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Crosscurrents

Resident Profiles From San Francisco SRO's

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Today, there are about 19,000 San Franciscans living in SRO’s —that’s single room occupancy buildings or residential hotels, but that number is scarce compared to 50 years ago. In the 60’s and 70’s, many of San Francisco’s residential hotels were demolished when the city’s high-rise financial district boomed into existence. By the end of the 70’s,immigrant communities and low-wage workers who depended on the cheap dormitory style housing organized against demolitions.

The highest-profile protest was the I-Hotel, where hundreds of activists camped out for over a year. Eventually, the protesters were forcibly removed and arrested, and the building demolished. That event galvanized organizers, and neighborhood groups in Chinatown, the Tenderloin and others to push laws restricting SRO conversions. That’s why, today, on some of the most desirable real estate in the world, there are homes for people who often would otherwise be homeless. Let’s meet one of those SRO residents now.

“My oldest daughter was arrested and I told her you can come stay with me. Well even the police said she was trying to strong-arm me out of my own apartment. Ya, know I make a home. Wherever I live, I make my home; it’s not a house. She turned it into a drug house and we got evicted. She took off and I’m sitting there watching myself, all my stuff being loaded into a trailer and I’m thinking I just can’t do this anymore.”

This piece was produced by Colin Peden as part of a partnership with the city’s department of supportive housing. You can hear many more profiles at an exhibit at the main branch of the San Francisco public library— there’s an opening reception on January 10th. For more information follow them on twitter @DISHinSF.

Crosscurrents