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Crosscurrents logo 2021

SRO Stories: "Nothing can jeopardize my sobriety"

Photo courtesty of DISH SF
Jeanne V.


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 with 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 International 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.

JEANNE V. My husband had two mental breakdown, flipped out and robbed five banks. I ended up on drugs. It was like a breakdown for both of us.

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 December 17th thru March 12th, 2017. An opening reception will be held on January 10th. Visit bit.ly/dishexhibit to learn more.

Crosscurrents SRO Stories
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.