The Marys report on the formerly empty hotel rooms now housing previously homeless people in San Francisco. The city wants to close the “Shelter in Place”/S.I.P. hotels ASAP, but has promised to permanently house the current tenants at the hotels. Mary Crisis, who works inside one of the hotels, joins us. (The City’s preferred term for people inside is “guests” – a weird term, given the extreme surveillance, lack of toilet paper, and no real plan for getting people into housing…at the same time as hundreds of thousands of condos sit empty throughout the Bay Area.)
“Mayor Breed Opts for Mass Indoor Camps” at Moscone Center, from Street Sheet
“MOMS4Housing Vs RealESnakkkes Fierce Mamaz Resist Devil-Opers for Thousands of us houseless mamaz”
“Postal Service Data Underscores Tech Exodus” in SF Weekly
KPIX CBS News “Coronavirus Update: San Francisco Paid $30,000 A Day For Empty Hotel Rooms During Pandemic”
James Baldwin interview from the documentary “Take This Hammer”
ABC 7 News Coverage of “Rainbow Rock”
“Shelter-in-Place Hotel Wind-Down Plan Lacks Adequate Data, Strategy on Race” in SF Public Press – https://www.sfpublicpress.org/shelter-in-place-hotel-wind-down-plan-lacks-adequate-data-strategy-on-race/
A worker’s letter to officials: “The lack of basic needs and supplies, funding, and staffing at the SIP hotel“
Recorded December 27, 2020. Transcripts and resources at gayshame.net/index.php/gay-shame-the-podcast/.
Abigail Stewart Kahn 0:00
I just want to be careful with language. We will continue to to rely on data and facts that we’re collecting create some kind of special sauce. I can tell you you know, I understand that they are tears. And when I talk to people,
Abigail Stewart Kahn 0:17
i understand they are in tears. i understand they are in tears.
Mary Prance 0:22
Gay shame is a virus in this system. We are committed to a trans queer extravaganza that brings direct action to spectacular levels of confrontation. We work collectively outside boring and deceptive nonprofit models to fight white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, cops, settler colonialism and all forms of domination. Liberals think we are frivolous declarations and mainstream gays want us gone. Against them and with each other we instigate irritate and agitate to build cultures of devastating resistance. And this is our fourth or fifth Podcast.
Mary Howard Johnson 0:59
I am Mary Howard Johnson.
Mary Daggers 1:02
And I’m Mary Daggers.
Mary Crisis 1:04
And I’m Mary Crisis.
Mary Prance 1:06
And this is Mary France. And today we’re going to talk specifically about the shelter-in -place hotels, if people don’t know San Francisco to respond to how the covid 19 coronavirus pandemic was impacting its unhoused. Folks decided to put folks inside of hotels. And so we’re just going to have a little discussion about that tonight.
Mary Howard Johnson 1:34
In San Francisco, one of the big industries is tourism and because of COVID-19 obviously there were no tourists coming to get on the trolley. In fact the trolley was not running. As a result we had all these empty hotel rooms and still tons and tons of people on the streets. Within Gay Shame, some of us have been homeless, some of us have squatted. Some of us are precariously housed– really who isn’t, right now? So, shelter in place, aka SIP hotels, were formed. We’ve had a long standing problem of houseless people not having a place to go. Prior to the pandemic, the waitlist for shelter beds was always at least 1000 people over the number of shelter beds available. And it’s principally San Franciscans, who are getting evicted. Shelters have their own problems. We won’t get into that in this episode. But the SIP hotels were created as a temporary place where people could go during what was assumed to be a short lived pandemic. And it’s just been a great big politically constructed mess ever since March of 2020. Currently, there are 2300 people in hotels. And all of these people have been promised some sort of support upon getting out. We can give you a little bit more info on that later, when we speak with our guest, a fellow Mary– Mary Crisis– who has been working at one of the SIP hotels.
Mary Daggers 3:37
We’re trying to be critical of the shelter-in-place hotels and talk about what we would like to see, but how much we like don’t want to be in alignment with like, right wing efforts to shut down the hotels.
Mary Howard Johnson 3:49
Mary Daggers 3:50
And that we’re like holding all of that complexity, like that’s what our aim is to be able to talk critically about it. While also you know, always keeping in mind that we want people to have housing we want, like those like promises that San Francisco is supposedly making to come true.
