May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health Care during COVID-19 is an
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HRTC has done what we do best – Adapt and continue to meet the needs of the people we take care of.

As you all know, in January 2019, HRTC began building outdoor pop-up mental health centers to reach homeless youth and adults with unmet mental health needs and sometimes risky drug use practices. By the end of the year, we had met more than 2000 people and were working steadily with about 500.  “You really get what we need!” said many people. By offering basic hospitality, emotional connection, and an array of therapeutic, medical, and social services, we had created therapeutic spaces in 5 neighborhoods in San Francisco. It was truly a model program.

We were sad to take down our canopies, fold our chairs, and put our mobile kitchen away, but we did it because the beautiful gatherings we were creating every day became a potential hazard for our clients, and for us.

Instead, we picked up messenger bags and backpacks and started walking around in all of our familiar places. Our goal? To stay connected with the people who have come to trust us and to deliver to them whatever we can that they need. 

This is what we are doing so far and our services will continue to grow and shift with the constantly evolving needs of our participants.
Emotional Support Phone Line
COVID Information and screening
We have set up an E motional Support Phone Line , staffed by therapists 50 hours per week, so that people can reach us for emotional support, help with their substance use, and case management. We have distributed our number to people still living on the streets and to people living in Shelter-in-Place and quarantine hotels, as well as to all SF homeless service providers, and to staff working in the quarantine hotels so they, too, can call for crisis advice and support.

Lack of access to information about COVID-19 is appalling, and until last week there were no systematic screening processes set up. The shortage of Personal Protective Equipment in general means people on the streets, who live in very crowded conditions, have no access. 

  • We’ve been screening for COVID-19, including taking people’s temperatures for several weeks. 

  • We’ve continued to work diligently to get masks and individual hand sanitizers to hand out. As of today, we've handed out 1200 masks and 600 bottles of hand sanitizer.

  • We’re now partnering with SF’s Department of Public Health Street Medicine and Syringe Access teams to blanket the homeless community more comprehensively with COVID information and screening.

Food & Water
Access to food and water has become extremely difficult and, on top of that, dehydration is an effect of anxiety!

  • We have shifted our pop-up hot meal service to sack lunches with a warm burrito, water, candy, and fruit. From 500 meals/week, we are now distributing 900. 

  • We partnered with a local catering company that was struggling due to the pandemic to make our burritos at a reduced cost because our kitchen couldn't keep up with the expanding needs.

  • We joined a group of other nonprofit food providers and helped coordinate a massive delivery of donated water (in reusable aluminum bottles).

Traditional encampments , which are crowded and where people often sleep 4 to a tent, are now hazardous because of risk of COVID transmission.

  • Our new outreach infrastructure has made it possible for us to distribute tents that are being acquired through donations to the COALITION ON HOMELESSNESS.

  • As of May 1st, we've distributed more than 150 two person tents in SF's Tenderloin, Bayview and Mission neighborhoods.

Narcan, Needles,
and other Harm Reduction Supplies
Multidisciplinary Outreach Teams
Anticipating that stress would impact drug use and that shelter-in-place orders would disrupt the drug supply, demand for Narcan has skyrocketed.

  • Our Narcan distribution has increased from 20 to more than 50 packs per week.
  • Syringe access programs are congregate settings: We are now helping out by preparing and distributing syringe and other harm reduction kits directly to people on the streets so they can stay in place.

  • We've just initiated plans to create and distribute Mental Health Care Packages for people in isolation rooms with harm reduction zines, stress balls, crisis management resources and more!
Multidisciplinary Outreach

Finally, building on our new outreach infrastructure, we have succeeded in promoting and developing streamlined multi-disciplinary teams with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) Street Medicine Team and the SFDPH Syringe Access Services so that we can comprehensively cover the entire houseless population in San Francisco. Each team is designed to meet all of the basic, medical, and behavioral health needs of people living on the streets.

We don’t know where we’re going from here (none of us really knows)! What we do know is that we are small enough, flexible enough, and caring enough to listen to our people and shift in any direction to take care of what's needed.

 We also know that we need your help.  Help us pay for all the extra supplies we are purchasing – food, water, masks, hand sanitizer, and mental health care packages . Help us to build up a supply that will last into the next few months, because this crisis is not ending soon. And like, the rest of the U.S. that has now entered an economic depression the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1930’s, San Francisco’s economy is being battered and we have no idea what our financial resources are going to be by later this summer.
THANK YOU from the HRTC team and all of the people we care for

MANY thanks to our partners in this effort so far -

49 Square Catering, Blanket the Homeless, Care Through Touch, Cutting Ball Theater, SF Coalition on Homelessness, DOPE Project, Farming Hope, Food Runners, Glide, Juul Laboratories, Liz Hernandez (Artist), PathWater, SF Aids Foundation, S.H.A.R.P. (Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People), and Wright & Brown Distilling Company.
Harm Reduction Therapy Center | Website