A portion of the Everyone Deserves a Home project is currently on display at the San Francisco Friends School in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco thru April 2018.
” You can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ll be at a bus stop and there will be some people waiting for the bus and they see some homeless people sitting on the ground and they get to thinking about them and I be like, well I was homeless too. ” – Patricia
The meaning of home is both universal and deeply personal. At its best, home can mean safety, comfort, stability, community, relaxation, refuge, love, and a sense of belonging. For the individuals represented in this exhibit, home is currently a unit in one of seven supportive housing communities operated by Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing (DISH) in San Francisco in partnership with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. In addition to a secure living space, DISH tenants benefit from being part of a community with onsite access to social services, nursing, and enrichment programs designed to help them lead healthier and more satisfying lives.
The exhibit subjects you are about to meet experienced homelessness and significant health issues prior to finding their current home in supportive housing. Their stories about how they got here are laced with challenging themes – struggles with trauma, neglect, substance use and the corrosive effects of poverty and racism. These aspects of their narratives remind us that social inequities shape both individual lives and communities.
Despite more than a decade of concentrated efforts, San Francisco continues to struggle to provide housing for all its citizens. Certain groups of historically disenfranchised people are disproportionately represented among the homeless and marginally housed. For example, San Francisco’s African American population has decreased to less than 6% but makes up over 35% of the chronically homeless population, which points to the devastating correlation between race and housing insecurity.
Yet in addition to their challenges, the stories of these formerly homeless San Franciscans are rich with many other compelling themes – pride in accomplishments, resiliency in the face of obstacles, hopes for a brighter future, and unbridled love for our unique city. From master’s degrees in the arts and sciences, to expressive musical talents, to business expertise, and years of dedicated service in the armed forces, these often ignored members of our community have amazing histories, engaging life experiences to share, and significant contributions to make. As you explore the exhibit, we invite you to reflect on all that you have in common with these fellow San Franciscans and their diverse definitions of home.
” No matter how sad I am or what I think I can’t get through, I know I will overcome it. ” – Juanita
The photos in this exhibit stemmed from a partnership with two artists Elizabeth Gjelten and Christine Young and the Triangle Lab of California Shakespeare Theatre Company. The signs held in many of the portraits featured are a result of the writing workshop prompt, “What is home to you?”
In 2016, DISH was a recipient of the California Stories Grant from Cal Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand the portrait project and provide the platform for tenants to expand their stories. The San Francisco Public Library was the first to host this exhibit.
Photography provided by Audra Miller of Miller Studies (once an intern with DISH!). Interviews conducted by Liz Gjelten and Lillianna Torres with content support from Christine Young. Audio recordings led by Colin Peden of KALW and Elliott Peltzman of The Complex Recording Studio.