Mary Howard Johnson 4:09
For people who are not aware, in San Francisco, we are living off of some like storied reputation that is not exactly based in reality. Yes. There are a few moments in San Francisco history. For example, there was a fight over the I hotel. I hotel was in what was Manila town, mainly Filipinx neighborhood that was torn down by developers with help of the city where low income people lived. And there was a huge movement that formed around it. But, in general, the real estate industry rules. And so Gay Shame has been for at least the last 10 years, a lot of our focus has been around gentrification issues because gentrification issues are an issue that affects not just queer people. Although queer and trans people, especially of color, and low income people, and people with disabilities are the people who are targeted the most by this pro real estate regime that we exist in here in San Francisco. Most of our local politicians are funded by the real estate industry. One of the departments that seems to be immune from budget cuts is the Department of Public Works- DPW– which, along with the cops are the ones to basically go around. Their job is to harass homeless people, throw away their tents, throw away their medication, throw away their assistive devices for accessibility, and basically move them around in a circle. [They] try to disappear them try to make their existences as illegal as possible with local ordinances like Sit/Lie, which makes it a fineable offense to sit or lie on the sidewalk, anywhere, even if you are not doing a damn thing to bother anyone. They’ve taken many of the park benches out of areas under the express intention to get rid of homeless people, especially in the wealthier and the very tourist facing areas like the Castro, Union Square. San Francisco, like everywhere else has been super anti-Black. We are down to some people say three, some people say 5% of population is Black here in San Francisco, down from a high of 20%, a couple decades back, and that’s a very intentional removal of places where Black people lived, including famously the Fillmore District, which James Baldwin called
Documentary narrator voice 7:48
…back in 1963. On the drive into San Francisco, Baldwin began talking about the increasing bitterness, demoralization and despair of Negro youths in northern cities.
Makes you feel bad when we got no places to go.
Documentary narrator voice 8:02
Well what part of San Francisco would you like to go to? Where would you like to go?
I’d still like to be on top of the hill.
Documentary narrator voice 8:11
How long have you lived on the top of the hill?
Ever since I’ve been born.
And then this is part of a Redevelopment also. When you say Redevelopment, what do you mean?
James Baldwin 8:25
I mean removal of Negroes. In other words, now the Negroes who came because the Japanese were pushed out now are being pushed out. San Francisco was reclaiming this, this property and trying to build it out, which means the Negroes are going to have to go. Where are they going to go? Well, they’re going to go out to Hunter’s Point, into the Haight Ashbury area, and also Ocean View, where they can find reasonable rents, softer markets, any places where they can find cheap rent
In other words, they’re going from ghetto to another.
James Baldwin 9:03
Yes, yes. There is no moral distance, no moral distance, which is the same as no distance, between the facts of life in San Francisco and the fact of life in Birmingham.
Mary Howard Johnson 9:17
and so, you know, people of color, who are low income exist in very small pockets of the city. They are way more likely to be houseless and or get cited to the point where they are put in jail. And so you have possibly a 3% of the population in San Francisco is Black, but approaching half of our jail population is Black. The latest tech boom did not do anything positive. Our eviction court was the last court in town to close. It closed weeks after the other courts were closed. A few of us have have been to eviction court proceedings. They’re pretty disgusting displays, chummy eviction lawyers chumming around with eviction court judges. Our local 311 line, the non emergency 911 basically, is buzzin, especially post COVID, with people having nothing to do looking out their window, check Next Door and Citizen or whatever these other apps are to report that they may have seen a dangerous houseless out the window. And in reality, I think that the people on this call would agree that the real danger is coming from those motherfucking people who are using 311, got it on speed dial, got the app, got the website bookmarks, and are basically just terrorizing houseless people any chance they can get. There’s a rock in the Castro that makes it impossible to sweep under an alcove like if it’s raining. They painted it in the colors of the rainbow flag for pride
Computer generated Mary 11:30
Back in 2019…
NEWS CASTER 11:33
“Rainbow rock” is in an alcove of Izakaya Sushi Ran in San Francisco’s Castro district. Apparently the Coalition on Homelessness shared this picture along with this message, which says, “When you want to look inclusive, but hate homeless people.” I mean, are you fine with it? Is this hating on the homeless?
