One Year of Sheltering in Place: Our Community Advisory Board Reflects

Luisa Montes March 16, 2021

To mark the one-year anniversary of coronavirus shelter in place orders enacted in March 2020, we asked our Community Advisory Board (CAB)  to reflect on the past year, both in their own lives and among the community of people experiencing homelessness.

Our CAB plays the invaluable role of ensuring that the voices of people most affected–people who have experienced or currently experience homelessness–remain at the center of conversations about homelessness. We couldn’t think of a better group to hear from as we reflect on the past year.

How has the pandemic impacted you?

From Cheryl Block, Tenderloin People’s Congress Advocate
I realized during the pandemic life must go on, and there is even a bigger need for advocacy for the unhoused. Although I had physical issues to address, most of my needs were being met. I have to keep my perspectives straight no matter what.” 

Cheryl Block

From Jesse Johnson, Community Advisory Board Member
“In my mind, the COVID pandemic and my struggle against Cancer are inextricably intertwined. March of 2020, I began a regiment of daily blasts of radiation supplemented by weekly chemo treatments the very same week the Shelter-at-Home orders were issued. By summer’s end, I was told that the cancer had been eliminated. My body was healing. Still, my recovery from ‘the cure,’ like the pandemic, would persist for at least another year and probably more. I get tired just thinking about it.”

Here are additional pandemic insights and realizations from Jesse:

  • There is no substitute for real-life, real-time, human interaction.
  • Capitalism is vulnerable.
  • Many rules we think of as iron-clad might really be nothing more than a collective delusion.
  • The system will not collapse if rent or mortgages are not paid by a certain time of the month.
  • We don’t have to work in a centralized office setting. Maybe we don’t have to work at all.
  • Guess what? Racism is a cofactor in COVID infection.
  • Racism is a demoralizingly pervasive element of American culture.
  • There are those that believe the elderly are expendable. I am now an elder.
  • Pandemic fatigue is a real thing and we shouldn’t try to shame people about it.
  • I think pandemic isolation is finally going to drive me to buy a dog.

Read Jesse’s full post, here.

“I hope we realize that how we address public health emergencies, or other crises, is only as effective as how our most vulnerable members of our community are served.”
– TJ Johnston

What are your hopes for the future as we emerge from this crisis?

From TJ Johnston, Journalist and Community Advisory Board Member
“Coming out of the COVID pandemic, I hope we realize that how we address public health emergencies, or other crises, is only as effective as how our most vulnerable members of our community are served. I think in the past year that was achieved more at the community and local levels than at the federal level. Also, we in San Francisco and in the Bay Area were more fortunate that there was a timely response and more guidance on how to keep ourselves safe and healthy. But still, we could have done more, especially with respect to our unhoused neighbors. We could have lodged more in the hotels than the select few we put in, and we could have paved more housing exits as a result. But that was a place to start and build from.”