Since June 2020, I’ve been residing in one of many shelter-in-place resorts that town and county of San Francisco gives for important employees and the homeless. I certified for a spot in certainly one of these resorts as a result of I used to be in each conditions.
I misplaced my place close to the beginning of the pandemic and have become homeless. I used to be fully hopeless after I was residing on the streets. You end up alone and also you suppose, What am I going to do? Where will I am going at night time? You additionally face violence from strangers. I normally tried to search for individuals to stay along with in the course of the night time, however typically that’s troublesome to search out.
I regarded for organizations which may be capable to assist me, however I used to be not the one particular person going through this example and plenty of others have been extra susceptible than me. San Francisco has an enormous homeless inhabitants. It was scary to be on the streets and wait in lengthy strains to get right into a shelter. Sometimes shelters wouldn’t let me in as a result of they stated they have been full. Inside the shelters, persons are all packed collectively and share one enormous toilet with bathrooms and showers.
The shelter system is a damaged system. Being in a shelter is like being in jail and having every little thing managed. I used to be going there simply to sleep, however I needed to be there by 7 p.m. That meant I needed to interrupt my work schedule and run from work to the shelter to attend in a protracted line to discover a mattress. People who labored on the shelter handled us as if we had no rights, as if we have been fully ineffective and nugatory. I skilled discrimination, humiliation, retaliation, yelling. There is trauma find your self homeless in a society that’s prejudiced towards homeless individuals. Even although the information and other people say that there’s tolerance, the reality is the other.
I used to be in a position to get right into a shelter and stayed there for nearly six months earlier than shifting into the shelter-in-place resort. I used to be fortunate. I met individuals from the Homeless Outreach Team who linked me with the fitting individuals, and that’s how I used to be in a position to get right into a resort, the place I’ve stored myself secure in the course of the pandemic. Getting out of the shelter and having my very own house and time to get my head again on my shoulders and suppose clearly was a blessing.
I used to be fortunate that I received an enormous unit within the resort. I’ve a toilet, a lounge, and a bed room. I’m on the fifth flooring. I’ve a window that faces Geary Street. The window might have been enjoyable to look out, however due to the coronavirus, you see only a few individuals strolling on the streets.
When I first moved right here, I used to be excited. The workers working on the resort was good, however then, two months later, new individuals began working right here. They have been very wired and weren’t useful. I began going through conditions that have been very uncomfortable. Not just for me, however for the opposite individuals residing right here too. We had no voice. We couldn’t carry up points about something—like a damaged elevator or lack of bathroom paper—as a result of workers would get indignant and nobody would assist us. When I requested an lodging for my incapacity, I used to be mocked. The workers threw it in my face time and again, perhaps ten occasions. It was traumatizing for me. When I left the shelter and got here to the resort, I believed I used to be going to be handled with extra kindness and humanity. I believed that individuals have been going to hearken to me. But that wasn’t the case.
The metropolis has plans for everybody within the shelter-in-place resorts to be transferred to secure housing, however the actuality is totally different. There could be very little obtainable inexpensive housing, and it’s extraordinarily troublesome to entry. Around November, we heard that the shelter-in-place resorts have been going to be shut down by town authorities. That was a really intense state of affairs. The one I’m in has stayed open, fortunately. But I don’t know after they would possibly finish the resort program.
Being pressured out of the resort can be actually scary. I’d be susceptible once more, in my situation. I had a stroke after I was 17 years previous, and the left aspect of my physique was paralyzed. I discover that as I’m growing old, issues are getting harder. It’s harder for me to maneuver round and focus and stay a standard day like I used to. That’s the scariest half. I’m mentally secure, however I’m dealing with bodily limitations that I by no means had earlier than. Going again on the streets can be horrible, particularly now that we now have a brand new variant of the coronavirus in California. Having a incapacity makes me extra susceptible to coronavirus since my system is already a bit weak, particularly if I don’t work out or I’m not maintaining a healthy diet.
I first grew to become eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for having a incapacity and a low revenue 10 years in the past. I obtained SSI for seven years, which is the time restrict for receiving SSI for people who find themselves not within the nation legally. But I grew to become a citizen final yr, so SSI was reinstated for me. Because I work twenty hours per week, I solely get partial SSI advantages. It’s not some huge cash. Things are very costly these days, and I shortly realized, Oh, this received’t be sufficient.
Finding sources is essentially the most troublesome half for individuals going by means of this coronavirus disaster. It has been for me. Finding sources can also be a part of my work for the Community Living Campaign. We present providers to senior facilities, and I educate seniors the best way to use gadgets. During this disaster, I educate them the best way to get on Zoom to allow them to keep energetic and linked with individuals—their associates and docs. And the best way to use their cell telephones, tablets, or laptops. The hardest half is instructing them over digital camera. That made me extra inventive by way of the best way to educate.
Things are very unsure for me in comparison with earlier than the pandemic. I get up and I put together to show some courses. But aside from that, after I end my tutoring, I’ve nowhere to go, I’ve nothing to do, and I’m caught in my room. I attempt to maintain myself busy, however it’s troublesome. Helping others is the one manner for me to deal with this isolation and misery that I’m going through day after day.
I’ve been having a tricky time with my psychological well being. My life has modified so much within the final yr. At first I believed I used to be going to have the ability to deal with it, however I’ve observed these days that issues will not be really easy. This uncertainty, and doing the identical issues day after day, and never with the ability to go wherever—that makes me afraid.
My granny simply handed away from the coronavirus. She lived in Peru, however she received contaminated in New York. She was visiting New York when she received sick, then she went again to Peru and died there. When the pandemic began, she and I might speak so much. She by no means anticipated this is able to occur and was scared. She died, and her son died, after which my brother received sick, additionally from the coronavirus. I used to be capable of finding grief assist teams in San Francisco and in Marin, which I’m grateful for. Otherwise, I might not have been in a position to cope.
I’m involved about my future. I turned 50 years previous final yr. I don’t understand how lengthy I will proceed doing this job as a result of we get state funding, and I fear that funding, together with SSI, would possibly come to an finish sometime. I don’t have secure housing but, however I hope to. I simply wish to begin growing old with grace. That was my hope earlier than the pandemic, and it nonetheless is.
As lengthy as I may be unbiased sufficient, I’m okay. For me, growing old gracefully means having my very own sources, a spot to stay, and perhaps a accomplice. And a canine.
Ela Banerjee is the Community Partnership Coordinator at Voice of Witness, an oral historical past nonprofit that amplifies the voices of individuals impacted by—and preventing towards—injustice. Annaick Miller is the Communications and Outreach Manager at Voice of Witness.
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