NEWS CASTER 11:51
We should point out that this restaurant owner actually had painted it gold, you know, before, so you know, I think it’s moreso a work of art.
NEWS CASTER 2 12:00
Yeah, I mean, they’re also saying that they are providing a safe space for people who may be homeless at a different door of the restaurant, where if they want to they can sleep there at night. And they say this is part of like a like a peace garden, a Zen garden? Yeah, I passed by this place a number of times on Market Street. And I wonder what the rock was for? Because, you know, to be fair, there are some businesses that put out… not necessarily rocks, but some kind of object to prevent homeless people from sleeping there at night, so I can understand the confusion.
NEWS CASTER 12:36
But it’s not like stakes, you know, like pigeons, when they’re on top of building those, you know, anti deterrent for birds. Yeah, who knows, maybe for Halloween, it’ll become a pumpkin, it’ll change?
Mary Howard Johnson 12:46
Pretty disgusting, considering queer youth tend to be very over represented among the homeless population. And this is in the context of houses going for one or 2 million.
Mary Daggers 13:03
In the context of this like aggression, like this policy, aggression against homeless people, all of it is under the auspices of helping,like it’s always this paternalistic narrative around helping people who, like everyone knows are more vulnerable to being impacted by violence and are more marginalized and so there’s this really like, this split, where this like, anti homeless policy is happening at the same time as it’s always like for their own good, supposedly
Mary Howard Johnson 13:41
Safety is a word they keep dropping in, like, we’re doing it for their safety,
Mary Daggers 13:47
Right and like never factoring in, like houseless people being able to organize and represent themselves, like people from Poor magazine, like Street Sheet, all of these different resources, of people like advocating for homeless rights, like homeless people, and never ever making it way into this policy.
Mary Howard Johnson 14:09
Early on, when the city realized this pandemic was gonna last for a minute, and it was unsafe for people to be out and about. It took a while, but that, you know, the city realized, oh, there’s all these empty hotel rooms. But there’s also all these empty conference centers. So Moscone Center, which is one of our largest kind of venues for for tech conferences, industry conferences for the hotel industry, for example. So they tried to create a temporary shelter which was basically split up into six square feet. We’ll put a picture in the show notes, six square feet, squares with a little cot, but not actually socially distanced, in the way that people at that point already knew, this is going to be unsafe. Local governments love to call upon the specter of austerity to excuse themselves from helping people in any way. And so…
NEWS CASTER 15:47
At the start of the pandemic, the city leaves nearly 1000 hotel rooms for frontline workers, but officials now say they overestimated the need. 80% of the rooms regularly sat empty for the past several weeks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney 16:04
It’s pretty shocking, particularly when we were told that one of the reasons why we couldn’t get more people into rooms is because it costs too much money.
NEWS CASTER 16:12
On Twitter Mayor London Breed said we need to be flexible when circumstances change. Supervisor Matt Haney said many first responders told him they didn’t know such rooms were available to them. Today, for example, there were 751 unoccupied rooms, 445 of which the city pays for based on its contract. That equates to more than $30,000 in one day.
Mary Howard Johnson 16:39
No one was coming into San Francisco as a tourist, these rooms were completely empty. The city wanted to help the hotel owners out and said it wanted to help homeless people out but it was renting these rooms at the prices of like pre pandemic prices basically. Meanwhile, the mayor is outside of San Francisco being hailed as this COVID hero, even though other recent events such as her group dinner at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, the day before our governor, former mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom was celebrating a birthday at the French Laundry. But you know, in her Twitter avatar, she’s wearing what looks like a photoshopped mask.
Mary Daggers 17:53
Yeah, there’s been this movement to occupy empty buildings and take them over, including Monster housing in Oakland. Folks did some support like going to, like they they managed to have a lot of people coming out to support to, like stand in front of the house and to try to be a presence there when the police tried to evict the house.
