S.F. J-Town’s Buchanan Hotel hosting homeless people

As part of San Francisco’s emergency housing program that was implemented March 18, 27 hotels are currently under contract to host homeless people, Chandra Johnson, the director of communications for the San Francisco Human Services Agency, told the Nichi Bei Weekly via e-mail.

One of the hotels is the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel on Sutter Street, in San Francisco’s Japantown.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s office had previously issued a request for proposals to the hotels to serve as possible emergency shelter-in-place sites, Emily Glick, the hotel’s general manager, told the Nichi Bei Weekly via e-mail.

The hotel will house “older and otherwise medically-vulnerable homeless community” members, according to a Frequently Asked Questions document Glick and the hotel created to inform the community.

According to the document, 10 to 12 service providers, including social workers and a nurse, as well as at least four security guards will be “on site at any given time.”

The program participants will be tested if they either exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or request to be tested, Glick said. She also said all hotel and city staff on-site are using the proper protective equipment. They also perform daily wellness checks, including temperature checks, as a precaution, Glick said.

The San Francisco Human Services Agency’s program, which will run through Sept. 30, aims “to support the city’s overall effort to promote the health and wellness of all citizens,” Glick said. The program also attempts to “hel(p) mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by eliminating congregate living environments for the medically vulnerable homeless population.”

Glick said approximately 100 guests will stay at the hotel. Participants started moving into the hotel June 24. They will be encouraged to shelter-in-place and to avoid “ventur(ing) out and risking exposure to COVID-19.” They will be provided with various services, “clothing, job readiness, hygiene supplies, service referrals,” according to the hotel’s FAQ document.

The document states that the city has implemented “house rules that are considerate of overall wellness expectations, behavioral requirements and safety measures.”

Nevertheless, community leaders of two nonprofit organizations located near the hotel, Nihonmachi Little Friends, a childcare center and Kimochi Inc., a senior service center, have concerns about the new program.
Cathy Inamasu, the executive director of NLF, said they “don’t want people smoking in front of our building.”

Inamasu said Glick showed her a courtyard in the back of the hotel where guests might smoke. Inamasu told the Nichi Bei Weekly the courtyard seemed to be far enough away from the rooftop playground, but also said NLF would monitor the playground to see if the smoke reaches that location.

Steve Ishii, the executive director of Kimochi Inc., would have liked the community to have been informed earlier of the program. He said his organization was notified of the program after the contract between the city and the hotel had been finalized.

Paul Osaki, the executive director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, said Glick had notified him about the program, and he was in “full support of it.” Osaki said “it’s a great program” because “the city has to alleviate the homeless problem.”

However, Sandy Mori, the Japantown Task Force president, said the organization was “surprise(d) and shock(ed) because we did not know any factual information about this new program at the hotel.” Mori said she learned about the program at a Japantown Community Benefit District board meeting.

Mori said Steve Nakajo, the executive director of the task force, organized a meeting with the city, the hotel, the three nonprofit organizations on the hotel block and the JCBD to discuss the details of the program.

“The Japantown Task Force feels very strongly that the community should be informed and should be knowledgeable about the factual information about this new program,” Mori said.

Although community leaders have expressed concerns about the program, Inamasu expressed hope for the program to succeed because “it’s a great service for those who get into the hotel.”

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