On the margins - Page 4

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

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And those evaporating opportunities are compounded by punitive policies like Prop. L, Jackson said, further alienating young people. "It comes down to how much money you have," Jackson observes. "If you are rich, you can enjoy the parks, the clubs, the transit. But if you are low-income, especially low-income youth of color, it's very hard to take advantage of everything the city has to offer."

Noting that both City College and the San Francisco Unified School District canceled their summer school program, Jackson said, "it doesn't look like youth are prioritized."

Jackson was recently at Double Rock (a.k.a. the Alice Griffith Public Housing Project) and he saw four kids under 10 who were at home while their parents were at work. "Why aren't they in school or in child care? And don't give me the line that these are hard to serve communities. We have to serve them."

N'tanya Lee, executive director of Coleman Advocates, agrees that while all young people are struggling in the city, African American children and youth are having one of the worst times.

"We don't need 5,000 different strategies and initiatives when 90 percent of these kids live in extreme poverty, mostly concentrated in public housing, and you could fit the city's entire black high school student population into one auditorium," Lee said.

She wants the city to create a database of these youth and develop specific strategies to help this population before it's too late.

"No one in city government feels accountable for the outcomes for black children and youth," she said. "Instead you have one group who are about young people and another who are about economic development — and they have nothing to do with each other. Meanwhile, we've lost half of all black families with children in this city in the past 20 years."

Our 44th Anniversary Issue also includes stories by Rebecca Bowe on ageing out of the foster care system, Caitlin Donohue's account of the Haight street kids, and Tim Redmond's editorial on the issues facing our rising generation

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