Mary Howard Johnson 18:18
Yeah, since the beginning of COVID, the United States Postal Service has recorded 90,000 address changes, as in people moving out of San Francisco. And so what does that mean? That means that, yes, perhaps a good portion of that 90,000 have been purchased by other people, or moved into by other people. But there is simply no way that 90,000 homes have actually been filled. And yet, we still have a lot of people with no place to stay. And they’re not allowing people into the shelter-in- place hotels at the moment. And there’s been a fight, which we will get into, about keeping people in hotels in the face of a city government who is highly anti homeless, including the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The city estimates that it costs about $15 to $18 million dollars a month to keep these hotels running. You know, they could have probably negotiated much better deals with these empty hotels. And so initially December 21, so you know, the week of Christmas, which is historically when government entities, not just in San Francisco love to, you know, make things happen under cover, because people are paying as much attention. During a hurt hearing and September, a bit of the plan to push people out of shelter -in -place hotels, in the midst of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, etc, was laid bare during the hearing with the director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Abigail Stewart Kahn. And we’ll let Abigail kind of explained why she feels we need to get people out of the hotels, as soon as humanly possible.
Abigail Stewart Kahn 21:05
I don’t want anybody to exit to the streets as much as everybody speaking tonight. And so that is the city’s commitment is to rehab these individuals. My communication conundrum here is that when people were waiting in hotels with no closure dates against them, there was a there was not a lot of motivation for for our guests in our hotels, to start to take steps to end their homelessness. And I know, you know, and it’s hard, it’s hard to move on. Change is really difficult for all of us. And when I talk to people in hotels, that’s what I hear. And so, as a clinical social worker, I think about that, you know, what is changing for people, what I think we learned is that in creating a sense of urgency, people are understanding now, as anxiety producing it as it is, and and when I talk to people, I can tell you, you know, I understand that they are in tears.
Mary Daggers 22:04
I mean, yeah, I think I can speak to that Gay Shame wants everyone to have that, you know, and believes that everyone has the right to, like, a safe place to stay, and so much more, you know.
Mary Prance 22:19
Except for techies!
Mary Daggers 22:24
Yeah, but like always hoping to center the needs of people who are in this, like, most vulnerable and precarious situation in this real estate crisis that is, you know, kind of treated as though it’s inevitable, but it is, in fact, the construction of these like, you know, real estate interests, money, you know, like billionaires. And so you’ve got this, you know, city full of these, like glamorous, empty condos. And then rich people complaining about all the people who are living on the street, and then complaining when people are relocated to hotels, because it’s tax dollars, supposedly, I guess it’s not tax dollars, though, right?
Mary Howard Johnson 23:03
It’s money that you know, is in these pots, like FEMA money, state money for emergency situations, like unforeseen events like the COVID-19 virus,
Mary Daggers 23:16
Right. And so we’re trying to like, basically hold this complexity of like this hostile environment for homeless people. And then we’re trying to dive into a complex conversation about like, what it can actually look like inside a shelter-in -place hotel, and what kind of resources are actually available to people, what it looks like, and what cost it comes at. So we have a special guest today, Mary Crisis, who we’ll be interviewing further to give us information about their experience working in a shelter -in -place hotel.
Mary Crisis 23:50
Hello hello, I’m Mary Crisis. If it’s cool I’ll jump in a little bit about myself. So I currently work as a site monitor for one of the city’s shelter-in-place hotels in the tenderloin. My floor specifically shelters survivors of violence, including but not limited to trans non binary and gender non conforming people and people experiencing substance use, as well as detox and or houselessness. And my site has been in operation since mid September, and it’s run by a residential nonprofit. And that nonprofit basically deals with the logistics of the hotel itself and runs the show, and is provided funding and supplies by the city. And that’s kind of like how we all get paid. And this is the first time I’ve ever worked in a nonprofit. And most of my positions before this, were in some kind of like, admin reception gig. So this is kind of like my first time firsthand in direct service.
Mary Daggers 24:54
Like what does that look like on a daily basis?
Mary Crisis 24:58
So basically, you have two care coordinators that are below my floors that are responsible for the care, the permanent housing, allocating medical and behavioral resources to upwards of 40 people. And then you have our floor, which is one care coordinator, which we like lost the care coordinator. And we were without one for like a month and a half before we got a new one, and that person is in charge of, like 20 people, allocating those resources.
