The Week in Photos: From SRO Tenants to Shelter-in-Place Restrictions

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Tents line Fulton Street near City Hall on May 5, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

SF Used to Trash Homeless Tents – Now the City Will Sanction These 'Safe Sleeping Sites'
(May 6)

Larry Gaspard near tent encampments in the Civic Center on April 5, 2020. Gaspard doesn't own a tent, so he sleeps near the manhole for heat during the night. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

For years, San Francisco police have ordered tents removed from city streets, even at times slashing them with knives themselves. Public Works employees have tossed the ever-ubiquitous nylon homes of desperate people into dump trucks on a weekly basis.

This week, however, San Francisco will launch the first of five planned “Safe Sleeping Sites,” KQED News has confirmed, with the hope that unhoused people will be kept socially distant amid the COVID-19 pandemic in a controlled location, replete with services like showers and food.

Tents, once an ultimate bogeyman of San Francisco's government, will be revered as lifesaving.

Tents line Fulton Street near City Hall on April 5, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Chinatown Housing Group Feeds Vulnerable SRO Tenants – by Reviving Legacy Restaurants
(May 6)

Meals are distributed at New Asia restaurant in Chinatown on April 5, 2020. The Chinatown Community Development Center partnered with New Asia to form the Community Kitchen Meal Takeout Program, which provides 700 takeout meals to SRO families, five days a week. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Tina Yu, who shares a single-room occupancy unit with her husband and two young daughters, is one of roughly 13,000 residents in Chinatown who live in SROs. The one-room housing units are typically 80 square feet and make up about half of the neighborhood's entire housing stock.

As one of the last remaining affordable housing options in San Francisco, they are largely occupied by many senior residents and new Chinese immigrant families. There are no private kitchens or bathrooms. Despite being one of the densest residential neighborhoods in the nation, San Francisco Chinatown has been largely successful in managing the coronavirus outbreak – but residents say cooking and eating at home often still feels like a daily gamble.

A woman picks up a meal at New Asia restaurant in Chinatown on April 5, 2020. CCDC partnered with New Asia to form the Community Kitchen Meal Take-out Program which provides 700 takeout meals to SRO families, five days a week. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
Ruqiong Fang delivers meals to residents at Ping Yuen, a public housing building in Chinatown, on April 5, 2020. Fang volunteers five days a week to help deliver meals. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

One form of relief has come in the form of Feed + Fuel Chinatown, a free cooked-meal program organized by the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC), a nonprofit affordable housing organization. CCDC owns about 465 SRO units in the neighborhood, and its leaders realized early on that food security was a key vulnerability that needed to be addressed immediately.

Prom? Canceled. Graduation? Canceled. High Schoolers Share Their Worlds With Us (May 7)

Genevieve Schweitzer (right), a junior in high school, and her sister Julia, study Spanish in their backyard on April 6, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The coronavirus has made it a weird spring for everyone, but young people may be feeling it more strongly. Bay Area schools won’t be holding in-person classes for the rest of the school year, which means lots of seniors are finishing out their high school careers online. They aren’t going to prom, signing yearbooks, sharing the news of college acceptances with friends and teachers in person, or even walking across the graduation stage in front of their family and friends.

Julisa Gomez Reyes, a high school junior, holds a poster from a protest in her backyard on April 6, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“My name is Julisa Reyes Gomez. I'm a junior at Independence High School in San Jose. I miss school. I miss my friends. I miss my teachers. I miss the classroom. And this is something that I never thought I would be saying."


“My sleep schedule is really bad right now. The nights are where I’m awake and during the day I’m asleep. And I’m trying to fix that, especially with my family, we’re all doing it. My mom’s out of a job and we just don’t want to do anything because, I don’t know, we can’t go out and we’re usually a quiet family so it’s very difficult to get anything done.”

Qadir Scott, a senior at Oakland Tech, skateboards in Alameda on April 6, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“This is Qadir Scott. I’m a senior at Oakland Tech. A big thing with me, I listen to this band called Bad Brains. Something they talk about is keeping that PMA. That’s positive mind and attitude. PMA. Control everything that you can control, you know. Everything else will kind of play out, but if you keep that positive attitude and mindset, you can achieve anything."

Taila Lee (right), a senior at Woodside High School, walks with her sister Keira around their neighborhood in San Carlos on April 4, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“I’m Taila Lee. I’m a senior at Woodside High School. I’m still taking a lot of time to adjust to online learning. This is only day 3 and I already feel a little bit behind. I think I’m really missing the structure of the school day. I’m also really missing face-to-face instruction and that social interaction with teachers and classmates.”

Bay Area Florists Wilting Under Shelter-In-Place Restrictions (May 8)

Darrell Torchio packages flowers for a customer at his nursery in the San Francisco Flower Mart on April 5, 2020. Torchio started the nursery in 1985 and said that during the past two months they've been doing 10% - 15% of the business that they would normally do this time of year. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Mother's Day is the biggest day for flower shop sales — bigger than Valentine's Day. But the sales bump may not come soon enough to save smaller stores already floundering because of the economic slump caused by COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders.

Yuri Kim runs Fractal Flora, a local flower shop based in downtown San Jose's San Pedro Square neighborhood. The shop is so small, it's housed in a converted garage parking space. In early March, Fractal Flora closed off its retail area but allowed people to walk up to the storefront and point out what they wanted from inside.

Ieshia Edgerton (left) and her daughter Teyana Backey pick out flowers for Mother's Day bouquets for their Bay Area online shop Rooted Floral. The Mother's Day pre-sale event that they held did well which brightened their spirits after weeks with low sales. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

"And then when shelter-in-place came into effect [in Santa Clara County], we decided to close down the retail side completely," Kim said.


As weddings across the region were canceled or postponed, their flower orders dried up as well. Kim and co-founder Sarah Lim had to lay off Fractal Flora's six part-time employees.