San Francisco Continues To Do the Most Good One Year After the Start of COVID-19 Pandemic.

Mar 16, 2021 | by Jennifer Byrd

The Salvation Army in San Francisco Continues To Do the Most Good One Year After the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The social services organization remains committed to meeting urgent need while setting its eyes on addressing “pandemic poverty” 

SAN FRANCISCO, Ca. - (March 16, 2021) — As the nation marks the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and San Francisco marks one year of sheltering in place, The Salvation Army in San Francisco continues to address the longstanding issues of homelessness, poverty, and hunger which have intensified and become more complex due to COVID-19.  As a record number of families face the ongoing threats of “pandemic poverty,” The Salvation Army remains committed, despite operational and fundraising challenges for charities


People living in poverty felt the initial effects of COVID-19 more quickly and acutely because they experienced a pandemic on top of already-existing epidemics of need. COVID-19 forced a record number of Americans to seek assistance from The Salvation Army. That was certainly true in San Francisco. The most requested service was food assistance, and due to its grassroots structure, The Salvation Army was able to modify operations to meet urgent need in creative and localized ways.


The organization partnered with the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), to deliver two meals daily to people experiencing homelessness and living in encampments in San Francisco. The Salvation Army served more than 300,000 unhoused neighbors at 51 outdoor locations in San Francisco. The Salvation Army’s Citywide Homeless Relief & Impact Service Team was made up of six response units that transported and delivered the meals directly to people throughout the city experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. The goal of the program was to improve food security and minimize COVID 19 exposure by supporting people living outside and increasing their ability to shelter in place. 

In addition, the Army also began delivering daily breakfast, lunch and dinner to the Safe Sleeping Sites at the Civic Center, Gough and Market and Haight Ashbury neighborhoods when the pandemic hit and the organization continues to do.  


These meals are made by members of the vibrant local food vendor community, and The Salvation Army purchases and serves them to those in need. The Salvation Army has partnered with La Cocina, SoMa Streat Foods and the Economic Development on Third Street for the meals. So far, The Salvation Army has funneled nearly $420,000 into this unique small business community all while feeding those in need.

“We’ve been here since 1883 and have served San Francisco through the 1906 earthquake, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and 9/11 and we are here to help San Franciscans pull through during this Coronavirus pandemic,” Major Matthew Madsen, Divisional Secretary for San Francisco & Divisional Men’s Ministries Coordinator. “As the shelter in place orders continued for months on end, The Salvation Army realized that the impact of this pandemic would be deep, wide and long-lasting. While the Army has often focused on providing a helping hand to those most in need, this situation afforded us an opportunity to double our impact through broadening our scope of service, get creative with our services and expand partnerships. 

Because The Salvation Army meets human need on the frontlines, local centers are often the first place that people turn to in a crisis. As such, the organization took intentional steps to meet the needs of San Francisco. 


  • The Salvation Army continued to house 700 people every night, through its residential, transitional living and adult rehabilitation programs.
  • Because of the shelter in place ordinance, The Salvation Army had to discontinue many of its programs. But through reorganizing the set up, the organization was able to maintain its three weekly food pantries in the Mission, Tenderloin and SOMA neighborhoods to help counter food insecurity for San Francisco’s underserved communities.  
  • Continued to provide residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation services to more than 200 men and women. 


To ensure service continues, The Salvation Army took the historic step of starting its 2020 holiday fundraising campaign early to ensure struggling Americans had a bright Christmas. More than $130,000 was raised locally, which will help power 2021 services, but demand is expected to far outpace resources. As neighbors face threats of eviction and financial loss, the majority of clients are characterized to be families who live paycheck to paycheck. In response, Salvation Army financial resources will focus on keeping people in their homes through rent and utility assistance. 


The Salvation Army will continue to meet the rising tide of pandemic poverty during the current crisis and beyond, but to do so, they are asking for the support of the public. Just $25 a month could be the difference between a family paying their light bill or being left in the dark or receiving a hot meal or going hungry.  To help, visit


About The Salvation Army:

The Salvation Army was established in London in 1865, and since 1883 has been serving the San Francisco Bay Area, offering practical support, spiritual comfort and a critical safety net to people in need. The safety net is funded in part by donations from the Red Kettle Campaign which started in San Francisco in 1891. Nearly 300,000 people living in the San Francisco Bay Area receive assistance from the Army annually through a range of social services; clothing and shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry, opportunities for underprivileged children, alcohol rehabilitation, transitional housing, nutritional and housing support for seniors and relief for disaster survivors. The Salvation Army provides services to the homeless without discrimination regardless of ethnic or national origin, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or immigration status.  For every dollar donated to The Salvation Army, 82 cents is used to support those services in facilities throughout San Francisco. For more information go to or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SalvationArmySF and Instagram @salvationarmy_sf.

Recent Stories

Get Involved

Subscribe to receive more stories, directly in your inbox!


A gift to The Salvation Army helps someone in your community.

Give Now



Do Good in your community

Find Worship

Join us throughout the week for worship, fellowship, Bible study, meals, community service and fun.