by Maria Victoria Ahearne
Last month, community members, local environmental justice activists, human rights organizers, housing activists and neighbors got together and had a meeting. We shared a lot of information: falsified soil samplings at the Shipyard, the personal histories of environmental cancers, continual denial of resources allocated to District 10, HUD deficiencies, disparaging life expectancy rates, alternatives to policing, the obstacles to shelter beds, solidarity vs. charity and so much more. The library meeting room was packed.
It was safe to conclude, Bayview Hunters Point is facing a massive blow of environmental racism and gentrification at the expense of our residents, especially those most marginalized and forced to live on the streets. “The history is no mystery,” as my neighbor would say.
However, there was an inspiring highlight of the evening when local residents, Ms. Dorris Vincent and Mr. Evan Prosser, added their experience of home-sharing. Since that conversation, a pilot program to implement stipends to seniors to help pay their utilities has surfaced, and that’s only the beginning.
Gwendolyn Westbrook of United Council of Human Services (Mother Brown’s) will be discussing the developments of this new program since the last meeting.
Stipends are “stale bread crumbs,” one local activist remarked. I agree, we demand more for our community. Community involvement is continually stifled. By the time we hear of the deals going on, it’s too late for our voices to be heard. That’s why we need to get together and demand use of our public buildings designated for our community by our community.
We will be sharing the history of Mother Brown’s quest for a shelter in Bayview and the ongoing relationship with the city that has been creating obstacles every step of the way.
We need your input to shape this program and to build a path to beds. Facilitating the meeting will be local activists and residents Tony Kelly and Gwendolyn Westbrook of Mother Brown’s.
Recently I visited Ms. Dorris Vincent at her home on Palou, where she shared with me a little more of her family’s history: “My father and my mother were very active in the community, with helping people. And at that time – I was born in 1933 – Black folks had a hard time when they were traveling, because they could not get a motel or hotel room.
“So in each little hamlet or town, there was someone there who would allow them to stay overnight in their homes. So as people were traveling, they would stay overnight. My mom would fix them a lunch because they couldn’t eat in restaurants, to take on their travel.
“So over the years, we had many people in our home. When I came to San Francisco and bought this house, we’ve had many families and single people who needed housing in our home. Never charged them any money.”
Join us for our next meeting Wednesday, April 11, 6-7:30 p.m., at the Linda Brooks-Burton Library, 5075 Third St. at Revere. Let’s keep the conversation going.
All of us or none!
Maria Victoria Ahearne, a resident of District 10 and an organizer with Beds 4 Bayview, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.