More than 100 people called for more movement from City Hall on housing and public health issues affecting the Latino community at a press conference on Wednesday, singling out the mayor for inaction.
The crowd of mostly minority residents lined the sidewalk in front of the massive hole at 22nd and Mission streets — the site of a thrice-burned and now demolished building that has become a symbol for displacement in the Mission District. They called on Mayor Ed Lee to sit down with a coalition of non-profits and provide more funding for Latinos.
“It’s no accident we’re in front of this hole, the historic Mission Market,” said Oscar Grande, an organizer with the advocacy group Poder. Grande called to mind the dozens of displaced residents and businesses from the 2015 fire and said the city’s inaction at that scene mirrored inaction on larger issues of gentrification.
“We’ve seen the city has taken no action, no action to help our displaced, our unhoused.”
Grande is part of a newly formed partnership of Latino organizations dubbing itself the San Francisco Latino Parity and Equity Coalition, a group of organizations dedicated to addressing Latino issues city-wide.
The group, which formed a month and a half ago, is asking for some $7 million in additional funding “to address a wide variety of emergency needs in the Latino community” related to public health issues connected to housing insecurity.
While not emphasizing the creation of housing itself, the group said that Latinos are increasingly unable to focus on education, career development, and other aspects of their lives because paying rent is the priority. The burden of that often falls on the youngest, speakers said.
“Latino children and families are particularly vulnerable,” said Mario Paz, the executive director of the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center. Paz said the families he sees are often food insecure and sometimes relied on older children taking care of their younger siblings while parents work multiple jobs.
“Our families are living in cars, basements, moving from place to place just to avoid homelessness,” he said.
Brenda Storey, the executive director of the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, said displacement and rent insecurity “creates more levels of ill health and stress” among Latino residents and called on the mayor to prioritize the construction of affordable homes as a public health measure.
“We have to tell the mayor that health begins with housing,” she said.
“We see stress levels, alcoholism, drug abuse, more Latinos on the street,” said Grande, adding that the group has met with the mayor several times “but it just felt like it was going nowhere.” Grande said the mayor should come to the Mission District and hold a public meeting to field questions from the community.
“He’s been resistant,” Grande said. “Refused forum, refused action.”
Deirdre Hussey, the mayor’s new director of communications, said in a statement that the mayor will be meeting with the coalition next week and had already invited many of its members to “budget town hall meetings” to discuss funding.
“Many of the members of the coalition were invited to attend the workgroups related to violence prevention, public safety, and quality of life,” she said. “[The mayor] looks forward to meeting with members of the community next week.”
She also pointed to some $7 million in the budget for violence prevention and family services going to organizations in the coalition, like Institute Familiar de la Raza, Inc. and Carecen. She also said some $227 million in funding for the construction of 758 affordable housing units has been allocated to the Mission District.
Speakers, however, said that the focus had shifted to Latino issues city-wide and emphasized new partnerships between minority. neighborhoods.
“It’s no longer the Mission District, it’s city-wide,” said Melba Maldonado, the executive director of La Raza Community Resource Center. “Our struggle is about Latinos city-wide.”
While most of the members of the new coalition — like the Mission Economic Development Agency, Causa Justa, and Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc. — are centered in the Mission District, service organizations have been providing for Latinos “in the Mission, the Excelsior, the Bayview, the Tenderloin” for years, Grande said.
Sam Ruiz, the executive director of Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc., said that’s become more true as Latinos are forced to move out of their old neighborhoods or leave San Francisco entirely.
“Our families are still a part of San Francisco,” he said. “So when they come back to San Francisco, they come back to our organizations.”