Dot-Com Boom/Bust 1.0
Megan Wilson, Home/Casa, Art Strikes Back, Clarion Alley, 2000
The following chronicles an experience I had during the first Dot-Com bomb/bust. I share it because in many ways it mirrors the situation that we are currently experiencing in the SF Bay Area, and in particular, the responses from the tech community and the community of new money that has moved in. The interaction that I had in 2000 with a woman from New York who was working for a dotcom PR firm that I share here, reminds me of many of the interactions that I’ve had with folks who are new to SF and part of the community that is displacing longtime residents, organizations and businesses and the attitude that we (those of us who are being displaced) just don’t really get it … and we’re just not working with them enough. In other words, they view the communities that many of us have spent years creating and contributing to as now theirs because they believe they have the right to it – and they have the money to buy it – the market is the force that determines who gets to stay and who must leave – regardless of whose livelihoods are at stake.
Dot-Com Boom/Bust 1.0
In the summer of 2000 – June/July Lise Swenson and I organized the performance series Art Strikes Back (Tim Costigan was involved in the early development phase of the project). We initiated the project as a creative response to the unprecedented growth and displacement in San Francisco and the blind greed and privilege that we were experiencing at that time. We sent out an open email to as many artists as we could asking if they would be interested in participating in the project through a performative work or another medium (murals, posters, text etc). Our plan was to stage performances every Friday and Saturday night at 7pm and 9pm for 6-weeks along the Valencia corridor in the Mission District – the area that was being the hardest hit by evictions. Anyone could participate – they just needed to provide us with a description of their work and the slot that they would like to sign up for (if available). My and Lise’s commitment was that we would organize the schedule, publicize the events, and document the works via still photography and video. For those who weren’t doing performances – we also did the same.
Lise Swenson’s performance The Emperor’s New Clothes, Art Strikes Back 2000
The response was overwhelming and we ended up extending the project to 8-weeks with over 80 artists who participated. The project was not without criticism – by others as well as ourselves – often it seemed like we were just providing free entertainment for the new wealthy interlopers. However, Art Strikes Back also brought a good deal of attention via the press to what was happening in San Francisco, which was our ultimate goal. The project was featured in the SF Chronicle, the LA Times, the London Telegraph, the Drudge Report, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” as well as numerous other publications.
We did not see the situation as being about tech vs. the rest of us – as we used tech to communicate and promote the project. Our press release stated:
As they suck up the atmospheres around them and leave nothing but a cultural waste behind, it is becoming harder and harder to produce the very cultural environments they are so eagerly buying up. The participating artists are creating work at ground zero, from nothing and for nothing.
We were referring to the people who had moved in and completely disregarded that they were moving into an existing community and that they were creating a great deal of pain and suffering for many who had spent their livelihoods creating and contributing to the communities that were our homes. Basically we saw/see it as a case of contemporary colonialism.
Later that fall in November 2000, I was contacted by a woman named Valorie in New York who was putting together a Website and listening tour about the San Francisco’s Mission District and DUMBO in Brooklyn with her co-workers. When I looked up her email address, I learned that she worked in marketing and PR for a new dotcom company. She was interested in footage of Art Strikes Back to juxtapose with work in DUMBO as a way of “showcasing various artists, musicians and dancers from both neighborhoods.” Her title with the company was “Associate Information Architect.”
Rene Garcia and Marci Klane, Art Strikes Back, 2000
Of course I was suspect of her intentions and challenged her on the underlying motivations for the project, to which she was “shocked” by my tone as I called out her company. She responded with the following:
As I made clear in my opening, I don’t wish to comment how “companies like mine” fit into this equation. This is a personal project of mine, not a company endeavor, and I feel I’ve stated to you my support of the arts. But I will respond to how I see myself in relation to the communities I wish to represent. I live a couple neighborhoods away from DUMBO, in an old-Italian area known as Carroll Gardens. Brooklyn, like all of Manhattan, has experienced dramatic rent increases over the past four years, the last two in particular. The NYT wrote an article early this summer stating that real estate has increased over 40% since January. Everyone feels this pinch. I can’t afford to live by myself even in Brooklyn so I share a tiny 2 bedroom apartment with a dancer. Her and I have discussed extensively the “new economy,” how it’s affected her, her friends (both here and in San Francisco), and never has blame been placed on me personally. We worry about the use of technology and if it inhibits interpersonal communication and people’s relationship with their bodies, not my employer. We both question the cultural benefit of this New Age, weighing its pros and cons. But both my roommate and I feel in order to temper a new technology, one needs to know how to work with it. And that is what I’m learning at my company. Additionally, new media indisputably serves as a global distribution vehicle for all artists. I believe this is a benefit. Technology in itself is not inherently evil, nor are the people creating it.
