Mary: I don’t know. I have a really hard time, concept of time, and maybe a skewed view, a little bit, because we see the worst of gentrification. I feel like a lot of the time … But when I got here—when I was a young teen running away from home, found my way to the magical Tenderloin.
Actually to be a little honest, The Tenderloin still, at times, is the only part of San Francisco I recognize, and feel like, I don’t know, really comfortable. I think it did used to be this place of opportunity and a place where you could come and build your life. And I think as we’re seeing things get so unaffordable that that that’s nearly impossible.
Planning with someone how to get off the street in this city is, [Quietly laughs] it’s almost really sadly laughable because none of my staff even live in San Francisco, right. None of us can afford to not be homeless and live here, and work here. I definitely think, also, is it’s always this ironic thing of the kind of stigma put on poor people. I mean at the crux of why our work gets criticized is really about the people we’re working with, right, and that it makes people really uncomfortable to see people suffering and in poverty.
And I think as you see, kind of new San Francisco, which is all people from outside San Francisco, and you’re seeing that the amount of people who are living outdoors who come from this city increase dramatically … I don’t want to say it’s compassion fatigue because I’m not sure those people ever had compassion, but it’s just people come into a city they don’t know the history of and want it to be a certain experience for them. When it’s like we’ve been fighting to have our space, and our rights, and to break down stigma, and shame, around where we’re at. And that seems to be harder every single year in this city.
Yeah, it just doesn’t seem like there’s opportunity. And I often think that many people in power positions become more out of touch as that continues to happen, because the constituents, the voices they hear, are not the voices of people who know the history of a city. That was really a city that was this melting pot and collective for not only people who were raised here and from here but also people who came here because of this idea that it was this place of acceptance and opportunity. I don’t know. What do you think? Because, you grew up here-
Maurice: Yeah I was-
Mary: And kind of saw it in a different way.
Maurice: Of course gentrification comes to mind. I think it really started in a heavy-handed way with Willie Brown, who was the mayor, when he started shutting down projects, quote unquote, rebuilding them to be mixed income. So there’s been a huge black flight out of San Francisco. I don’t think I have any of my friends that I grew up with that live here in San Francisco. On another note, I think because of people coming in from other places, and I think they do have this idealized way that they want San Francisco to be and they push really hard to make it that way.
You do see more hostility towards poor folks, in general, and people experiencing homelessness. In a very public and aggressive way sometimes. There’s definitely neighborhoods that have completely changed. I walk down Valencia Street sometimes and I’m like, “Where the hell am I?” You walk down 3rd Street sometimes and I’m like, “Where the hell am I?” These were areas that people wouldn’t walk through. They wouldn’t be … And now there is. My mother doesn’t live here anymore because of this. Because of the amount of money that’s come in after Lee cut taxes for people; it seemed like he was sacrificing families and poor folks to get a lot of money here. And now we’re what? We’re one of the richest cities in the world but-
Mary: So I hear.
Maurice: Quality of life isn’t all that great or a lot of people. It reminds me of Rome. There’s just really rich people and really poor folk, people here. And the middle class drives in every 9 to 5 and they go back home to outside of San Francisco. Sad, in a way, to see-
Mary: Sad in many ways.
Maurice: Yeah, yeah, to see how much it’s changed over the years and not in really super positive ways for the average Joe. If you’re really rich you can live here. Guess what, if you’re really poor you can figure out how to live here, too. It may not be a great quality of life … So, yeah, that’s sort of how I see it.