Did you know that there are 6,571 nonprofit organizations that call San Francisco home? That’s enough to have a nonprofit on almost every street corner. These nonprofits provide critical services to the most vulnerable in our communities. And yet, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area continues to grow. Chronic homelessness has risen to what most call the number one issue in San Francisco, overtaking previous top concerns of the rising cost of living and traffic congestion issues, respectively.
We strongly believe the resources are out there to make tangible progress on alleviating some of these issues. There’s no reason why it should seem like such a utopia for one of the wealthiest cities in the world to reach a position where we are supporting the basic needs of the individuals in our community. We believe that part of the problem is that organizations, government agencies, and individuals alike are working towards solutions in parallel instead of in solidarity. Coming up with solutions to complex issues around chronic homelessness in San Francisco is something that can’t be done in silos. It takes a community. And it takes honest discussions between members of that community.
That’s why we are very excited to announce our upcoming virtual event, Building Bridges: Honest discussions on real solutions to homelessness. We’ve gathered leaders from 4 nonprofits that are reframing the discussions around disconnected communities and solutions to chronic homelessness. These panelists each bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives and join this event with the goal of having honest discussions around the complexities of these issues and what it means to enact community-driven solutions to homelessness:
Charles Lerner, Executive Director, At The Crossroads (ATC)
Charles Lerner is the Executive Director of At The Crossroads (ATC). He is a previous foster youth who experienced homelessness as a young adult. He holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and his twenty-five-year career has included advocating for youth in foster care, LGBTQ+ youth, and young people experiencing homelessness. Charles came to ATC because of the principles that drive its work including providing unconditional, non-judgmental, and long-term support to clients. He considers himself to be a justice seeker and believes that you would be hard-pressed to find a social issue (including homelessness) that at its root does not involve injustice and inequity.
Julia Guzman Arroyo, San Francisco Site Director, Young Women’s Freedom Center (YWFC)
Julia Arroyo is the second-generation born stateside in the US, and is of Mexican/Filipino descent, and identifies as Xicana. Her work at the YWFC is personal to her having had involvement in the underground street economy, foster care, and incarceration. She has transformed her life and is committed to supporting marginalized girls to break free from systemic and interpersonal violence. She is currently majoring in Women Studies at San Francisco City College, and has a background in community health, rape crisis, and work with sexually exploited youth. Julia advocates for the decriminalization of girls, and believes it is the job of everyone to create environments for them to grow and lead the next generation. Julia has been with the Center since 2014.
Mary Howe, Executive Director, Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA)
Mary Howe, once a young person experiencing homelessness herself has dedicated her 20+ year career to developing and implementing services that empower young people to improve their own lives, and to addressing the structural causes of poverty, homelessness, and drug use. In 2006 she founded Homeless Youth Alliance when two long-standing grassroots programs merged to form the single organization. HYA’s ethos and program design is always grounded in the stated needs of the young people we are honored to work alongside.
Joe Wilson, Executive Director, Hospitality House (HH)
Joe Wilson is the Executive Director of Hospitality House, a multi-program agency serving residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, Sixth Street Corridor, and Mid-Market neighborhoods struggling with homelessness, poverty, and other socioeconomic issues. Joe is the co-chair of Market Street for the Masses, the Steering Committee of the San Francisco Human Services Network, and the Executive Committee of the Homeless Emergency Service Providers Association (HESPA). Joe is formerly homeless, and a former shelter resident and staff of Hospitality House.
By bringing together these diverse leaders to drive an honest discussion around what real solutions can look like, our goal is multifaceted:
- Provide educational opportunities in the Bay Area to close the knowledge gap on the complexities of homelessness and related concerns.
- Encourage synergy between nonprofits working towards similar goals to amplify our collective impact.
- Build stronger relationships between communities and nonprofits to foster conversations and ideas on collectively doing a better job of building an equitable Bay Area together.
We know we can’t do this alone. So we hope you join the discussion with us on June 15 @ 6:00PM PST as we attempt to build the bridges necessary to create a stronger community.
Eager to join the discussion? You don’t have to wait until June 15. Check back frequently, as part of this #BuildingBridges series, we will release weekly educational content to help understand how we got to this critical point, provide clarity to some of the most common misconceptions around homelessness, and discuss possible pathways forward.