On the margins - Page 3

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


Winston believes politicians need to do a better job of making sure community-based organizations deliver on their promises to help working class communities of color. At the same time, as he acknowledges, "We can't cure the world in one day."

"Over the last five to 10 years, the African American population in SF has shrunk," he observed. "Everybody is moving to Antioch and Fairfield because people can't afford to live here. People are losing their jobs. And San Francisco has almost become impossible to live in unless you have a college degree. A lot of what I hear from youth is about economics. They want jobs. They want to be trained."


Political disputes over the city's sanctuary city policies on undocumented immigrants — which have left in limbo the question of whether arrested immigrants will get their days in court before being turned over to the federal government for possible deportation — have also been a source of instability for immigrant teens, many of whom are homeless and/or LGBTQ.

Police Commissioner Angela Chan, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, decried Mayor Gavin Newsom for refusing to implement Sup. David Campos' due process legislation, which the board approved in November 2009.

"It's been a little bit upsetting for the many groups that took the democratic process seriously. But these groups are still very committed to these kids," Chan said. "We are hoping to work with the new U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag to clarify this issue and explain that the top priority of the Obama administration is not to deport undocumented youth."

Other so-called tough-on-crime initiatives also threaten local at-risk young people. In September, City Attorney Dennis Herrera secured an injunction against 41 alleged gang members in Visitacion Valley, a strategy that progressives fear will accelerate the ongoing displacement of the African American community.

Court documents show that 66 percent of the men named in the injunction are 18 to 25 years old and that many have children in public housing, where lease holders are predominantly women of color.

San Francisco City College Trustee Chris Jackson, 27, is running for the District 10 seat on the Board of Supervisors. Noting that the southeast SF district has some of the highest numbers of poor people and children citywide, Jackson said that youth issues are similar to challenges that other voters face.

"But the context is different," said Jackson, who previously served on the San Francisco Youth Commission. "Young people care about safe streets because it's us or our friends who are on them. We care about schools because we are in them and want to go to college. And we are concerned about the future of employment because how do you tell folks to go to school if there are no jobs?"

Jackson notes that in the Bayview-Hunters Point, home to the city's largest remaining African American community, kids don't come back if they leave for college. "We see a brain drain. It's really difficult to retain young people, so it's important to first make sure that youth's housing needs are met. And they also need access to careers so that when they graduate, they know there is a job in the city. But right now, youth can't even find a summer job because of the recession."

He called for city policies that are based on the needs of current city residents rather than developers' profits or the desires of well-off outsiders to move here.

"San Francisco is more of an opportunity for Silicon Valley residents than for youth who were born and raised here. And part of the problem is city policies, ineffective programs, and a failure to provide job opportunities for youth," he said. "Everything for youth has been gutted."

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