Thus, to summarize my relationship to the art community, I see myself as a patron and legal supporter. I attend gallery openings and exhibits in DUMBO and encourage my friends to support local Brooklyn artists as well. We help them financially and through word of mouth. I do not apologize for my profession nor the fact that I’m not an artist by trade. I leverage my network of friends and colleagues to help DUMBO’s artists as well as promote legislation that protects and funds the profession of dancer, musician, painter, sculptor.
Your comment “we don’t want companies like the one you work for in our neighborhoods, nor do we want the culture that has resulted from the “dot-com Spring” in our neighborhoods” saddens me. Your experience compared to mine differs dramatically. Talent, energy and passion are the three adjectives I use to describe my coworkers and therefore our environment. Those are values I want governing my community, all tempered by a civic sensibility. That sensibility is what I hope to create with this website.
Thus I would like to continue our conversation further. Both of us are entitled to our positions. But I believe Megan, that although our backgrounds are different, our objectives are one. I care about the borough I live in and hope to see it realize itself as an art’s bastion. That said, I ask you the similar question, “How do you see the artists’ role in gentrification and displacement?” I do not mean to be spiteful but illustrate NY’s gentrification history over the past 20 years. The Bowery and Soho, once industrial strips of Manhattan housing numerous immigrant groups, have been popularized by artists. Today they are now one of the most desired and expensive areas to live in Manhattan. Original tenants, who lived there for years, were forced to find affordable alternative housing elsewhere. When I moved to NYC in 1997, I was told that whatever neighborhoods the artists live, those areas were up and coming. DUMBO and Williamsburg prove this point. Each area has witnessed a dramatic rent increase after artists began occupying warehouse space. Thus, in NYC, artists have, indirectly, raised the rent and have driven out the Polish, Italians, West Indians and many other ethnic groups as New Yorkers have followed the artists into these neighborhoods. Therefore I was shocked at the tone of your email. In my mind, I see you holding a similar culpability, if either of us truly own one. This is a complicated matter. Gentrification and urban development are never easy questions to integrate much less experience. That’s much of what I studied in school. Yet I believe both of us acknowledge our civic and artist responsibility and are acting on it.
I don’t mean to put you with this response but if we are to continue our discussion, I want to redirect our dialogue. I want to be part of a solution and see myself as such.
The Dot, Art Strike’s Back, 2000
I responded with the following:
I raised the questions that I did because I think it’s important that we all do that for others and ourselves to check in with how what we do impacts our lives and others – though I am aware that I was much more direct in asking them of you because of the project that you are initiating. Many of the decisions that I’ve made for my life, including my work, have been the result of that kind of critical analysis posed to me by others. And as an educator and someone who works for a media literacy organization, asking those types of questions is a daily endeavor.
However, I also know that this issue is not a simple one or one that can easily be couched in terms of black and white – which is why it has become so volatile. You also raised a good question – that of the role of the artist in the gentrification. Sadly, we are the market indicator for gentrification. And I’m not sure what the answer to that is given that artists move into residences we can afford – we tend to be economically poor. But we also tend to be incredibly community-minded and put a lot of time and energy into the neighborhoods that we become a part of – and it is precisely the manifestation of that time and energy that makes our neighborhoods desirable. Obviously we too suffer from the result of our commitment in the process – being forced to leave the communities we helped to create.
In reference to my comment that we don’t want companies like yours – or the culture that has resulted – in our neighborhoods, I can only speak from the experience here – as you said, yours has been different. But I will give you a little bit of background as to why so much hostility – the energy that has fueled the communities here to band together and take action, including our efforts to pass Proposition L, a slow-growth measure that ultimately was defeated by a 1 percent margin – has been felt towards the New Economy. I also want to make it clear that this is not directed at technology or people having jobs – as you know, it’s much more complex, as are the issues around technology and the economy.
