2000-2001 Housing Committee Report (YHHI)
A Report on the State of San Francisco's
Youth Housing & Homelessness Issue
Presented by the San Francisco Youth Commission's Housing, Transportation and Homelessness Committee
Anthony E. Valdez, Principal Author
Gerlie R. Vedad, Convener
On January 30th 2001 the San Francisco Youth Commission held a hearing regarding the status of youth homelessness in San Francisco entitled Speak Out to City Hall on Youth Housing Issues. For the first time in history City Hall had a formal hearing by youth regarding youth homelessness and it was an overwhelming success. Over the past few years homelessness has emerged as the largest issue in San Francisco politics and many politicians have started crusades against the problem. Hopefully the following testimonies and recommendations will aid our community and their leaders towards solutions.
The purpose of this report is to summon the support of the community to an issue that is growing steadily apparent as a problem that needs to be solved, and soon. Currently 1,500 families are living on the streets of San Francisco, and that's just an estimate. Once this report has been distributed, the youth community calls on those with power to work with us to eradicate this problem. It's not fair that we live in the most beautiful city in the nation, voted one of the best places to live, yet the have-nots go forgotten.
The San Francisco Youth Commission is a group of seventeen youth, appointed by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, that work to represent youth and youth issues around San Francisco. This year the Youth Commission is celebrating its fifth year of providing a youth voice in City Hall.
Throughout the country, youth make up the largest and fastest growing segment in the homeless population. In San Francisco, this fact is played out as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and questioning youth come from around the nation thinking San Francisco is a safe haven. However, once they arrive they are faced with a housing shortage, and even a shortage of programs offered by the city.
During the hearing, one young girl walked up to the microphone, intimidated by the large legislative chamber and all the eyes staring at her; She simply asked "why me?" A question that has been in the minds of Youth Commission Members since January. Why are 1 in 8 American youth suffering from malnutrition?
Homelessness, and especially youth homelessness, is an issue that can hardly be represented in the few pages that follow, but the members of the Housing Committee have documented the testimonies of those who spoke, and combed through the testimonies to create a number of recommendations. The San Francisco Youth Commission looks forward to any input from the community and is willing to answer any questions you may have. The Youth Commission office number is (415) 554-6446.
A Poem By Tanene Allison
And the themes all seem....played out
And the words echo in my mind
from some long lost time
Hope for what?
That the candidates give a damn
That Columbine was a dream
Waiting to awake from this nightmare
Where kids kill kids age six
Average age of entry into prostitution
Hope for the battle of education
The battle of rehabilitation
The battle of money spent
On prisons VS. schools
A freshman course required
The girl looks into my eyes
Standing on the corner she cries
Unable to give voice to her...
What was the word...?
And the child
Red ink upon the page
Please help my family,
We've no where to live."
And she looks up at me
Eyes-wide brimming with tears
"will he answer me?
I'm not old enough
Cuz you see, even the kids understand
in an election season
Where is the hope?
Step inside a high school
shouting mad lyrics to a rap
Where is our support?
Orphaned by society
The village we never knew
Wandering angry into a polluted future
Our children are dying
With the messages we send them
Yes We control the media
We control the spending
Listen Before a gun replaces a voice
Listen Because one way or another
We will shout back!
To the system that took away our words
Through lack of education
and the community which disbelieves our passion
To the country which ignores our promise
Crowded into classrooms
And that state which locks away
Destine to replicate
the on-going cycle of HATE
Where is the HOPE?
On the streets?
In the classrooms?
In the prisons?
In the bootcamps?
Creating futures robbed away in our sleep
WE'RE SHOUTING BACK
in a day and age when
Women's rights and
Reproductive rights and
Immigrant rights and
Children's rights and
Those in the less than top percentage rights are not on the new agenda of the nation
We've got to find each other
We've got to listen
Beacuse there, in our words
That's the only place we're going to find
After listening to the testimonies, the following four issues were determined policy priorities by the San Francisco Youth Commission's Housing Committee:
1.Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans-gender Queer & Questioning Youth Services
San Francisco is considered by many a city that is diverse and serves the needs of different communities, particularly those of the LGBTQQ community. Our services, however, hardly match our image. Members of the LGBTQQ youth community do not feel safe physically or emotionally using existing shelters and transitional housing programs. A young girl who moved here from Kentucky said in frustration:
"This is supposed to be my freedom here you know, but where am I? I'm stuck in the ditch...I don't like it here and I want to move. But where am I supposed to move?"
2. Transitional Housing
One of the answers to the housing crunch is transitional housing, but even transitional housing has its problems. Currently transitional housing is only for individuals 18-23 and there is not housing for individuals under 18. The two main transitional housing facilities in San Francisco are Ark of Refuge in the Castro and Guerrero house in the Mission.