Mary Daggers 25:36
But when you talk about resources, or like, I know that that includes, like resources and connections, but also just like around basic supplies, do you have adequate supplies for the people there?
Mary Crisis 25:50
In short, no. So our supplies, like it’s so sad, like we don’t, we don’t have like underwear up to a certain size. You know, we don’t have socks. And the first couple weeks, there was no PPE for personal or sorry, no PPE available for staff. And in October, I received an email from my site manager and the director of operations at the nonprofit that the city was out of toilet paper for the shelter in place hotels. And this resulted in obtaining toilet paper from the hotel supplier directly, which is a completely separate thing from the city. And also obtaining toilet paper through supply and monetary donation. Anything that’s not provided by the city is considered a gift. And we cannot accept gifts, and we cannot give them because it looks like favoritism. But like one of the most jarring things that that happened surrounding the lack of basic needs and supplies, one of the tenants had like asked for toilet paper, and there was none, we had none to give, none on the floor, not in the entire hotel, we were completely out. And my shift lead had basically told the tenant, hey, like, I know that like we don’t have toilet paper right now. But I also like, I’ve noticed that like other tenants have taken it upon themselves to buy toilet paper, you know, with the money that they do have. And they’re like telling this tenant, like, you know, these people are understanding that we are unable to provide those basic needs. So like, maybe you can just like go buy a roll until we get some more. And like, she didn’t even realize what the fuck, she was saying. She didn’t realize the the volume the just like, when I heard that I was just like a ball of fire, you know. And when of like the first gnarly red flags that I noticed was that in the entire hotel, there were no menstrual products available on site for any of the tenants, like you call around. Nobody had anything the DPH nurses didn’t have anything. And that really set me off. Because I mean, I’ve known for a while that like menstrual products, like they’re obviously like not only expensive, but really, really hard to come by, for people experiencing houselessness, you know.
Mary Daggers 28:28
And also just to be clear, I think it might get lost, but that you’ve been actually fundraising for some of those basic supplies, like the menstrual supplies and snacks.
Mary Crisis 28:38
Yeah, thankfully, without help. There’s no way in hell I’d be able to do it alone. It’s like there’s, yeah, sure, there’s, there’s a stockroom, there’s supplies, there’s slippers and some stuff. But when it comes to what these people like really need, that doesn’t really get met unless you know, people interfere with mutual aid and things like that.
Mary Daggers 29:03
Right. Well, and it’s just so like, completely against the like the culture of so many marginalized people like surviving is like giving each other gifts swapping stuff. Exactly. stuff is it’s like the policy seems designed against the actual culture of people who are going to be accessing the services.
Mary Crisis 29:22
Mm hmm. Yeah, I totally agree. There was a lot of drama on my site, specifically, where people like site monitors were refusing to heat up food. And a lot of people tried to blame that on COVID-19 protocol, things like that. And now, it’s in the rules right where you can’t heat someone’s food up if they give it to you. But if you’re giving them meals, you can heat it up. But as soon as they touch that, they can’t give it back and it just blows my fucking mind.
Mary Daggers 30:01
Yeah, it’s really weird how callous and burnt out people will get when they’re put, like, I don’t know, you could explain that kind of behavior in so many ways, but like, ultimately, it’s just really ungenerous to be like, ‘you want your food heated, and I’m not going to do it, like, and I’m going to rely on these COVID protocols to excuse myself from doing it’, it just like tells you so much about those dynamics that can form in these kind of nonprofit settings. Um, I just want to like reiterate that we, like, we want so much more, you know, like, we want money like that a lot of times people just need money to be able to spend, however, like, on whatever they need, you know, we want people to be able to have housing that’s not monitored this way. That’s free. We want these empty condos to be like, redistributed to homeless people.
Mary Crisis 30:55
So with the mutual aid thing, you know, it was just getting to the point where we would run out of shit. And we would ask and ask and ask, and it would just be too long that we were asking, where’s the supplies? where it just got to the point, like I was able to connect with a couple of other people who I will not mention, to try and get the word out about collecting monetary and supply donations for things like menstrual products, toilet paper, snacks, protection, things like that. And, you know, with that, you know, I, believe we’ve been able to pull in, I think, close to like, $500 in supplies and donations, which is absolutely wonderful. But so frustrating to think that, you know, this has to come from, from, you know, like, housing advocates like completely outside of the city and county, completely outside of these nonprofits. And, you know, the thing is like, if I, if it was found out that I was doing mutual aid for for my job, I would lose my job.