In the past three years – though the acceleration has really been in the last two – we have watched (and responded) as the communities that we have spent years building and contributing to have been dismantled. And by contribute I mean – we have created many public art projects, often for NO monetary compensation (projects that we are beginning to see destroyed as the buildings they are housed on are being demolished for new condos), we have created community gardens, we have patronized the small family businesses of the ethnic communities you alluded to, we have organized community events, we have taught the kids in our neighborhood, we have worked at community organizations, and we have started our own families here – in essence we have contributed an enormous amount of time and energy to our communities. This is not just a job for us – this is our livelihood. The destruction of our neighborhoods has happened in the form of skyrocketing rents, as well as property that’s been taken off the rental market and sold as condominiums. Every week we hear of more evictions. And every week we hear of more and more people that are being forced to leave San Francisco altogether. This has also had an enormous impact on arts organizations and non-profits that are even more vulnerable with commercial leases – many of these are folding.
What we’ve watched move in to replace the community members (many of whom had been here for years and years) and the community organizations are dot-com startups that (in the Mission) are being deceitfully classified as “business/servers” instead of the correct “office” classification that would disqualify their occupancy in the live/work spaces many are now operating from (check out: http://www.sfbg.com/News/35/07/07oglvwk.html). The office classification would also have kept many of them out – as the cap for this year was reached early in the year. Our neighborhoods do not have the capacity to support the traffic and numbers of people this industry is bringing in. Additionally, as you are well aware, and as many of us predicted from the get-go several years ago, many of the companies moving in here are not sustainable on their own – they are not profitable – once the venture capitalist pulls out after seeing no profit for the third year in a row with no signs of that changing, the companies are tanking. So that the organizations – many of them very established, long-standing (10, 20 years plus) foundations to the community – that were evicted and as a result had to close, were evicted so that a startup company comprised of young, talented, energetic twenty-something transplants from somewhere other than SF could have a fun, energetic, passionate work environment for two, maybe three years. In addition, our neighborhood also now feels like a college campus with a kegger happening every night. The small family businesses and restaurants have had to close shop because the new patrons to the neighborhood want more upscale venues – and they can pay for it. We also have not experienced contributions from the new boom economy to our community in the form of philanthropy. As a fundraiser, I can say firsthand that our community organizations are not in anyway a priority to this new money. Nor are the arts.
I also am aware that it’s probably hard for many of the young folks involved in this boom economy and these new companies to understand the impact they are having. Many of them are just out of college or graduate school and have never known what it means to be a part of an adult community outside of the college environment – nor do they have any investment in the communities here. And if it is their first job out of school, or even if not, it’s a really fun environment – and that is great, we should all have the opportunity to enjoy what we do for a living and feel passionate about it. But we should also have the right to housing and the option to stay in the communities that we have spent so much energy creating and not be forced out because we do not have money.
All that being said, I do believe that you have a genuine interest in supporting the arts and I commend you for that. I will start sending you more info specifically about Art Strikes Back so that you can begin to understand more about our role in the response here. I will say too that Art Strikes Back was also problematic in that sometimes it felt more like we were just providing free entertainment for the people our message was targeted at. Though much of it was very powerful and did hit home, as well as drew a lot of attention to the issue – we did get a good amount of press.
I look forward to seeing how your project takes shape and helping to work with you on it.
Our correspondence ended there. I sent Valorie additional information and images and she never responded – not even to say “thank you.” Apparently she’d moved on to the next thing. The company she worked for went under soon after our exchange. I looked her up recently and she is still doing PR/marketing for tech companies.
Homeless Bill of Rights MLK Day of Action!
Sunday night into Monday morning Christopher and I participated in the Homeless Bill of Rights MLK Day of Action! organized by the Coalition on Homelessness (COH):
“On Sunday, January 18th, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter actions across the country, we will honor Dr. King’s vision and fight for the end of the War on the Poor and homeless. We will fight to end Broken Windows policing in SF and fight to protect the human rights of every person without housing. Our action will begin with a Sleep-In at 5p on 1/18 and continue through the night and into Monday morning. We will have food, coffee, live music, orators, and a movie screening for all those who join! We will end Monday morning by joining a contingency to head over to Oakland for an entire day of action!”
