Updated May 8, 2020
Larkin Street’s primary focus is on the health and safety of the youth we serve and our staff. We are committed to continuing to provide critical, life-saving services that young people need to come inside, get housed, and rebuild their lives, which is now more critical than ever.
We are regularly updating our policies and procedures based on current recommendations from the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (SFHSH), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure we are addressing and mitigating the risk of infection for both youth and staff.
Modified and Expanded Services
We are continuing to operate essential services in accordance with the City and State Shelter in Place Orders, and we have taken precautionary measures to prioritize health and safety, including changes in meal service, increased cleaning, delivery of remote support services, and teletherapy when needed, etc.
Engagement and Community Centers
Our drop in sites are continuing to distribute takeout meals and hygiene supplies Monday through Friday, as well as bathroom and handwashing access while maintaining physical distancing. Staff are providing in-person and remote case management, problem-solving, assessments, and housing navigation. Larkin Street is the only Youth Access Point currently offering drop-in services. Huckleberry Youth Services provides additional staff support onsite two days a week.
Both emergency shelters are operating, maintaining physical distancing, and following SFDPH and CDC guidance on handwashing, cleaning, and disinfecting. Additional youth have been placed into local hotels via our Emergency Hotel Voucher Program.
Shelter in Place Hotel
On April 29, Larkin Street helped launch a Shelter in Place hotel for youth at especially high risk for COVID-19 in partnership with the City of San Francisco as part of its SiP Hotel Initiative which will provide an additional 50 beds for young people.
We are processing active housing referrals. All housing programs are operating under the Shelter in Place Order. Congregate sites are operating with minimum staff levels. Participants in congregate and scattered sites are receiving in-person case management or high-touch remote support when needed.
Employment and Education
While we have had to put some temporary limitations on classroom gatherings and other activities to maintain public health, our Larkin Street Academy counselors are still available daily onsite Monday through Friday to individually support youth with educational assistance and job searches. They further help young people apply for unemployment benefits and take steps to get their stimulus checks. Our staff is also working to quickly bring more coursework online, building an online platform with instructional videos to mirror in-person courses and services.
Larkin Street‘s Youth Leadership Board (YAB) has been assessing youth needs, providing public health education to their peers, as well as making a video documentary about the experiences of young people impacted by both homelessness and COVID-19.
Case manager and clinicians are checking in with clients daily either in-person or by phone if requested. Such contacts enable young people to maintain a pathway to healing, as well as provide linkages to medical care and other supports, as needed. Behavioral health groups are temporarily paused due to physical distancing.
Art programming is available online, including music production, visual art, and theater improv, as well as an interactive community board to build connection. The Art Studio is working on collaborations with the Human Rights Commission and the Tenderloin Museum. Workshops and rehearsals will begin for Performing Arts Night from September-November culminating in a performance in December.
DPH has deployed staff from smaller youth clinic sites (Larkin Street, Cole Street, and 3rd Street) to larger clinics that have greater capacity to respond to COVID-19. Young people with non-COVID-19-related medical needs are referred to alternative clinic sites, and those in need of COVID-19 testing and/or treatment follow the SFDPH protocol.
Screening and Testing
In partnership with Dr. Auerswald, SFDPH and SFHSH, Larkin Street has implemented a standard screening tool in our drop-in, shelter, and housing programs, and we follow SFDPH’s evolving protocol to refer youth to testing and treatment through the public health system. Additionally, Dr. Auerswald provided training for staff and a quality assurance checklist. Free testing is now available for any symptomatic client and all essential workers regardless of symptoms.
Prevention information has been posted and distributed to all youth. Community meetings have been used to discuss prevention, screening, and testing information. Distribution of personal hand sanitizing supplies is ongoing. Masks are available to all young people, and staff have received clear guidance on the public health response when symptoms present.
The immediate impacts of the crisis on young people have been significant:
- Many youth have lost their jobs in non-essential services and the gig economy; currently 42% of youth in our housing programs report lost employment or reduced hours.
- For those who have a safe place to shelter in place, the order is creating feelings of isolation, which can exacerbate mental health and substance use issues.
- For those without a safe place to shelter in place, service reductions citywide are limiting access to basic needs, and inconsistent enforcement by the police has resulted in reports of police harassment.
- Lack of access to phones and other technology means many young people are unable to participate in teletherapy, remote case management, and distance learning opportunities through Larkin Street Academy.
We are doing our best every day to creatively problem solve with young people, while advocating for more resources (shelter beds, hotel vouchers, meal delivery, etc.) to keep young people safe.
Anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms is encouraged to stay home or work from home, wear a mask, and contact their primary healthcare provider for up-to-date information on screening and testing (free testing is also now available to all essential workers through the City. Contingency plans are in place to maintain essential staff coverage due to shelter-in-place, school closures, and those out sick. Updated guidance is continually distributed through town hall meetings, daily digest emails, and posted on our internal messaging board.
We have established an Emergency Sick Time Pool that allows employees with an excess of paid sick leave hours to donate, and those in need of sick time may utilize. All staff have access to an additional 80 hours of sick leave through the Federal relief package, and extended emergency Family Medical Leave is available to staff, as needed.
Social Distancing and Work from Home Options
All meetings have been moved online. In accordance with the shelter-in-place order, some departments and teams are working-from-home to minimize commutes and the number of staff onsite. Additional laptops have been made available, and increased internet security measures are in place for offsite access.
Essential Service Worker Incentives
Larkin Street is currently offering a pay differential for staff working onsite through the term of the existing Shelter in Place Order. We are advocating for local, State, and Federal funding for essential services to sustain these incentives should the Shelter in Place Order extend beyond May 31.
Due to reduction and cuts in transportation, Larkin Street is offering alternatives to staff across the agency, prioritizing those working swing or overnight shifts.
Janitorial services have been increased across all sites, as well as the installation of hand sanitizing stations. All staff and youth have been advised to frequently and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water; avoid all physical contact (including elbow bumps) and maintain six feet of physical distancing; and clean and disinfect high-traffic surfaces (door handles, computer keyboards) every 90 minutes following guidance issued by the SFDPH. Needs for in-demand supplies (sanitizer, masks, gloves, thermometers, etc.) are assessed ongoing, and all supply channels are being exhausted to secure them.
In-Kind and Packages
All items brought into Larkin Street are treated as potentially contaminated. Immediately needed supplies are transferred to clean containers and/or the packaging sanitized. All other items are placed in a quarantine space for four days before distributing, as the virus can last up to 3 days on hard surfaces.
Volunteers and Tours
In-person individual and group volunteer opportunities are limited, and tours temporarily paused. Other ways to help include:
- Donate grocery cards to assist youth in scattered sites who have lost their jobs.
- Donate gas cards to assist essential workers who have been impacted by transit cuts.
- Underwrite prepared meal delivery from local restaurants to our drop-in spaces, shelters, and congregate living programs.
- Purchase essential basics on our Amazon list.
- Be an advocate young people experiencing homelessness and share content.
Advocacy and policy continue to be a priority for Larkin Street to address systemic health and income inequalities that put young people at risk of homelessness and COVID-19. Our top three priorities at the moment are incentive pay for essential workers; robust testing and contact tracing for all; aggressive health and safety measures in under-served neighborhoods where homeless, black, and brown people are most deeply impacted.
Any press inquiries will be managed by the Marketing Department and Ground Floor. All press inquiries or interviews should be directed to [email protected].
Thank you for your concern and commitment to Larkin Street!