Coronavirus halts food deliveries for some San Francisco seniors

About 80 people live at the Altamont Hotel, a single room occupancy (SRO) in San Francisco's Mission District. Many are low-income senior citizens who have relied on food deliveries every Monday from a local pantry.

Those deliveries came to a halt when the novel coronavirus began to make its mark on the Bay Area. But following a KTVU report on the halted deliveries, we have confirmed the deliveries will resume sometime next week. 

"We've been shut down, the food banks. Ever since this started," Kimberly James, a hotel resident, said Tuesday. "Coronavirus!" 

James said most deliveries stopped several weeks ago because of health concerns. And now, with the shelter-in-place order, many homebound seniors are stuck inside, trying to make do and cope "the best they can," James said.

Mary Cole, 69, also lives at the hotel. But she says she's now begging on the streets to get food. 

"They don't deliver no more food," she said. "I ain't gonna steal nothing, so I got to panhandle. Yes, I'm upset."

The hotel desk clerk told KTVU by phone that tenants were given information with other food options. But James said she only got that material after KTVU's call. 

"After I let management know that I did reach out to Channel 2 News. This is what I found under my door not 30 minutes ago," she said, referring to a chart of restaurant options. 

But there's a problem.

"None of these are deliveries," James said.

And that makes it hard for seniors who can't leave their homes.

"Our seniors can't go out and do this. We're shelter-in-place! They've been delivering to us for over 10 years," James said.

At the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, volunteers and workers were busy at the warehouse. But officials say some may be leery about delivering food during the pandemic.

"We're looking for all those ways that we can sort of mend the system back together, because this system of counting on volunteers and having voluntary agencies that are doing this works great in normal times," said Paul Ash, the food bank's executive director.

The waiting list for people who want to sign up with the meal delivery program in San Francisco has jumped by 50 percent since last week's shelter-in-place order, according to Meals on Wheels San Francisco.

Charitable food organizations are always in search of new volunteers and donations. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is also asking for help from the National Guard.

A gofundme has been set up for one of theSRO residents.