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San Francisco Opportunities for Advancing Racial Equity

I am not pessimistic or optimistic. I am determined.
Stacey Abrams

We are collectively living through a historic time in the history of the United States, and indeed the world. Over the course of the last year alone, the world has plunged into the COVID-19 pandemic where lives of many people have unnecessarily been lost, and those lives are disproportionately Black, Brown and Indigenous. We have witnessed multiple Black men and women be killed at the hands of police, a coup attempt at the Nation’s capitol, and mounting anti-Asian sentiment, violence and killing. It has been a year where racism and white supremacy have become prominent in mainstream discourse.

Yet Black and Brown leaders have ushered in nation-wide and longstanding protests against the systems that perpetuate this violence, fights for abolition of policing and systems whose very foundations are linked to the perpetuation of white supremacy.

And it is here, in these conditions, that we turn to take a closer look at the housing and homelessness systems we have erected- at both the roots of racist policy, systems and structures, and at what is possible to construct instead. Any system transformation in the sector requires us to design toward a future where Black and Brown people, who have been historically marginalized, are leading and thriving. 

This is where we begin the story with San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), looking inward at the culture, process, and structure within the department. It is here that we begin at the small scale so that it can reverberate to the largest scale- outward to also transform the broader system in San Francisco. HSH has been through so much in its short lifespan, and the path forward may seem too daunting or intractable. It is not. It will not be easy; but we have witnessed the determination of HSH staff, and members of the broader community. Transformation is coming.

To access a pdf version of this online report, click here.