Mary Howard Johnson 32:24
And meanwhile, I mean, the city has $200 million plus from state aid and FEMA, and also the toilet paper that they procured from the hotel, I’m just gonna guess that the hotel, the Travelodge, or Motel 6, or whatever chains they’re contracting with, put a little premium on that toilet paper, things that the city could easily negotiate, because they hold the power at the same time. With some of the state aid, letting it run out, because there’s like, they put these deadlines and you have to spend this much money by this this time.
Mary Crisis 33:11
I guess like my point is, like, you know, there needs to be more. Like, there’s all this shit about how the hotels are too expensive, how this plan is too expensive. This is one of the richest cities in the fucking country. And, you know, the, the number of people displaced is the fault of, you know, the rich people here. And it’s important that we, you know, make it clear, like, we’re absolutely not on their side, people need to be housed people need to be housed safely, and it needs to be accessible. And not through these, you know, people shouldn’t have to, like jump through all of these like, city and county hoops to obtain like subpar sheltering, you know? And it’s just a huge fucking joke. It’s a huge fucking joke.
Mary Howard Johnson 34:04
Yeah. And it’s coming up on the end of the month. So, you know, we’re gonna see all these u-hauls of the, you know, upper middle class and the millionaires from tech companies moving out, as they have been during the pandemic for, you know, more space into the suburbs and going off to gentrify other cities. We got a lot of housing.
Mary Daggers 34:32
Yeah, and it just like it tells you so much that like, there are all these conditional provisions around the support that’s provided through the shelter in place hotels, where it’s like, you have to meet all these criteria, you have to eat this food, etc. When it’s like… I think it becomes unthinkable to people that like homeless people could be housed in condos or in like luxury real estate because there’s this whole like construct of like what people deserve, that is operating
Mary Crisis 35:03
Yeah, I totally agree with that. So let’s dive a bit deeper into the surveillance aspects that goes into the operation of these hotels. wellness checks are to be completed every single day. At my site, each tenant needs a completed wellness check per day. And in addition to those wellness checks, we dedicate one day a week for thorough room checks to ensure that the state of the room lives up to the standards in the contract each tenant signed. And at other sites, I’ve heard that those checks can be even more frequent. I’ve heard anywhere upwards from three to four times a day per person, per tenant.
Mary Daggers 35:42
I mean, that’s a lot to take in just like imagining like, just the level of like the lack of privacy and the lack of like, feeling like a space is really your own when someone can come in and check it like what you’re talking about, like sometimes multiple times a day. It’s just got my brain thinking about all the barriers to people feeling like safe and secure with their belongings, like having to check the key before leaving. Also it just strikes me as something that would be a real barrier.
Mary Crisis 36:13
When I was initially hired by my nonprofit, I was told that in any crisis, calling the police would be a last resort. And as of lately, there’s been an increase in crises at the hotel, and some ending very violently. And when there is a lack in these trauma informed and non judgmental approaches, there’s often reluctance to want to open up about your hardships with stuff. And honestly like right like, how can you blame them? Why would you want to open up to somebody, about like, what you’re going through? Or what you have gone through?, with a member of staff who treats you like a number, who misgenders you, or who uses awful terms, like crackhead, drug addict, tweaker? Like, all of all, that is like shit that you hear while you’re while you’re on the clock.
Mary Daggers 36:59
Yeah, it seems like a lot of what’s at the heart of like having a trauma informed approach is like also having that like, like it gets disrupted by having so much hierarchy or surveillance happening within a setting. Like if it’s the same person who’s checking your room to make sure, like, there’s no damage to the hotel that you would also be seeking as a service or like reaching out to for help. Like, it just, it seems like the structure of it creates, like bad faith or can create bad faith.
