I used to live in the Bayview….then I became homeless

root - Posted on 13 November 2006

Housing activists fight for real housing justice in San Francisco rather than more lies by the Mayor.

by Tiny/PNN

"I used to live in the Bayview, then the rent got too expensive and I lost my job", the large brown eyes of Lillette Durton grew quiet for a minute as she reflected on her struggle to stay housed in San Francisco, "then I became homeless" with this last assertion, her strong voice broke up a little. She sort of swallowed the rest of her story which included almost seven years of houselessness until she found housing in the Tenderloin area in the San Cristina hotel, a Single Room Occupancy hotel managed by Community Housing Partnership(CHP) which is currently facing their own struggle against Mid-Market gentrification efforts.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lillette, who was holding a small hand-made sign that said LETS GET OUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT, at a press conference at City Hall on Mayor Newsoms reduction of the City’s affordable housing goals. This is the Mayors latest re-invention of the wheel, i.e, the mayor has a very busy press office that seems to release press advisories on everything from housing policies already in place, to homelessness and the environment and in the process of his re-invention he reduces/changes or dismantles these urgently needed policies and budgets.

"We are not going to let the mayor reinvent housing policy in his press office," Housing activist, Calvin Welch, one of the speakers at the conference outlined how the Mayor and his minions unilaterally re-wrote a little thing called The City’ s Housing Element of the General Plan, which with one stroke of his mighty pseudo pen, or in this case his mighty mouse (attached to his press secretaries’ computer, that is) he has reduced by 68% the City’s affordable housing production goals which were approved by the Planning Commission, the board of Supervisors and the State of California in a document called the 2004 Housing Element.

"The Housing Element is a solid document and the mayor is changing them through press releases," the days emcee Rene Cazenave from The San Francisco Information Clearinghouse addressed the rather large crowd gathered on the steps

"Washington DC has specifically said it does not care about housing the poor," Sara Short, one of the Housing Justice Summit participants who called todays action spoke to the crowd, " so for Newsom to not target funds to house the City’s poorest citizens is not only wrong, it is a guaranteed recipe to bring more homelessness and poverty to San Francisco"

Sara and several other housing and land use activists called the Housing Justice Summit in July to create a grassroots, progressive, proactive agenda about the City’s Housing, in other words, to not let the City’s working class, poor and homeless residents continue to be pushed out of this increasingly homogenous, rich people only town.

To add insult to injury the mayors press release actually characterized the new goal ( his new goal, that is,) that reduced the number of affordable housing units to be built in the city by 7,200 units as being a "housing opportunity made for everyone"

And for conscious Bayview readers, I am quite sure the Mayor was including the 1600 toxic shipyard units planned for the Hunters Point Shipyard, notwithstanding the vehement protests by Bayview residents and activists.

"San Francisco is increasingly becoming a city completely unaffordable for the majority of families living in this city, " Ntanya Lee, fierce activist on youth and racial justice and executive director of Coleman Advocates, also a participating member of The Housing Justice Summit

Ntanya concluded with her usual flare for breaking it down "We must stop the conversion of family housing into luxury housing, housing justice is the key to making this a City of families"

As the press conference ended with a chant, what do we want? Housing! when do we want it? Now!! My mind reflected on the determined eyes of Ms. Durton, who is now on the CHP board since her homefulness began at CHP answered my nervous question about the possible closure of her current residence, "No," she said resolutely, "we won’t let that happen, because we will continue to fight that!" and as she spoke I realized, one of our biggest fights will be fighting the lies and mistruths of Mayor Newsom and his overly ambitious press secretary.


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