We arrived at Powell and Market around 6pm to a group of about 50 – 60 diverse folks energetically, yet peacefully gathered around a large banner reading “Black Lives Matter” in front of the Powell Street cable car turnaround. Near the BART escalators a table was set up with trays of food and beverages provided for free by Food Not Bombs, COH, and others. Soon after we arrived, the crowd was invited to participate in a guided meditation to reflect on our varied purposes for being there – to honor MLK, to support Black Lives Matter, to support and rally for a Homeless Bill of Rights, to connect with one another in solidarity and others.
A series of inspiring and engaging speakers addressed the crowd – un-housed and housed – on topics that ranged from Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s Campaign” for economic justice; the connection between racial inequity and homelessness – a black man is four times as likely to be homeless than a white man; the critical need to pass a national Homeless Bill of Rights and the devastating impact of not doing so; the challenges and pain of living on the street and the downward spiral that more often than not results; and the war on San Francisco’s poor and homeless accompanied by hollow promises of the city’s “leadership” to effectively and compassionately address the epidemic.
My emotions ranged wildly – deep compassion for those who are living and struggling on the street, a great sense of community and connection to work together to demand change and to have a real impact, gratitude for being blessed to have a home and bed to sleep in, anger at a culture that allows for this demonstration of systemic cruelty and dysfunction, great power, possibility, hopeful and hopelessness all in the same breath.
Following the speakers, various attempts were made to set up a projector and audio to view a documentary of MLK … with varying degrees of success. Mainly we huddled with different folks, including our friends and colleagues Laura Slattery (Gubbio Project) and Kelly Cutler (Coalition on Homelessness) to share stories and be together as a community rooted in fierce compassion and loving kindness – that radiated throughout the night.
About 20 – 25 people ended up staying the entire night – a mix of those with housing, and those without. Overall I slept for about four hours and in that time, I unfortunately missed out when the folks from POOR magazine rolled through and gave a powerful performance. We were lucky at 2:30am to find a 24-hour Starbucks that allowed us to use their bathroom, though at 4am it was closed to the public.
At 5:30 we were given a 15-minute warning that DPW would be coming through to spray the area down. We packed up and walked Laura over to the Gubbio Project … on our way up Golden Gate Ave. we passed tent after tent and sleeping bags filled with folks living on the street amidst the strong scent of urine and excrement – a reflection of how San Francisco is transforming from a city filled with many diverse, distinct hearts beating to the sound of a proud progressive history to one represented in the form of 200-ton lifeless cold lump of black granite sitting at 555 California Street, known as the “Banker’s Heart,” though today it could just as easily be the “Mayor’s Heart” or the “Board of Supervisors’ Heart” or the “Developer’s Heart” or the “Mega-Tech Corporation’s Heart”
Christopher and I both spent yesterday feeling high on the energy from the previous night, as well as sick from getting such little sleep for me – no sleep for Chris. My body ached, my throat sore, a headache … all the initial signs of flu. We both have autoimmune diseases, so we’re more inclined to get sick easily. But really what kept going through my mind is that for over 7,000 people in SF, to some degree that is their life everyday … and without the protected community that had gathered as part of a community protest/sleep-in.
In the “2013 Homeless Point-In-Time Count & Survey Comprehensive Report” the most commonly cited obstacles for obtaining permanent housing were all economic: 55% reported an inability to afford rent; 52% cited lack of a job or income; and 29% didn’t have money for moving costs. Forty-eight percent of respondents expressed that they were experiencing homelessness for the first time in 2013. Of those who were not experiencing homelessness for the first time 41% reported they had experienced homelessness four or more times in the past three years. More than half of respondents (54%) reported they had been without housing for a year or more.
There are only 1,300 shelter beds in San Francisco and, according to the January 2013 homeless count, 7,350 people are without homes. To receive a shelter bed, single adults must have their face and fingertips bio-metrically imaged, a requirement that implies criminalization to many who are already living on the margins, including immigrants and the mentally ill. And while the City reports vacancies in the shelters each night, 2 out of 3 people seeking shelter are turned away.
