On the margins

44TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE: At risk youth struggle to get by in a city that's tough on young people



Franklin is a 20-something computer programmer who shares an apartment with 10 other people around his age, an arrangement that helps him and his housemates come up with $3,500 each month for rent in the Mission, a rapidly gentrifying part of town.

"Everyone is pretty much working, but they are in and out at different times so the house isn't ever really empty. But there's usually only three or four of us at a time, " Franklin told the Guardian, speaking on his cell phone as he rode his bike to work.

But how does an apartment that officially has only one bedroom sleep 10 people? Franklin said there are other rooms in the house — including a dining room and a double parlor that splits into two with sliding doors — and that each of these spaces has a couple sleeping in it. "And there is one person sleeping in a closet and another sleeping in a space atop the bathroom."

While overcrowding has been a problem in immigrant communities in San Francisco, it's reaching a new area: young people who have for generations flocked to the city to escape uncomfortable home lives, find a supportive community, and make a new start in life.

Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, said at least 1,250 housing units annually were lost to condominium and tenancy-in-common conversions in the dot.com and housing bubble years, a loss rate that has slowed only slightly since then.

"Right now, it's about 1,000 units a year," he said.

It's become more common for young people to struggle to pay rent in a town where well-paying jobs are scarce and educational programs have been cut — a triple whammy that means youth with additional challenges are at risk of becoming homeless and getting trapped in vicious cycle of abuse and incarceration.


Sherilyn Adams, executive director of Larkin Street Youth Services, which provides housing, medical, social, and educational services to at-risk homeless and runaway youth, says all young people in San Francisco face the same basic challenges.

"And if, in addition, these youth are part of a group like LGBTQ youth, or are youth of color, or immigrant youth, documented or not, then the circumstances and barriers are much more exacerbated," she said.

Adams said San Francisco has done a lot to add resources for transitional age youth, a group that traditionally has been defined as ages 12 to 24. "But there is still a significant gap in resources, especially for the more disenfranchised groups, because the longer you've been on the street, the more complex your issues in terms of substance abuse and mental health."

Civic leaders, including California Assembly member Tom Ammiano, recently held a rally and candlelight march to raise awareness of the tragic rise in homelessness and suicides among LGBTQ youth. Shortly after, Adams told us, "Youth who came here escaping homophobia in their family or city then face the harsh reality of San Francisco."

Adams understands that some people see Proposition L, legislation on the November ballot to criminalize sitting or lying on city sidewalks, as a way to address disruptive and aggressive behavior on the streets. "But it becomes part of the larger divide, because youth who come here and are on the street are mostly there because they have no other place. So penalizing them in the absence of services, housing, and education is ineffective at best and really harmful at worst," Adams said.


I lived in the Haight for a year, and one of the reasons that prompted me to move was the kids who sat and panhandled on the sidewalk at all hours, drunk, high or rude. They would litter and cause trouble. It got frustrating when on my way to work at 7 AM a young street urchin would beg me for money, sometimes in an overly aggressive manner. Or how they would sleep in our building alcove vomiting, defecating etc. What would be a rather nice neighborhood is spoiled by these people who have no respect for those that live there full time. They treat the neighborhood like it is a canvas for their stupid behavior. Let's not forget what has become of the the entrance to Golden Gate Park by Stanyan. One can't go twenty feet without being offering drugs or hassled for money. I for one support the no sit/lie ban all the way. The Summer of Love was over 40 years ago people.

Posted by Steve on Oct. 21, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

>>>I lived in the Haight for a year, and one of the reasons that prompted me to move was the kids who sat and panhandled on the sidewalk at all hours, drunk, high or rude. They would litter and cause trouble.<<<...........You moved to an area (the Haight) before researching it? You didn't check out the neighorhood before you moved there? You just blindly moved into a neighborhood? Why would you do that? The Haight has been as you described for decades. I suspect the kids were there when you moved in. Why did you choose not to see them? When I've moved from one neighborhood to another I do my best to hang out in the neighborhood near where the apartment is that I'm interested in renting so I can get a real feel for the neighbors. Why didn't you do that? Why would you move into some place that you don't even know what it's like? You also said...>>>I for one support the no sit/lie ban all the way.<<< What do you propose to do with the people who are rounded up under Prop L? How do you expect to pay for it? It will not be funded by the way. Will it be illegal to be homeless in the City if this passes? Did you research this law before you got behind it? Are you not aware of the "Castro 14?"

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 21, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

You lived there for a while and decided you didn't like it.
You moved.
Problem solved.

Every complaint you list is addressed by already existing laws.
Maybe it;s time for you to press the police to enforce those laws. Maybe you should consider forcing the police to do their jobs and walk a beat by voting Yes on Prop M.
What you shouldn't do is try to give away MY civil rights, and the civil rights of all your neighbors in San Francisco, in some half-assed attempt to get back at the people you objected to in the Haight, or whoever else you don't like seeing wherever you live now.
Since you claim to know when the Summer of Love was over, perhaps you could also tell us when we can look forward to the end of your Season of Hate.

Posted by Your Neighbor on Oct. 21, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

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