Change and expansion were the main words to characterize Curry Senior Center through the 1990s. This also rang true for San Francisco; the world wide web was becoming a dominant force in news, entertainment, and business, and San Francisco was a center of technology and innovation. The City saw huge areas gentrified and waves of wealthy technology workers moved into the City, shifting its working-class and counter-culture capital to the new IPO millionaires’ playground. As more and more people sought to make San Francisco their home, many of our older adults began to be displaced due to rising prices and a fast-shrinking supply of affordable housing. This made Curry Senior Center’s place in the Tenderloin all more important. Many older adults were forced to move into SROs, former golden age hotels that were converted to cheap housing. Many of these were in disrepair and in the midst of a crime and drug wave that was gripping the Tenderloin. This was the beginning of darker times in the Tenderloin. Gun violence and drug dealing on the streets were making longtime residents of the neighborhood feel too terrified to leave their homes and older adults began to self isolate themselves and take refuge in their rooms. Curry Senior Center quickly came together to respond to these issues and took up isolation as one of the key needs to address. Social programs and meal programs were key in helping address these problems and continued to be important areas of focus into the future. 1991 saw the opening of the Mabini Center, an adult day health center, which was a major undertaking of partnerships between North of Market Senior Services (Curry Senior Center) and other agencies and first operated out of the back room of North of Market Senior Services.
Also during this time, waves of Asian immigrants began to take up residence in the Tenderloin, bringing culture, food, and a population that was quickly aging into retirement age and in need of special medical care. New groups of people from places like Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia were coming to the United States in search of a better life. Many of them brought with them the multigenerational household style they were accustomed to back home with many households caring for older adults alongside small children. At the beginning of the decade, the Homeless Senior Task Force found that more than 10% of the City’s homeless were older adults.
The 1990s were also the years when North of Market Senior Services created its innovative model of care. A model of coordinated services linking primary care together with substance abuse counseling, mental health care and other social services in collaboration with Central City Older Adults, a mental health care provider, this “whole person care” concept was redefined. This was the time that North of Market Senior Services together with multiple agencies around the City including Mercy Housing, Presentation Senior Housing was created on the same site as Adult Day Health Care and included many services from around the Tenderloin.
In 1993 our very Executive Director, Vera Haile steeped down and was succeeded by Gay Kaplan who would be Executive Director for the next 12 years. Gay would go on to advocate for the contiuum of care that would be Curry Senior Center’s hallmark. With services expanding Curry Senior Center was ready for an expansion, and in 1998 315-321 was purchased and remodeled into office space, meeting rooms, a computer lab, and 13 units of housing for formerly homeless seniors. Together with the clinic and Dining Room at 333 Turk, the Center was now a major player in the care and advocacy of helping older adults age in place with health, hope and dignity.