Skip to main content
Public Health

Goats, Bingo, Swimming Pools: An Inside Look at Laguna Honda Hospital

Written by Sophie BearmanPublished Aug. 16, 2022 • 2:05pm
The resident goats of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center beg for food on Monday, August 15, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

English

San Franciscans familiar with Laguna Honda often describe the hospital’s impressive Spanish Colonial-style exterior, or the colorful 800-foot mural that surrounds it. But few—unless they’re a patient, staffer or family member—have actually stepped inside the 156-year-old public nursing home that now faces a federal order to shut down by Nov. 13.

We went inside and discovered a modern facility that belies the stately, 1920s-era exterior. We also met four goats, two pigs and many ducks that live on the property, plus toured the facility’s two indoor pools, art studio and hair salon.

Chasity Smith, 43, plays Bingo in the common space of her ‘neighborhood’ in Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center on Monday, August 15, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Laguna Honda resident Chasity Smith, 43, has spent four and a half years at the facility, ever since she suffered a massive stroke that left her unable to care for herself. She’s now in the process of being discharged and preparing to live on her own. It’s the pools, Smith said, that most helped her regain mobility.

“My swimming classes helped me walk,” she said. “Swimming therapy teaches your body and your muscles to do more.”

After the interview, Smith headed to the break room to play some Bingo, another popular facility activity.

Chasity Smith, 43, reflects on her time as a resident at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center during an interview with The Standard on on Monday, August 15, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

The farm animals—goats, pigs, rabbits and other creatures—are part of Laguna Honda’s therapeutic farm and garden. Residents visiting the animals are able to experience an emotional connection while practicing mobility skills under the guidance of the farm’s full-time activity therapist.

Other hospital amenities include an art studio where residents can craft, a hair salon and barbershop and a community garden with different types of terrain, ranging from old Muni tracks to cobblestone, so residents can practice walking or wheeling over ground types they’d encounter in the city.

The hospital also houses a pharmacy, a mock apartment so residents can practice living independently, medical clowns, a chapel and services, as well as fish tanks hospital-wide. Laguna Honda Hospital also offers 24/7 physician care.

See Also

As the hospital faces a federally-mandated closure, many of the people who work and live there say the institution’s existential crisis makes them cherish all the more the innovative therapies and services it offers. 

“They did a lot of different therapies with me to get me to where I’m at,” Smith said. “Look at me. I needed this hospital—and look where I am now.”

Exterior of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation on Monday, August 15, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Reporting contributed by Camille Cohen and Mike Kuba.

English

Sophie Bearman can be reached at [email protected]




Stay on top of what’s happening in your city

SF’s most important stories, delivered straight to your inbox