Latina Mothers Turn Lens on Housing Conditions in the Mission

Olga Sanchez shares a single room with her husband and three children. "I have a 14-year-old son, and it is frustrating when he asks me for his own room. I know that he needs his own space. He sometimes tells me, 'I will never let my family live in these kinds of conditions.'"

Through photographs and personal narratives, eight low-income, Latina mothers in the Mission showcased their living conditions, displacement, and housing insecurity for the photo voice exhibit, “An American Dream?” on July 13 at the Mission Neighborhood Centers at 362 Capp St.

Low-income families, in particular Mission families, have been deeply affected by the housing crisis. Many live doubled up in rooms, hotels or in shelters. The exhibit is part of the Community Assessment for Safe & Affordable Housing, a project organized by the San Francisco Department of Public Health , and the Mission Economic Development Agency.

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“I live in one room that I call multipurpose and I think it is the same size as the memory in my cell phone because i keep everything there. This room becomes a dining room at dinner time, a playground for my kids, a bedroom, and a living room when my children do their homework.” – Olga Sanchez.

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“My family is affected by seeing our neighbors on the street without a safe and stable place to live. I live in fear that my two children and I might end up in the same situation. it affects us emotionally, causing us stress, anxiety, and depression. My children experience the same fear that this is the American dream for us.” – Wendy Lara

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Because of domestic violence, Wendy Lara and her two children have lived in a shelter for the past seven months. “Some people there have problems worse than us. We don’t know who we are dealing with in the shelter. We have to arrive by 8 p.m. and leave by 7 a.m. In the shelter, we can’t live like a normal family.” – Wendy Lara

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“This is the area where my child was bathed every morning. We usually had to take showers in the garage because we had no access to the bathroom in the house. The bathroom in the house did not have hot water and was always getting clogged. In order to bathe with hot water, we had to heat water on the stove.” – Deyser

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“What we are seeing through this project is that if our kids in the Mission don’t have adequate housing, or their health is being affected by their housing condition, then our dreams of having them go to college is challenged by that. The importance of this community participatory research project is that we are involving the families that we are serving in articulating solutions of the problems we are trying to solve. It was very challenging, extremely emotional to showcase their resilience, their strength, in this way. ” – Laura Olivas, Mission Promise Neighborhood Leadership Program Manager

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“I want to honor these women for the amazing truth they have made visible to us. The courage it takes is significant part of our humanity, it’s what it takes to build community.” – Dolores Terrazas, Mission Promise Neighborhood Director of Children Services

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