Mission Promise Neighborhood Pivots to Best Support the Latino Immigrant Community During COVID-19 Crisis

by Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya

Like other Promise Neighborhoods, our work has escalated due to COVID-19, but we’ve built the community infrastructure to meet this moment.

The challenge and the pivot
Latinos make up 80% of COVID-19 hospitalizations at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and 25% of all cases in San Francisco, despite being 15% of the population. The Mission District is the hardest-hit neighborhood in the city. Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), for which MEDA is the lead agency, is not only connecting many Mission families to testing and health care during this crisis, but also to relief funds, emergency tenants’ rights, food security, distance learning and mental health services.

MPN comprises 15 agencies working together to tackle challenges that no single organization can solve on its own. We’ve seen kinder-readiness and graduation rates go up in the Mission District since our work started. When the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order began, our Family Success Coaches (FSCs) reached out to their clients to assess their needs. Their caseload consists of more than 1,000 families at nine Mission schools, three early learning centers and 11 family child care providers (FCCs). This outreach happened via text message, WhatsApp and phone calls.

Because of our networked approach and pre-existing referral process, we were able to nimbly provide wraparound services for 343 unique families, as documented in our Salesforce database. (The true number is probably much higher, as we are still catching up on data entry given the high volume of clients.)

Many families in the Mission District work as back-of-house restaurant workers, housecleaners or day laborers. Sadly, they were among the first to lose their jobs when the shelter-in-place order began, and many didn’t qualify for unemployment and federal stimulus benefits. In a city as expensive as San Francisco, this could have disastrous consequences. Thanks to a $100,000 philanthropic donation, we were able to use our database to quickly identify 100 families to receive $1,000 checks; these families were otherwise unable to access emergency unemployment and stimulus grant benefits because of their status. We helped even more families complete other income-relief applications such as federal unemployment, Undocufund and the Mission Asset Fund Relief Fund. We connected community members to food distribution sites and helped them submit eviction moratorium letters to their landlords, and assisted school principals with distance-learning support. We also provided information to families on how to participate in the UCSF/Latino Task Force COVID-testing initiative in a 16-block census tract of the Mission District.

FSCs continued working in teams with school-site partners such as Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Jamestown and Mission Graduates; our K-12 Program Manager, Efrain Barrera, co-facilitated San Francisco Unified School District’s Partner Community Forum, where more than 250 participants worked on aligning our collective strategy for providing emergency-related services to families.

Here are a few ways that other MPN partners responded to ameliorate the challenges of COVID-19:

  • Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC) provided testing and healthcare to the MPN community. 
  • Abriendo Puertas parent leadership workgroup began planning a way to continue implementing its curriculum via distance learning.
  • Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, moved to online read-alouds.
  • Felton Family Developmental Center provided food-security services by running a weekly farmers’ market where families can pick up food and also basic necessities such such as diapers, formula and toiletries. 
  • Good Samaritan Family Resource Center connected with community members through its Family Resource Center and Child Development Center. Preschool teachers made wellness calls and prepared activity packets for children, while Family Advocates made connections to emergency services and resources. 
  • Homeless Prenatal Program virtually continued programs, and was identified as a community food-security location and a diaper-distribution center. 
  • Support for Families remotely provided developmental assessments for children, and moved their programs online. 
  • La Raza Centro Legal is conducting interviews via telephone and continuing to file immigration cases and workers’ rights claims.

Donations made to the network
Many supporters came through for MPN to combat the COVID-19 crisis.

Highlights include:

  • The Warriors Community Foundation made a donation to MNHC to support COVID-19 testing.
  • Local business EAT Club donated ten boxes of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gloves to MNHC. 
  • StriveTogether sent a $100,000 grant to support our parent advocacy work, which was instrumental in passing the San Francisco School Board’s Latinx Resolution as well as promoting the Promise Neighborhood model with legislators in the state capitol.

Moving forward
Promise Neighborhoods are supposed to create population-level change within five years. Heat maps show that the low-income communities in San Francisco most impacted by COVID-19 closely align with old redlining maps; in other words, the root causes of current inequities go back much further than five years.

Community development and public health are deeply linked. I join the chorus of voices saying that we cannot go back to normal: Normal is what got us here. It’s time for big, bold, new ideas. Promise Neighborhoods have always been big and bold — believing that we can change the trajectory of an entire community by working together across sectors, and along the cradle-to-career continuum. The large-scale progress that we have made in our communities — and the vision of which this progress is a part — is more important now than ever before.


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