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Finding Shelter in the Storm

tenderloin neighborhood development

Imagine trying to find an affordable place to live in San Francisco. Imagine you are homeless, or close to it, and trying to find one. You are a carpenter with multiple sclerosis who can no longer afford your rent. You are an under-employed worker who lost your apartment of 30 years when the landlord passed away. You are a family struggling to stay together and stay housed.

Since 1981, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation has been providing affordable housing and services for low-income people in the Tenderloin and other San Francisco neighborhoods. Now, it has 30 buildings for 3,000 of the poorest residents and continues to grow. In addition to housing, it integrates services, including afterschool programs, social work, community organizing and a community garden, services that keep people in their homes. For some residents, TNDC has provided the strength and motivation to give back.

TNDC does this all in the face of an economic storm: a drastic drop in funding for housing, more people in need, and a staggering rise in real estate costs in the area. These variables affect both home seekers and home providers like TNDC.

In Los Angeles and in Seattle, despite massive efforts to house the homeless (including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation involvement in Washington), the news is bad. Both cities were hit with despairingly high numbers of homeless. In and around Seattle, King County saw a 21 percent rise in homeless population from 2014 to 2015. And, in cities like San Francisco and New York, data shows that the “housing first” approach without support services for the newly housed leads to recidivism, or more people returning to shelters and increasing the tax burden, rather than relieving it.

In the face of these headwinds, TNDC advances its mission purposefully. Its strategies rest on three pillars. First, it takes the longview in tackling a complex, persistent problem and applies durable processes. Next, the organization participates in the policy process and involves its recipients in advocacy for themselves and for the issue, broadly. Thirdly, TNDC moves forward with an understanding that affordable housing, in itself, is not enough.

A scan of TNDC property listing reveals the unique approach necessary for each project. They creatively pull together multiple funding streams to support each property.

Last week, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced the city will invest $28.9 million over the next two years for homeless housing, support services and, reportedly, the largest expansion of residential complexes for San Francisco’s poorest residents. The need is enormous, the solution lies in a transformative political and economic shift, but in the absence of those fixes, at least part of a lasting solution is already 34 years strong at TNDC.  (Haleh)

Photo by Aaron Anderer on Flickr aaron_anderer

[Video – ABC7 profile of Radman’s Produce Market, Healthy Corner Store Coalition involving TNDC].

1 Comment

  1. As a longtime adavcote of building smaller homes with fewer resources with an eye to living simply that others may simply live, I was a home designer/builder in CT, and am now a street minister in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Personally, I think Reid’s idea was wonderful, but then again, I live in 286 square feet and find it quite luxurious. Many of my colleagues who work with people who are without long term shelter thought Reid’s proposal was ridiculous, feeling that forcing people to live in such tiny spaces would be inhumane. I agree with that reasoning it is terribly unfair that those of us with so much should expect those with fewer resources than we ourselves are willing to live with should have to live with drastically less. We social justice oriented tiny house adavcotes could serve by questioning the standards so many strive for, based in the notion that our worth is displayed through the amount of space and stuff that we surround ourselves ourselves with.

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