Places to rest during the day legally are equally as difficult to come by. In the past 12 years in San Francisco, 167,074 citations were given out for sleeping and sitting in public (San Francisco Municipal Court). Each citation carries a fine of $100. An unpaid or unresolved ticket goes to warrant in 21 days, and the fine doubles. Accumulated warrants can result in incarceration and denial of affordable housing. The Sit/Lie ordinance in conjunction with city practices that aim to move homeless people around public spaces, such as the recently enacted daily street cleanings on Market Street and sweeps in BART stations to remove sleeping or sitting people make it nearly impossible to rest in one spot for more than a few hours consecutively and does nothing to solve the problem.
A 2012 report released by the SF City Hall Fellows found that San Francisco’s Sit/Lie ordinance has been unequivocally ineffective, citing that the reported citations were issued to the same 19 offenders, who were reported as chronically homeless and incapable of paying the $100 fines. In March, 2014 the U.N. panel that reviews countries’ compliance with a human-rights treaty says laws in U.S. communities that subject the homeless to prosecution for everyday activities – including “sit-lie” ordinances like San Francisco’s – appear to violate international standards and should be abolished nationwide. The United States, the report said, should “engage with state and local authorities” to eliminate all such laws, withdraw funding from communities that enforce the laws, and work with social service, health care and law enforcement professionals “to intensify efforts to find solutions for the homeless in accordance with human-rights standards.”
Additionally, one of the most overlooked, yet greatest health risks for the homeless is the lack of sleep. San Diego-based blogger and self-proclaimed “chronic homeless man” Kevin Barbieux, who writes under the name The Homeless Guy states in the article Homelessness and the Impossibility of a Good Night’s Sleep by Hanna Brooks Olsen in the August 2014 issue of The Atlantic that “Without a doubt, sleep is the biggest issue for homeless people …homeless advocates are always focused on what are believed to be the root causes of homelessness, and providing the basics of food shelter and clothing to those who do without, and although those things are important in their own way, they don’t affect homeless people with the intensity that sleep does (or the lack thereof).” And yet, says Eowyn Rieke, a physician with Outside In in Portland, Oregon, the problem of insufficient sleep is “an unrecognized” one. Even within the medical community that deals directly with the homeless, “we don’t talk enough about these concerns with our patients.” Chronic diseases, such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, mental health problems and other ongoing conditions, are difficult to manage under stressful circumstances and worsen with lack of sleep. Additionally, acute problems such as infections, injuries, and pneumonia are difficult to heal when there is no place to rest and recuperate.
Another critical health concern for the homeless is the growing rates of hate crimes. Over the past 15 years, the National Coalition on Homelessness (NCH) has recorded 1,437 incidents of crimes committed against the homeless by housed individuals. In 2013 alone, the NCH became aware of 109 attacks, 18 of which resulted in death. The highest percentage of attacks (30%) took place in California. It is important to note that people experiencing homelessness are often treated so poorly by society that attacks are forgotten
of unreported. This reality worsens when one considers that many violent acts against homeless populations go unreported and therefore, the true number of incidents is likely to be substantially higher.
We must work to put far more pressure on our city officials and hold them accountable to truly address homelessness and the growing divide between the rich and poor in San Francisco through policy change and with strong and clear avenues for oversight and accountability.
All people, especially those who are living on the streets or have mental health or substance abuse issues, are worthy of respect, dignity, and loving kindness.
PLEASE HELP SUPPORT THE PASSAGE OF A HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS!
Home For The Holidays
BETTER HOMES & GARDENS TODAY
A Public Art Project & Residency by Megan Wilson and Christopher Statton
Roxie Theater Storefront Window
3125 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
December 15, 2014 – January 15, 2015
Visible 24/7 through storefront window;
The artists will be painting in the window Th – Mon, 11am – 5pm (excluding holidays)
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!
Returning to the Roxie for this holiday season, Christopher Statton and Megan Wilson are bringing their public art project Better Homes & Gardens Today to the historic 16th Street theater. Wilson and Statton met while working at the Roxie Theater where Statton served as Executive Director for four years; Wilson created the window installation “99%” that was also presented at Yerba Buena Center for The Arts and worked with Clarion Alley Mural Project to paint murals in the Little Roxie’s lobby and bathrooms.
