air quality and its negative health impacts.”
The San Francisco Human Services Agency, along with Episcopal Community Services and the San Francisco Interfaith Council, will be opening the Interfaith Winter Shelter this Sunday to provide up to 100 additional beds.
To find out more about shelters, go to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing website.