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Making Resources Accessible for All Communities

“We are glad someone can give us this information.”- one Alice Griffith Apartments resident says while practicing social distancing with neighbors.

Shelter-In-Place looks different for every person and family. The Alice Griffith Apartments in Bayview include more than 300 affordable housing units ranging from one to five bedrooms. Many families are weeks into quarantine, together with limited contact to the outside world. While various organizations assist this community with programs and care, the YMCA of San Francisco assists residents through programs like the CHAMP initiative.

CHAMP stands for Community Health Ambassador Program. Its mission is to promote resident-driven health initiatives, support resident empowerment and leadership, and link residents with connections to outside networks, resources and information. CHAMPS is in a few housing facilities across San Francisco and is part of a network of connector sites operated by the YMCA of San Francisco across the Bay Area.

“We are here to provide health and wellness. There are primary nursing services and therapy for residents,” says Jonathan Portney, Director of the CHAMPS program. CHAMPS works alongside DHS and HOPE SF, providing these services and more to other sites like Alice Griffith around the San Francisco Bay Area.


Before COVID-19, places like Alice Griffith Apartments had community events for the residents: zumba, yoga, cooking classes, and more. They would even have community events like The Easter Egg Hunt. Since COVID-19, many classes and programs have gone online. “Everyone who was coming physically to our Y group exercise classes has continued on our online platform, but now family members are joining in too,” Jonathan continued, noting the positive changes of living with family under these new stay at home restrictions.

The positive move toward more accessible programs online is felt worldwide, but there are other changes affecting lives in these communities as well. Usual face-to-face check-ins have turned into wellness phone calls, and food pickups are now food drop-offs at the door to maintain social distancing. Providing digital assistance and guidance for residents is the new norm. Site Connectors reach out to more than 100 residents a week, and they’ve noticed the need for change in how to inform residents of safety guidelines and how to get valuable resources to them.

“Social isolation has effected these communities greatly,” Jonathan says, “they may now need more assistance and information than before. Social distancing can start to mix with fear and false information.” YMCA of San Francisco addresses these issues by providing science-based information to alleviate fear.

As public transportation schedules dwindle, food desert communities are looking for resources in desperation.

“A lot of independent contractors across the board have lost their jobs. Kids missing school and graduation, parents losing promotions, job furloughs, layoffs, and cut hours has added to the stress at Alice Griffith,” Dante, a Site Manager says. “Many of their usual positive outlets have been taken away, so we’ve been strategic in providing resources that help. And we do that on a case-by-case basis with our phone check-ins.”

Dante has worked at the YMCA for many years after studying community health. He talks about an Alice Griffith resident who is unable to go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings because of social distancing. Dante had to provide online, digital N.A. meeting resources, and even ran through how to upload Zoom on a resident’s device.

“You ask them how they are doing, and sometimes they explain that they aren’t doing well,” Dante says.

In the last few weeks residents ask mostly about safety measures and access to hygiene materials. Many sites, like Hunterview, now provide residents with Health Bags containing toilet paper, masks and gloves. Safety products that are hard to find in affluent communities are harder to find within these parts of the city.

Outbreak here would be devastating and spread fast

To combat false information and empower the community to follow CDC and San Francisco Bay Area guidelines, Dante and his team put up signs through the campus explaining social distance, washing hands and other critical information. The signs are in multiple languages and help curb the spread of the coronavirus in units that have multiple people in them near their neighbors.

“It really comes down to the efforts we put into health education. One issue is making sure community members in vulnerable populations know about safety and prevention.”

Dante said as they put the signs in the ground residents spread apart immediately. One resident commented, “It’s important. It’s teaching us the right way.”

“Thank you for sharing this with us and reminding our younger folks to protect us.”- Alice Resident comments on CDC health preventative sign.

Building Access to Information for Safety and Prevention is the main goal for many site managers at HOPESF housing. Many people may not have access information or services needed without the site managers and service connectors. Not only would this impact those who live in housing communities like Alice Griffith Apartments, but also communities across San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Dante is clear, “If you want to make a difference you have to invest in the people who understand the community. They need to know and have access to the information. We don’t know what we haven’t experienced, so it’s important to have the people who live and work in the community be the change agents. That’s resiliency.”

Here’s Dante with a sign he put in at Alice Griffith.