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SRO Stories: "I traded reality for the gay closet"

Some of the only housing that’s gentrification-proof in the inner cities of the Bay Area are SRO’s or Single Room Occupancy buildings. They’re the residential hotels you see mostly in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin and SOMA and in downtown Oakland.

Thanks to SRO preservation laws, these buildings remain a source of housing for people who would often otherwise be homeless. But the struggle to keep them that way is ongoing. Owners are finding ways to market them to higher paying guests like travelers and international students.

In response, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin is proposing a tightening of  SRO regulations. In Oakland, the city council is working for the first time to create some of the protections that San Francisco has had in place since the 80’s.

To learn more about life inside these homes, we’re airing profiles of SRO residents all this week. Here’s our first, with Kevin Watkins, who lives in the Star Hotel in the Mission.


WATKINS: I'm really in the closet about how dreadful my situation is, how impoverished I am... And I came from absolute poverty, abject poverty. And I try to be hopeful, despite all that.

This piece was produced by Colin Peden as part of a project with Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing (DISH), a project of Tides. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


More profiles will be featured in a project exhibition in the Jewett Gallery at the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library starting Dec. 17 through March 12, 2017. An opening reception will be held on Jan. 10. Learn more

Colin was a 2014-2015 Audio Academy intern and is currently training as an as-needed board operator / announcer. He is a producer for Philosophy Talk, #FSFSF, and My Mixtape here at KALW. When not making radio, Colin plays in bands, some of which are louder than others.