Updated July 22, 2020
Larkin Street’s primary focus is on the health and safety of the youth we serve and our staff. We are committed to providing 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 per the City and State recommendations. 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.
Our Diamond Shelter for minors under 18-years of age remains open at reduced capacity, maintaining physical distancing, and following SFDPH and CDC guidance on handwashing, cleaning, PPE, and disinfecting.
Our Lark-Inn Shelter for youth ages 18-to-24 remains temporarily closed as part of a larger plan by the City to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the citywide shelter system. In response, we have rapidly activated our Emergency Hotel Voucher Program and to date have placed nearly 100 youth into temporary hotel shelter stays.
On April 29, Larkin Street helped launch Shelter-in-Place Hotel Site #1, which currently houses an additional 52 youth and young adults at unusually high risk for COVID-19, in partnership with the City of San Francisco as part of its SiP Hotel Initiative.
We are continuing to actively process longer-term 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.
One small “silver lining” of recent economic downturn is an increase in the number of available apartments and a decline in rental rates, which has allowed us to increase the number of young people put into our Rapid Rehousing rental subsidy program.
Safe Sleeping Site
Larkin Street has partnered with the City of San Francisco and the Homeless Youth Alliance on a new city-sanctioned Safe Sleeping Village for people who are homeless and living in tents in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood. With room for up to 37 tents, the site is an outdoor space for people to maintain physical distancing while also having access to sanitation facilities, food, water, electricity, health screenings, and support services. The 24-hour staffed program was launched on May 29 and is operating at capacity.
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 available daily onsite Monday through Friday to individually support youth with education, career-track employment, and building professional support networks. Due to the current recession, additional supports are being provided around job searches, accessing stimulus payments, and applying for unemployment benefits. 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 Advisory Board (YAB) has been assessing youth needs, providing public health education to their peers, and making a video documentary about the experiences of young people impacted by both homelessness and COVID-19.
Case managers and clinicians are checking in with clients daily, either in-person or by phone. Such contacts enable young people to maintain a pathway to healing and 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 connections. It is working on collaborations with the Human Rights Commission and the Tenderloin Museum.
DPH has deployed staff from smaller youth clinic sites (Larkin Street, Cole Street, and 3rd Street) to larger clinics that have a higher 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. 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 COVID-19 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, 39% of youth in our housing programs report lost employment or reduced hours, and monthly job placements have decreased 80% between March and May.
- 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. Between March and May, monthly behavioral health referrals increased by 66%.
- 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 police harassment reports.
- 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 daily 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 required 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, weekly digest emails, and posted on our internal staff intranet.
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.
Physical Distancing and Work from Home Options
All meetings have been moved online. Following city and state recommendations, some departments and teams are working-from-home to reduce the number of staff onsite and exposure risk. New laptops have been made available, and increased internet security measures are in place for offsite access.
More recently, as San Francisco’s Shelter-in-Place restrictions are slowly being relaxed, we are beginning to implement a process to bring back safely workers who were temporarily working from home. This includes leasing additional office space and rotating team or staff schedules to maintain public health best practices.
Essential Service Worker Incentives
Larkin Street is offering a pay differential for staff working onsite through July 1. With the establishment of strict public health protocols, this pay differential will be phased out gradually through September 30. We are advocating for public funding sources for essential services to cover this additional expense.
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. We are cleaning and disinfecting high-traffic surfaces (door handles, computer keyboards) every 90 minutes following guidance issued by the SFDPH. After initial challenges due to supply chain shortages, we have been able successfully secure in-demand supplies (sanitizer, masks, gloves, thermometers, etc.) and are continuing to assess our needs on an ongoing basis.
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.
- Donate old laptops or phones to support distance learning.
- 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 for young people experiencing homelessness and share content.
Contact [email protected] with any questions. Mail grocery and gas
Larkin Street Youth Services
Attn: Brittney Ison
134 Golden Gate Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Top COVID-19 related advocacy priorities include 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; and increased resources and/or youth set-asides for emergency housing vouchers, rent subsidies, workforce supports, and behavioral health.
At Larkin Street, we are in solidarity with those standing up against systemic racism in this country, a system in which Black and Brown youth are killed, arrested, suspended, and harassed by the institutions that are supposed to protect them. We cannot end youth homelessness unless or until we dismantle racism, as well as homophobia and transphobia. This belief has been part of Larkin Street’s DNA since its founding over three decades ago and was recommitted to in our 2019-2022 three-year strategic plan.
We have responded to more recent events by launching a new racial equity education campaign, which includes both social media and email components, as well as a series of virtual donor events. We are doubling down on our advocacy efforts at both the local and state levels for racially equitable public funding. Our Core Leadership Team is personally matching staff donations to a series of racial equity organizations.
An additional staff floating holiday has also been added for our team members of color to use for self-care, and for our White-identified staff to use it to do their anti-racism work through education, activism, and self-reflection. Last, but not least, our established DEI staff workgroups continue to meet regularly to make sure all of our internal policies and other practices reflect our agency values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
All press inquiries or interviews should be directed to [email protected].
Thank you for your concern and commitment to Larkin Street!