The 1980’s was a decade of contrasts, great wealth was being created and homelessness was rising faster than ever before. The War on Drugs began at the same time casual drug use and club culture were mainstream and in the media. The Berlin Wall fell and united a country, a former Hollywood movie star became US President and the Cold War terrified people around the world.
At this time a mysterious illness was about to change the entire face of the City forever, AIDS. The AIDS epidemic was a defining moment in the history of San Francisco and while the federal and most local and state governments were doing nothing about the issue San Francisco General Hospital opened the world’s first HIV/AIDS ward, Ward 86. This ward developed the San Francisco model of care which is a whole person approach to care and a model that Curry Senior Center mirrors to this day. The tremendous innovations and heart that San Francisco showed to people living with the disease during this time helped to spur the “AIDS Awareness” movement around the world. San Francisco would be on the forefront of combating the disease with science and new innovative campaigns while many jurisdictions wouldn’t even admit the disease was spreading in their communities mostly out of fear and stigma. The Tenderloin was hard hit by the virus as it was where a large number of infamous gay bars and a large nmber of LGBTQ people resided . As the world later found out AIDS was not a gay person’s disease and older adults were testing positive all over the country including the Tenderloin.With the 1980’s coming to a close, The Tavern Guild, an association of San Francisco gay bars, helped establish Lunch Bunch, an LGBTQ adults lunch group that still exists today and has many long term HIV survivors as alumni.
Newly renamed North of Market Senior Services, it expanded its scope of service with several vital partnerships. Case Management programming was added to help solidify Curry’s model of integrative patient-centered care. These partnerships led to training by On Lok to develop an Adult Day Health Care Center, and from those beginnings,the formation of North and South of Market Adult Day health was formed in 1983. That program continued to evolve and would eventually be known as Stepping Stone and now has four locations in SOMA and the Tenderloin. Also during the 1980s, an influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia began to use the services at Curry and increased the need for translation services. In addition to Spanish, Russian, and various Chinese languages, Cambodian, Lao, and Vietnamese translation services were added. This language component opened the doors to help more people in the rapidly changing neighborhood where several visible minority groups were now calling the Tenderloin home.