A year later the two have continued to collaborate with their project Better Homes & Gardens Today, which started at The Roxie’s sister theater down the street, ATA (Artist’s Television Access) in October 2014. The project aims to:
1. Heighten awareness around “home” and the realities of homelessness;
2. Cultivate a dialog within communities and amongst disparate groups about housing instability; and
3. Raise money to benefit the Gubbio Project, the Coalition On Homelessness, and At The Crossroads, organizations working to address homelessness in San Francisco.
To date, Statton and Wilson have raised over $4,000 for the organizations.
Wilson and Statton are creating a limited edition of 300 pairs of hand-painted “Home” signs in different languages. The artists will spend December 15 – January 15 painting in the storefront window space of the Little Roxie Theater.
The limited edition signs are available for purchase for $100/pair through the artists during the hours they are painting at the Roxie and on the project’s Website at: www.BetterHomesAndGardensToday.org.
The purchasers will get one sign and the other sign will be donated to one of the three partner organizations to use as they see best fit (e.g. the Gubbio Project will be hanging the signs on the pews at St. Boniface Church during their hours of operation). Purchasers will also be provided with more information on each of the organizations and how they can further help.
All of the proceeds and the signs purchased for the organizations will be divided evenly and go to the three partners (Gubbio Project, Coalition On Homelessness, and At The Crossroads).
As part of the project Statton and Wilson have been introduced to and reached out to some of the Bay Area’s tech corporations and their employees, including Twitter, Facebook, Zendesk, Yammer, Google, Dropbox, and Salesforce to invite them to attend the project’s events. The invitation was extended to these corporations, who are relatively new to the area, to provide them with the opportunity to learn about, contribute to, and support a community that is in great need and that they are now working/ living among and having a significant impact on.
Event at Gubbio Project with Twitter Employees during #FridayForGood
Throughout the project Statton and Wilson are hosting free events at various locations (to date ATA and the Gubbio Project). The events include presentations by representatives from the participating organizations and facilitated discussions on:
1. The realities of being homeless;
2. What the culture and climate of homelessness is like in San Francisco; and
3. What is truly needed to address this crisis – funding and policy change.
Megan Wilson’s original project Better Homes and Gardens is featured in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 75 Years of Looking Forward edited by Janet Bishop, Corey Keller, and Sarah Roberts. In 2000 Wilson hand-painted 250 signs and distributed them to residents living on the streets and those in danger of eviction to place in their carts or windows as a sign of solidarity during a period in which evictions were skyrocketing in San Francisco. Footage of Better Homes and Gardens edited together by Christopher Statton is also included in the Oakland Museum’s exhibition Fertile Ground in collaboration with SFMoMA.
L->R: Signs painted during Wilson and Statton’s residency at ATA; Margaret Cho supporting Better Homes & Gardens Today with her custom-made mini home sign.
Christopher Statton has been an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project since 2012 and was one of the collaborators on “The Wall of Shame and Solutions”. Statton is the former Executive Director of San Francisco’s Roxie Theater (2010 – 2013). In 2013 he was awarded the Marlon Riggs Award by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for “his significant contribution to San Francisco’s film community through the Roxie over the past four years.” In 2013 Statton was also awarded a Certificate of Honor by SF Supervisor David Campos for his “important and tireless work with the Roxie.” Statton was a founding member of the Sidewalk Sideshow, a project of the Marin Interfaith Council, which produced music shows with San Rafael’s street and homeless community. In addition, he is actively involved with the Gubbio Project in the Tenderloin as well as an Advisory Board member of the Tom Steel Clinic, which provides medical services for the HIV positive community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Christopher Statton and Megan Wilson painting inside ATA’s storefront. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.