Mary Crisis 37:31
Yeah, definitely. And, you know, I can’t really blame anybody for that, like, it’s so it’s really unsettling. Because, like, you know, like, when I was hired on, we were told, like, language is important. When I’m at work, I refer to a lot of the tenants as guests. And it, I don’t know why it took me a while, but, you know, like, they’re not guests. A lot of them are, you know, fleeing, trying to, you know, get clean, or, you know, like, have all of these cuz they’ve been promised, right? They’ve been promised that in coming here that they’re going to receive permanent housing at the end of whatever, you know, however fucking long this thing’s gonna last. And like, when I was hired, like, I was told that this hotel would be in operation for one to two years. And that’s been dramatically cut back
Mary Daggers 38:40
Right, it sounds like they there was like this promise of permanent housing. Do you have an idea of how many people have been approved to receive, like permanent housing through coordinated entry?
Mary Crisis 38:51
So I know that none of the tenants on my floor have been approved to receive permanent housing through coordinated entry. So speaking, speaking to what I know about coordinated entry… Around a time there were a lot of rumors going around that the shelter-in-place hotels in the city, we’re going to close before Christmas, and the city and county made a point to send kind of like a letter, a really pathetic thing, from the COVID-19 command center, outlining in extremely vague verbage the next steps tenants should take for housing placement. Basically, it is up to the tenants of the shelter-in-place hotel to call the hotline to take an approximately 30 minute quantitated housing priority assessment that reviews the tenants’ lived experiences, their current housing and financial situation. And if that tenant doesn’t pass this housing assessment, they are told to call again and to retake that assessment in six months. The person on the other of the hotline is not person formally trained in taking a trauma informed approach or in any sort of case management or social work. Depending on who is on the other end of that line, they may or may not speak another language in addition to English, either, when about three fourths of the cities shelter-in-place, hotel residents are minorities close to half of them being Black and a quarter, Latinx, or Asian.
Mary Daggers: Its like, I don’t know. For anyone who’s had experiences calling to try to connect with those resources know that there so many myriad barriers to accessing services and actually getting linked up with supportive housing. It sounds really disheartening to get that letter.
Mary Crisis: Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. I came in one day and I saw a stack of flyers and my monitor, and the monitor relieving me was like ‘Oh, you need to put these on everyone’s doors.’ And I looked at it and was like, are you kidding me? Cuz I mean the rumors were going around hot about the possibility of our hotel closing before Christmas. Everybody was asking me about it. And you know, I was trying to be as transparent as possible, granted, I didn’t know a date, I still don’t technically know a date on when the hotel will close.
Mary Daggers: I know, and just like getting a message by having it posted on your door. That’s how our landlord communicates with us. Everytime you see a piece of paper posted on your door when you come home, its like, this is me getting kicked out.
Mary Crisis: Exactly. It’s anxiety inducing. You see it and youre like, this is it.
Mary Prance: Can I also ask something about…Mary Crisis, we were talking about 2020, and whats been happening to labor this year, in general. Like affective labor, sort of essential labor, unessential labor, labor that is traditionally deprioritized and devalued. And so its interesting, what’s happening with these hotels, there’s been an institutional devaluation of labor, or a kind of passing the buck. And people feeling like, ‘well, these shelter-in-place hotels, maybe they’ll be able to do X,Y,Z.’ There’s this kinda like endless deferral of this happening. Of course this has been going on for a long time. But 2020 just seems like this particularly precarious and horrifying culmination of people falling through the cracks, and this kind of expectation that someone will rise to the occasion to perform this kind of labor magically. So we want to talk about what happens in this hotels, and we don’t want to devalue the labor people are doing, but also recognizing, what we’re witnessing is the state is kinda of unilaterally deciding that the people who do these really essential, important things, like provide mental health support, provide a crisis, I forgot the term you were using…
Mary Crisis: Provide like a crisis _ (43:24)
Mary Prance: Yeah, like how your labor is not valued at al by the state or institutions. What do you think needs to change?
Mary Crisis: Its hard to like pinpoint it on a couple of things. Because if youre not being supported, whether its like the city and county not supporting the big bosses, the big bosses not supporting the staff, the staff is not gonna give a shit. Like the staff is gonna come, collect that paycheck, and go home. At the end of the day, whether or not these tenants get housed is not their problem. Whether or not the city is failing to meet basic needs and supplies. I’m gonna be honest, a lot of us serve as a therapist on the daily, like we don’t have counselors, we don’t have people trained in case management on site. And when you have people who aren’t properly trained to de-escalate situations, and you have upper management saying, ‘well, ok, if you can’t handle it, this is when you involve security, this is when you involve police.’ Especially with my floor specifically, how you have a lot of the people there being a survivor of violence, I know in my head that literally thee last thing I want to do is involve security, the last thing I want to do is involve police.
