Openhouse's Response to COVID-19

"We are doing everything we can to encourage folks to stay home, while doing everything we can to help people feel connected," Openhouse Executive Director Karyn Skultety, Ph.D.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dear Community Members, Supporters and Openhouse Friends-

I know that the past two weeks have been difficult for everyone as the city of San Francisco and Bay Area have transformed to “shelter in place” to try to stop the spread and outbreak of the CoronaVirus (COVID-19). We ask that you continue to take care of yourself and of our community by following the health order from San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Mayor. Stay at home as much possible and when you must leave, maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing from others. I know that this isn’t easy for any of us- including me! I have burst into tears from things as small as not knowing how to help my kids complete math worksheets (I’m a lousy homeschool teacher) to the large challenges that I know many seniors are facing- food insecurity, lack of safe housing and of course, overwhelming isolation from others.

As much as there are moments of fear and overwhelm, I have experienced incredible moments of inspiration in this time. I am in awe at the amazing work from our Openhouse staff to build a strong connection to our community. Over the past two weeks, Openhouse staff have reached out to connect with every LGBTQ senior we serve and to listen and understand the challenges they are facing. Over 1000 calls have been placed from our homes! We have a small but mighty-team who are going on-site each day to ensure operations are in place to support all the remote work from home. They are also the on-site to ensure the phone is answered by a live and friendly voice during our business hours. We have hard-working case management staff who are working closely to support their clients by phone and coordinating with the Mercy Housing team to provide additional support and services to the residents at 55 and 95 Laguna.

I’m also inspired by the response from the community and the creativity of our organization to get us ready to expand our work in April in two critical areas. First, we are ready to rapidly grow our volunteer support available for our community. We have launched a partnership with Mon Ami, a company specializing in coordinating companionship and assistance for seniors. Mon Ami has stepped forward to donate their time and technology to ensure we can quickly match volunteers and seniors from the LGBTQ community. Volunteers will support community members with check-in calls, grocery runs, and extra support. Openhouse staff will work to connect community members with this assistance and support volunteers every step of the way. Learn more about our partnership here:

Secondly, we have begun putting virtual programming in place. By the end of this week, our Openhouse support groups and many of our language classes will begin meeting on line or by phone. In the coming weeks, we plan to expand these offerings- both on our own and in partnership with our community and partner organizations. We know that technology is both a blessing and a barrier so we are thinking of how to overcome these hurdles and offer ways we can all connect with each other.

We will continue to call and connect with you, but please know that you can reach out and request help at any time. Call the Openhouse main number (415-296-8995) and we can connect you to a call with staff, coordinate volunteer support, refer you to other services/resources and share more with you about opportunities to join in on our virtual programming. If it is after hours, you can also leave a message requesting assistance and we will get back to you the next day!

We are all in this together.

In Community,

Karyn Skultety, PhD

P.S. As you may know, we were forced to cancel Spring Fling, our largest fundraiser of the year. We are inviting all of you (and your friends!) to join us virtually for a special Openhouse Spring Into Action event to take place on Sunday April 5th at 12:00 noon. You will have a chance to learn about all of our amazing work over the past year and to hear more about how Openhouse has responded to COVID-19. It will also kick off a special fundraising campaign to support Openhouse in this time. The event will be live-streamed (and recorded for later viewing) on our Facebook page (Follow us today and check out the Spring Into Action event) or if you would prefer to attend by Zoom, reach out to Charles Renfroe for more information: crenfroe@openhouse-sf.org.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear Community Members, Supporters and Openhouse Friends-

Openhouse continues to work closely with the CDC, San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), the Department of Disability and Aging Services and our aging service partners to address the evolving situation with the Corona Virus (COVID-19) in our communities. We continue to follow the SFDPH aggressive recommendations to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ask that everyone do the same to support our seniors. These recommendations include “social distancing” and limiting all non-required group activities, especially for older adults and persons with underlying health conditions due to increased risk for severe illness and complications from COVID-19. At this time, we have decided to cancel all Openhouse senior programs and group activities through the end of March. However, we are continuing to do everything we can to support LGBTQ seniors.

We are here for you.

Assistance with services and housing navigation are available by phone, as well as phone support for case management clients and residents. In-home visits will occur if a health or safety risk needs to be addressed. We have began check-in calls to our community members and encourage community members to request a check-in/support call from us as needed. At this time, we are working on setting up phone and/or Zoom meeting activities–more information on this to come.

For additional information or to request assistance with services/housing or just a call to feel connected, call our main number: 415-296-8995

On March 13th, Openhouse provided our first of a series of virtual town halls, where I shared information about Openhouse plans and answered questions regarding COVID-19 (you can find the recording to the left). As we identify future updates, Openhouse encourages community members, supporters and those interested in how they can help to join via our Facebook page.

Lastly, I want to again emphasize that this is a time to come together, not to direct fear towards others. It is painful for me to share with you that Openhouse staff and members of our community are experiencing threats of racial violence and harassment both on-site and across the Bay Area. We must engage in ally-ship by standing up to this kind of behavior and countering stigma by learning and sharing facts such as the CDC document we have attached to this email. Viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups. Let us all target our energy to building bridges even in this time of disconnection.

We are in this together.

In Community,

Karyn Skultety, PhD
(She/Her)
Executive Director

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