Megan Wilson is an artist, writer, and non-profit consultant. She moved to the Bay Area in 1994 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2000 Wilson co-organized the performance/protest series Art Strikes Back in response to the extreme wave of gentrification displacement in San Francisco during the first “dotcom boom.” In 2003 she curated, directed, and raised the funds for the international mural exchange and residency Sama-sama/ Together, a collaboration between artists from San Francisco and Yogyakarta Indonesia designed to foster understanding of Muslim and non-Muslim cultures following 9/11. From 2004 – 2008 she transformed her 1,600 sq. ft. living space into an installation that explored and challenged the meanings of “home” and “homelessness” through her project Home 1996-2008. Wilson has been a core organizer of the Clarion Alley Mural Project since 1998 and is one of the organizers of CAPITALISM IS OVER! If You Want It, a series of interruptions/ actions launched in 2010 that has included artists from around the world, responding to the negative impacts of capitalism. Wilson’s article The Gentrification of Our Livelihoods was published on Stretcher.org in June 2014. www.MeganWilson.com
The Gubbio Project
Since its founding in 2004 The Gubbio Project has offered refuge for thousands of people in the heart of the Tenderloin and encouraged connection between the housed and unhoused. For nine hours each weekday, 6am-3pm, the doors of the sanctuary of St. Boniface are open to all. The mission of The Gubbio Project is to provide a sacred space to sleep or rest and care services for those in need of a safe, compassionate respite that places dignity and respect in the highest regard. Each day, 250 people on average, enter the project, with 95 folks sleeping at any given time in the pews of St. Boniface and others accessing care services. We invite you to visit St. Boniface and see The Gubbio Project firsthand. www.thegubbioproject.org
Coaliton on Homelessness, San Francisco
26 Years of Resistance, Resilience and Re-Building
For decades, the Coalition on Homelessness has developed the leadership skills of homeless San Franciscans to forge true solutions to the housing crisis and beat back mean-spirited attacks against them. The Coalition on Homelessness is comprised of homeless people and allies who have been organizing together since 1987 to expand access to housing in one of the richest cities in the country, to protect the rights of the poorest people in our society, and to create real solutions to contemporary homelessness. http://www.cohsf.org/
At The Crossroads
The mission of At The Crossroads is to reach out to homeless youth and young adults at their point of need, and work with them to build healthy and fulfilling lives. Our innovative model focuses on young people who do not access traditional services and are disconnected from any type of consistent support. We remove common barriers to service by bringing our counselors onto the streets and shaping our support services around the needs of each individual client. http://atthecrossroads.org/
November 8, 2014 at the Coalition on Homelessness’ SLEEP-IN & Picket to call for an end to BART police harassment of people sleeping in transit stations.
The Roxie Theater is the oldest continuously running cinema in the United States and has been at its location in San Francisco’s Mission District since it opened in 1909. Over a century later, the Roxie has remained true to its mission to promote and support truly independent film / filmmakers and programming that would likely never be presented at more mainstream, profit-based venues. The Roxie continues to stay rooted in a commitment to taking risks with non-traditional and experimental films – works that are critical to challenging the status quo and inspiring viewers. Films have become one of the most important and effective sources for presenting stories that need to be told and communities that need to be recognized. www.Roxie.com
Megan Wilson’s installation 99% in the Roxie’s storefront window, 2012
Golden City Stories: Better Homes and Gardens Today
Really great interview and short profile of Christopher Statton and I, thoughtfully filmed by Walter Thompson that is part of his latest film project” Golden City,” a feature-length documentary about how the tech industry is reshaping housing and transportation in San Francisco.
Walter is currently raising the money needed to complete “Golden City” – please help support his insightful and critical work that promises to be a one of the best documentaries about this current era of change, struggle, and transformation in San Francisco! https://www.indiegogo.com/…/golden-city-housing-and-transpo…
Better Homes and Gardens
Better Homes and Gardens – San Francisco’s Mission District in 2000 … footage from ground zero for the dotcom bomb and the epidemic of evictions that resulted … Precursor to the latest project Better Homes and Gardens Today - thank you Christopher Statton for editing!
Please Help Support These Organizations Serving the Homeless in SF!
Artists Christopher Statton and Megan Wilson are creating a limited edition of 300 sets of “Home” signs to benefit three organizations - The Gubbio Project, the Coalition on Homelessness, and At The Crossroads that are working to help ease the suffering of those living on the streets, treating people with dignity, respect and love, and being at the forefront of changing the inhumane policies that have been enacted to criminalize and punish those who are already faced with such overwhelming challenges.