Mary Daggers: I really appreciate Mary Prance’s questions for drawing out the affect of labor that is put on people in your position, knowing that the stakes are that security or police could be called to ameliorate situations or help people avoid that kind of crisis, in the absence of that training. It just reminds me a lot of Episode 3, the conservatorship episode, with this like swift path of the denial of services, then to being houseless and vulnerable, then like 51/50s, which is like the police code in California for mental health/wellness checks that are the police coming and locking up people. Again, in the context of this city that hates homeless people, and hates mental health on the streets, so much the stakes are knowing that the denial of service can mean that someone can end up in conservatorship, or in jail. It just sounds like a lot of pressure on people who do care about the people who are tenants there, to try to avoid those situations. In this situation, it sounds like its really set up to be calling the cops.
Mary Crisis: Yeah, that’s how I feel about it. I can’t remember the words, but its like when you get trauma from being around trauma. And these nonprofits want to take on more than they can handle when it comes to direct service. A lot of it is so they can you know, get that money, that recognition from the city and county. And youve got to think, none of this people in upper management positions, they’re not here everyday, they don’t know the tenants personally. They don’t know what happened with their past, they don’t know what brought them here. And it’s so easy for people with that kind of power to literally just wipe their hands clean of the problems they are literally creating. So, it’s so sad, because you find out, you just find shit out. You find out they bought a new house, you find out they bought a new car, you find out they’re going to hire a new director (47:38) wih a full-ass salary and shit, and this hotel, this shelter-in-place hotel, that’s housing almost 100 people is being run into the ground, there are no answers. All the resources that we have are from members of our staff who have lived experiences themselves, those are the resources we’re getting them from. We’re not getting them from the city. They’re from lived experiences they’ve had, places they’ve gone to, to try to get them out of certain situations.
Mary Howard Johnson: So, 60 days is what the board of supervisors approved for an extension of the hotels staying open, as of December 16, which I guess can be repeated when those 60 days are up, mid-February, but I guess we’ll see where we are at that point. Especially given the vaccine distribution, like we’re not sure how that’s gonna happen. Honestly everyone inside of jails, jails and prisns, nursing homes, and encampments, SIP hotels, those are who should be getting it first. Those are the people who are at risk, more than anywhere else.
Mary Crisis: There’s been no update from city and county, or DPH, about the vaccine distribution to staff at the shelter-in-place hotels or any of the shelter-in-place residents. It’s my understanding that if anyone’s gonna be getting it first, it’s going to be the nurses, and it’s going to be the doctors. They’re all part of the DPH, it’s understandable absolutely. But considering the fact, like let’s say a tenant is experiencing symptoms of covid, they are experiencing symptoms on one of the days when the DPH nurses don’t come to site…which they only come to the site 2 days a week, then we have to essentially call an ambulance, get them to the hospital where they can get a covid test. Whereas if there was onsite covid testing for these shelter-in-place hotels, it would make sense to me that there was some sort of vaccine priority as well, and I’m just not seeing either of these things.
Mary Howard Johnson: All I know is that London Breed has all the toliet paper, and all the vaccine.
Mary Crisis: I believe it.
Mary Daggers: Thank you so much.
Mary Crisis: Thank you for having me. It’s always a…well this is my first time, but its always a pleasure.
Mary Howard Johnson: We’ll be hearing more from Mary Crisis in the near future. For now, I am Mary Howard Johnson, signing off.
Mary Daggers: Mary Daggers, signing off.
Mary Prance: And Mary Prance, signing off.
Abigail Stewart Kahn : I just want to be careful with language. We will continue to to rely on data and facts that we’re collecting, to create some kind of special sauce that creates that sense of urgency. I can tell you, that when I talk to people, I understand that they are tears. And when I talk to people, i understand they are in tears. i understand they are in tears.