The Coalition on Homelessness hosted a karaoke event at the Mission’s Dovre Club last Thursday to raise funds for their newspaper, the Street Sheet, and to help cover operation costs for the organization.
The event was DJ’d by Mark Kaye, owner of A Karaoke DJ Rental. Kaye, who grew up in the Mission, said that while he would normally send a DJ out to an event with the equipment, he wanted to come personally to this event.
“I grew up here [the Mission], and back then, you walked to school with your head down,” said Kaye.
The Coalition, which consists of homeless, formerly homeless, and other community activists who work on addressing the problem of homelessness in San Francisco, has been operating for 26 years, and its newspaper has been published for 25.
About 30 to 40 people attended the event and were offered food and a big book of music lyrics.
“Fifty percent of our funding comes from grassroots fundraising,” said Arefa Vohra, development coordinator at the Coalition, referring to fundraising events, mail solicitations, mailers in the Street Sheet newspaper, and private donations. Vohra says the organization believes the Street Sheet is the oldest street newspaper in America.
“Maybe New York City has one that’s older,” said Vohra.
Contributors to the Street Sheet are homeless people themselves, formerly homeless, low-income San Franciscans, and Coalition staff. The bi-weekly newspaper focuses on issues of housing and homelessness, featuring journalism as well as poetry and comics.
It is distributed for free to homeless or low-income people, who sell them for two dollars each and keep the money they make.
Local celebrity and drag queen Anna Notherthing, a guest judge, said that while this was her first event with the Coalition, affordable housing is something she believes in. “I’m lucky to be able to afford living here,” said Notherthing.
Vohra said these events, which the Coalition tries to put on at least every few months, are important for the Coalition’s endurance. Currently the Coalition has four and a half full-time positions whose hours are spread out over nine employees.
What’s next on the agenda for the Coalition? Pushing for a “right to rest” law. The event was wrapped up with a word from Lisa Marie Alatorre, the Coalition’s Human Rights Organizer, about the newly introduced legislation. The new law, which would allow anyone to sit or rest in a public space without fear of receiving vagrancy or loitering citations, has recently been introduced in the State Senate.
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