"I can't find a place to live in San Francisco. The only place that I can get today that I moved into is transitional housing, and why do I have to move into transitional housing? Why can't I find a place of my own?" said a young woman forced into transitional housing.
Currently there are very few beds in transitional housing. Furthermore, according to individuals living in transitional housing, programs offered by the facilities are not adequate.
3. Single Room Occupancy Hotels
SRO hotels continue to be a large issue as the cheap rent attracts individuals and families who have trouble finding shelter elsewhere. In the case of SRO hotels, along with low rent come poor conditions. Children who testified before the Commission explained their frustration with the fact that most hotel buildings are not in current standing with the city's health code.
"I remember being ten years old living in a hotel with my mom and my brother and having to share the bathroom in the hallway. Going to school you get segregated being homeless, but the other students, they treat you different. You don't want to let them know what your going through," says a young housing activist.
There are a number of youth that are currently living in SRO hotels, some of whom are not even accompanied by adults. Because of the horrible sanitary conditions within the hotel rooms and bathrooms, the health of youth is being affected, and consequently interfering with school attendance.
4. Victims of Domestic Violence
According to a Senate Judiciary hearing held in 1991, nationally, 50% of all homeless women and children are on the streets because of violence in the home. According the testimonies of youth, San Francisco has its share of domestic violence cases. A young lady opened up about her situation:
"I lived in a homeless shelter, I've lived in a battered women's shelter, domestic violence is a big factor in how I got homeless and I was abused in the shelter too...sex work is part of the deal for a lot of homeless women and I wasn't the exception."
Domestic violence works in a cycle and many of those who have experienced domestic violence in their homes often see the same situations played out on the streets through prostitution, rape, or physical abuse. San Francisco needs to see more Domestic Violence programs.
Supervisor and City Official's Remarks
Supervisor Tom Ammiano
President, Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Ammiano believes that the reason that we are failing in the fight against homelessness is because we are not addressing the individual differences within the population. The homeless population is made up of people with different needs, different age groups, different genders, different sexual orientation, and different class backgrounds.
Supervisor Ammiano compared the luxuries of the Legislative chamber to the life of those that live on the streets and said that it was an outrage. He said that the San Francisco Youth Commission has his, as well as the Board's commitment that they will, with the cooperation of the Youth Commission, come up with long-term and short-term solutions.
Supervisor Mark Leno
Member, Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Mark Leno believes that youth issues are growing to the top of the City's agenda because of the work done around universal healthcare for youth, wellness centers, as well as the housing crunch. He offered all of the Board's will and all of their resources to combat the problem, which is important because youth are just under seniors in the list of those most affected by homelessness.
Along with Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Supervisor Leno worked to create the Ark of Refuge, which is a transitional housing facility. He also worked to open the doors of 2500 Market, which will house 16 individuals between the ages of 18-23 and offer services to get them back on their feet.
Supervisor Chris Daly
Member, Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Daly referred to the testimony of a 17-year-old young lady talking about the Bryant Square project and the big "Dot Com" building being built in the Mission. The young girl works 35 hours a week just so she and her mother can make it.
He reminded the Commissioners that the housing crisis is a very political issue, one that put him into office. He hopes that the Commissioners, and all those who attended the event, will use the knowledge that they gained from the hearing and go out and spread it in their communities. He believes we know what we need and it's just a political process of getting it.
City & County of San Francisco
City Attorney Louise Renne commended the Youth Commission for having a hearing on youth homelessness and creating a report. She promised that after we create the report, she and her colleges will read the report and will answer all of our questions.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin
Member, Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Peskin expressed interest in working with the San Francisco Youth Commission to find a solution to homelessness, because he believes that once one enters the world of politics one can be limited in his/her thinking.
Director for Programs and Grants
Department of Children, Youth and Their Families
Winna Davis spoke on behalf of Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez, the Director of the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. Winna stated that legislation that governs the funds won't allow DCYF to do any capitol building. However they do work with a number of programs, including Huckleberry Youth House, Larkin Street Youth Center, and The Homeless Children's Network, who work with homeless youth.
Yo accountability effects my stability
no benefits, lack of liability.
Board of Supervisors, Board of Education
Human Rights Commission, Planning Commission
Support decitions, based on community needs.
Breaking our backs in fields
living out of backpacks, travelin through hills
trained depressive drills.
Accountability creatin a community
Combatin against illnesses
plaguin motion of stillnesses.
Preachers makin a profit off inhumane expenses
Costin 15 month old baby drown in
bordered polluted water.
Costin families cultires.
Costin human lives to live in
cardboard shelters and SRO hotels.
Profitin racks of labeled garmets livin inside
heated stone carvins with betta plumbin system.
Costin locked up 14 year old in adult prisions.