The signs are available for purchase for $100/pair. The purchasers receive one sign and the other sign is donated to one of the three partner organizations to use as they see best fit (e.g. the Gubbio Project will place them on the pews of St. Boniface Church). Purchasers will also be provided with more information on each of the organizations and how they can further help.
All of the proceeds will be divided evenly and go to these critically needed organizations.
- There are only 1,300 shelter beds in San Francisco and, according to the January 2013 homeless count, 7,350 people are without homes. And while the City reports vacancies in the shelters each night, 2 out of 3 people seeking shelter are turned away.
- Places to rest during the day legally are equally as difficult to come by. In the past 12 years in San Francisco, 167,074 citations were given out for sleeping and sitting in public (San Francisco Municipal Court). Each citation carries a fine of $100. An unpaid or unresolved ticket goes to warrant in 21 days, and the fine doubles. Accumulated warrants can result in incarceration and denial of affordable housing.
- In 2014, a United Nations panel deemed the Sit/Lie ordinance a form of human rights abuse.
- A 2012 report released by San Francisco’s City Hall Fellows found that San Francisco’s Sit/Lie ordinance has been unequivocally ineffective, citing that the reported citations were issued to the same 19 offenders, who were reported as chronically homeless and incapable of paying the $100 fines.
- One of the most overlooked, yet greatest health risks for the homeless is the lack of sleep. San Diego-based blogger and self-proclaimed “chronic homeless man” Kevin Barbieux, who writes under the name The Homeless Guy states in the articleHomelessness and the Impossibility of a Good Night’s Sleep by Hanna Brooks Olsen in the August 2014 issue of The Atlanticthat “Without a doubt, sleep is the biggest issue for homeless people …homeless advocates are always focused on what are believed to be the root causes of homelessness, and providing the basics of food shelter and clothing to those who do without, and although those things are important in their own way, they don’t affect homeless people with the intensity that sleep does (or the lack thereof).” Additionally, acute problems such as infections, injuries, and pneumonia are difficult to heal when there is no place to rest and recuperate.
- Another critical health concern for the homeless is the growing rate of hate crimes. Over the past 15 years, the National Coalition on Homelessness (NCH) has recorded 1,437 incidents of crimes committed against the homeless by housed individuals. In 2013 alone, the NCH became aware of 109 attacks, 18 of which resulted in death. The highest percentage of attacks (30%) took place in California. It is important to note that people experiencing homelessness are often treated so poorly by society that attacks are forgotten of unreported. This reality worsens when one considers that many violent acts against homeless populations go unreported and therefore, the true number of incidents is likely to be substantially higher.
All people, especially those who are living on the streets or have mental health or substance abuse issues, are worthy of respect, dignity, and loving kindness.
“HOME” FOR SALE
Megan Wilson and Christopher Statton are in ATA’s display window, painting hundreds of signs with one word on them: “Home.” Black letters and a flower spell out the word in English or other languages, each on a solid color background. Sold in pairs for $100, one sign goes to the purchaser; the money and the other sign goes to one of three homeless service organizations. They could have just painted a bunch of signs in their studio and put them up for sale, but they chose instead to perform the production of the signs in the window. More than fundraising, they are organizing, raising awareness through outreach, providing information, and holding the City accountable for its human responsibility. And they are accomplishing all of this by subverting the tools of commercial language. Read more HERE.
COMMON THREAD COLLECTIVE with DIAMOND DAVE
TWITTER . ZENDESK . YAMMER
San Francisco’s Tenderloin district has the highest concentration of homeless persons (44%), comprises the highest proportion of residents living in poverty (69.7%) with a per capita income of $14,556 compared to San Francisco’s average of $73,802, and of the population 16 years and older, 47% are unemployed.
We have reached out to three of the new innovative businesses - Twitter, Zendesk, andYammer – that are part of the Central Market CBA and who have voiced that they want to work with organizations in the community that are addressing the struggles of homelessness – to ask them to participate in our project Better Homes & Gardens Today. We are working with three organizations – two in the Central Market/Tenderloin area – the Gubbio Project and Coalition On Homelessness, as well as At The Crossroads Street Youth Support that serves homeless youth throughout SF – to help raise awareness and educate around the realities of homelessness, while helping to raise money to support these critical organizations. So far we’ve heard nothing back … we’ll keep trying.