The event is part of an effort to get up to 1,000 homeless people in the area tested, to educate them on how to get help and protect themselves during the pandemic and to help them get care for their pets.
(TNS) — Hundreds of homeless people from the Bayview-Hunters Point district and southeastern San Francisco showed up at Mother Brown’s Kitchen on Saturday, drawn not only by the free barbecue, veterinary care for their pets and the thumping music but also by the chance to get tested for the coronavirus.
In an effort to understand the spread of the coronavirus among the large population of homeless people in San Francisco’s District 10, UCSF joined with the United Council of Human Services, the group that runs Mother Brown’s, and other community organizations to put together the weekend event.
District 10 includes the Bayview-Hunters Point, Potrero Hill and Dogpatch neighborhoods. It has the largest African American population in the city and the third-lowest median household income, according to city statistics.
The event is part of an effort to get as many as 1,000 homeless people in the area tested, to educate them on how to get help and protect themselves during the pandemic and to help them get care for their pets — along with some barbecue.
Dr. Margot Kushel, director of the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, said a steady stream of homeless people, many with their pets, filed into Mother Brown’s throughout the day, and hundreds were tested. Each was able to get the swab test that shows if they have the coronavirus, as well as a blood test for antibodies that shows whether they previously had the illness. Most people were opting for both tests, she said.
“We’re hoping to determine what is the prevalence of the virus in this part of the city,” Kushel said, speaking over the noise of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”
Results of the tests are not expected to be available for a few days, Kushel said.
The event may be San Francisco’s first general coronavirus testing of homeless people who don’t necessarily have symptoms of the disease. Public health officials conducted extensive testing of people at the Multi-Service Center South and Division Circle multi-service center after outbreaks at those places. The city’s Department of Emergency Management said shelter residents and people encountered by its street teams who show symptoms are tested and, if they test positive, are quarantined in hotel rooms.
“We are committed to serving vulnerable populations and disadvantaged neighborhoods, in addition to protecting the health of all San Franciscans,” the department said in a statement.
District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton said three of the ZIP codes in his district have some of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases, which shows the need for more testing.
“We really pushed hard to get more testing, so we reached out to UCSF,” he said. “They’re going the extra step by testing the unhoused. This is very important to the district.”
Kushel said the weekend event is also a two-way educational effort that aims to let homeless people know how they can get help in protecting themselves against the coronavirus, whether they test positive or not. It also helps health officials learn how they can best help people living on the streets keep themselves safe.
“We think this model between an academic institution and the community can come up with new ways to support people through this pandemic,” she said.
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