Community Combatin iz supportin, unifyin,
2 organize, stratigize, revitalize
with mentality, physicality
most important spirituality.
Exists Holdin hands,
Raisin our fists!
Equality and Justice Ryse!
Gatherin iz making changes.
Providin co-op houzin 4 youth.
Supportin youth events.
Advocatin and providin
funding 4 mo supportive services in YGC.
Betta healthy stable placements 4 youth leavin YGC.
A Juvenile Justice Task Force
2 stop police brutality!
Creatin a healing rehabilatative enviornment.
Changin the need 4 cameras on streets,
guns shootin at us.
Accountability and Suporting each other iz
Jewnbug is a former San Francisco Youth Commissioner who was born in San Francisco and lives in a SRO hotel. Jewnbug is frustrated at the fact that she has been homeless all of her life despite the fact that housing is a basic right and that many youth are not able to obtain housing because of a number of restricting laws.
Jewnbug emphasized that there are a number of youth living in SRO hotels. She has seen youth 14 and up living in SRO's and they're not with their parents. She believes age is a big factor in services. Safety in services is one of her concerns because some of her friends feel safer on the streets rather than in shelters
Jewnbug expressed her emotions towards her personal issue of being homeless in frisco and her concerns through her poem. She also spoke about the effect homelessness has on kids going to school.
San Francisco Youth Commission
Mari is a current San Francisco Youth Commissioner and lives in transitional housing. Throughout the past few weeks she has been looking for a place to live, going house to house and it has begun to take a toll on her health.
Mari is frustrated at the fact that she is a resident of the City and County of San Francisco yet she can not find housing, and that people and politicians are treating the issue of housing as just an issue. She made it very clear that housing is not just an issue for her, it's her life.
She believes that San Francisco is loosing its diversity and what makes it great because of gentrification. Housing for people between the ages of 18 and 23 is at the top of her priority list. She believes in community housing where one pays rent based on their income.
Larry is a former client of Larkin Street Youth Center and emphasized referrals to various services. Larry formerly lived in a shelter and he believes there are definitely not enough shelters in this city and there is space, such as warehouses, that can be transformed into space for shelter and it will prevent the death of many homeless people.
Larry stressed the fact that many homeless youth lack the education they need to survive and are sometimes faced with death because of their inability to survive. According to Larry, homelessness is a very large issue that should be dissected and each part should be treated with equal respect.
Sammy is from the Sunset Beacon center and he has been facing family hardships ever since his parents were divorced. He explained how money is tight in his household and in the households of many kids across the city, which results in children not receiving everything they need from toys to food.
Sammy also brought up the issue of privacy. He pointed out that those who live in shelters and some affordable housing lack a decent privacy.
He also believes that the police should take a more active role in protecting the safety of City and County of San Francisco residents.
Director of Youth Policy and Development
Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth
N'Tanya Lee spoke about youth being a priority in the housing crisis whenever the city plans to speak about the housing crisis. N'Tanya also spoke about young adults, teenagers from middle school, having to face the responsibilities of adulthood (paying rent, and taking care of siblings). She also stated when policy makers talk about people in San Francisco being stressed, because they're facing displacement around housing issues, they need to think about the youth because some youth are faced with the same problems as adults.
Sharon recently moved to San Francisco from Kentucky, and has been homeless for the past six months. She moved because she said that in Kentucky they don't accept lesbians, and she wanted to be free to live her life the way she chooses. Sharon said "living in San Francisco costs too much money". She realized that the price for a one-room apartment was 1500 dollars and that was just too much money. She wants to move, "but where am I going to go" she stated. Then she left us with a question "so it's like, what should I do."
Norbert gave some solutions about housing. He stated that the city needs to increase its share in financial success, and when building towers to include housing in them, and to have a separate entrance for residents.
Member, Student Advisory Council
San Francisco Unified School District
Jennifer spoke in regards to the work of the San Francisco Unified School District Student Advisory Council and her understanding of the challenges young people face who are displaced, as well as who work to achieve in their schools. She expressed a common occurrence in which students must be involved in independent study because of their need to support themselves through work.
The young woman spoke in regards to her hardships as a homeless youth, her experiences trying to succeed academically, and the struggles of living in shelters. She spoke about her experience in gaining Section 8 housing in Oakland and her struggles progressing in society.
Nikisa emotionally explained that she lives in a shelter and sometimes it's hard for her to get her homework done at night. She said "Me, my mom and my sister and my brother have been living in a shelter for like two months and it's going on three months and I want a place to live."
Delphine is a transgender woman who has lived in San Francisco since 1992. Delphine spoke on her experiences as a homeless youth and the common experiences of homeless and homeless LGBTQQ youth - including sex work, drugs, illness and disease.
Delphine spoke of the housing conditions in SRO hotels in the Tenderloin and SOMA areas, and how a number of her friends are struggling to find safe housing in squats and by living in their cars.
Wellness Program Coordinator
Lavender Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC)
Joe spoke on the success of the current transitional housing program for LGBTQQ youth located at 1500 Market Street in the Castro. Joe also spoke on the history of the program and the trials and tribulations involved in providing services for LGBTQQ youth. Joe spoke as well on the struggles LGBTQQ youth face and the need for funding for improving the existing services for LGBTQQ homeless youth.
Amy worked for Social Services for the past 9 years. Amy spoke on how shelters were half empty in 1992, because of policies that they have at shelters which make it unsafe for young people. She is happy to see that Ark of Refuge, a new Queer shelter in the Castro, is being opened up to youth. A lot of shelters are being pressured because of strict policies at the time of admittance.
Department of Human Services
Eliza commented on an article she read entitled "Connect for Kids". The Article stated that Thirty to Forty percent of children entering foster care have urgent physical health problems ranging from delayed growth, HIV Infection, malnutrition, toothaches and vision problems. She added that many children do not have access to basic medical care, and recommends that youth need to have access to these services.
Larkin Street Youth Center
Sam spoke on recommendations that he would like to see included in our report.
· Sustaining youth programs, supporting the programs to make sure that they will always be around
· Suggest to Board of Supervisors to work on affordable housing, specifically
· Health care for youth, who have no or little access to medical attention.
Eric spoke on the challenges homeless LGBTQQ youth face and on the need for more and improved services for such youth in San Francisco. He also spoke on ways that we can advocate for the improvement of services for homeless youth in San Francisco through city policy. Eric reminded the Commission to be persistent with the recommendations of the LGBTQQ task force.
Homelessness and issues of displacement may seem to be adult in nature, but thousands of young people suffer from these issues and the effects of our technological economy have led many young people onto the streets and into a new level of hardship.
As a society, steps should be taken to recognize the impact of these issues on our youth and the ways which we can take preventive measures to ensure that one's childhood will not be plagued with hardship or sickness.
As we move into the new century we should recognize the importance of caring for those who require services and shelter to supplement the social conditions thrust upon many homeless citizens. There should be a comprehensive effort to implement the construction of affordable housing in the city planning process. We also should recognize the intrinsic dignity of every person and focus on the need for comprehensive health and substance abuse programs, as well as affordable housing.
The policy priorities and recommendations provided in this report are reflective of the voice of a community, which is underrepresented and rarely heard regarding these issues. This report is important to our political process and the incorporation of young people in such a process, because it provides a venue for our homeless and displaced youth to voice their concerns and experiences, and works to ensure that their needs and demands are met. The real voice of our youth and their experiences and needs will be heard, and this report is a step in the right direction.
The San Francisco Youth Commission and its Housing, Transportation and Homelessness Committee will be working to ensure that the voices of San Francisco's homeless youth are heard, and that their concerns are met at City Hall. This report can serve as a keystone for future legislative action by this committee and by the youth Commission for the improvement of services and housing for homeless and displaced youth. It will serve as a model for the advocating of programs in the city budget, as well as a map for future legislative and policy recommendations. Finally, the homeless youth of San Francisco have a voice, and the goal of this committee is to keep that voice loud and clear for the improvement of the quality of life for homeless and displaces youth and all youth throughout the City and County of San Francisco.
The San Francisco Youth Commission and its Housing, Transportation and Homelessness Committee would like to thank the following individuals for their work in the success of this hearing and report:
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Tom Ammiano, President of the Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Mark Leno, for his kindness and generosity with his office
Supervisor Chris Daly
Supervisor Aaron Peskin
Supervisor Tony Hall
Louise Renne, City Attorney
Gloria L. Young, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Winna Davis, Department of Children, Youth and Their Families
Jewnbug & Tanene Allison for allowing the use of their poetry in this rep
A Black Tie Affair Catering Company
Larkin Street Youth Center for outreach and information assistance
Sunset Neighborhood Beacon
Youth Making a Change (Y-MAC)
Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC)
The San Francisco Unified School District Student Advisory Council
Amy Donovan, Department of Human Services
The Youth Commission Staff:
N'Tanya Lee, Ron S. McCan, Colleen Montoya & Nicole Derse
for all of their hard work and inspiration
Commissioners Myron Howard-Johnson, Rolando Bonilla, Max Lantz, Benjamin Lockett & Mari Villaluna
A very special thank you to all of our speakers, without your courage and commitment
to improving the quality of life for homeless youth, we would never have generated this report and the focus on the needs for our homeless and displaced youth.
Finally, a special thank you to the members of the
Youth Commission's Housing, Transportation and Homelessness Committee for their hard work.
We stuck together and achieved what was necessary, but the road is far from ended. For we have to continue and provide a voice for the work of San Francisco's Homeless youth.