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Tenderloin residents demand safer streets,
support for families

By Tamara Barak

May 9, 2007

Two coalitions converged on San Francisco City Hall yesterday to call for the city to invest in struggling families and make the streets safe for Tenderloin residents.

More than 100 Tenderloin residents marched to City Hall through their troubled streets, stopping at the sites of recent murders to honor victims with moments of silence.

Dina Hilliard of Safety Network Organize, one of the groups sponsoring the rally and march, said she and her neighbors are fed up with escalating violence in the Tenderloin.

In April alone, three people were murdered in the neighborhood. "It's time for change, it's time for a new Tenderloin," Hilliard said.

Caesar Garcia, who has lived in the neighborhood for a decade, put the blame for the violence on liquor stores, rampant prostitution and drug sales.

"It brings in people from outside the neighborhood. The Tenderloin has become a paradise to do all sorts of travesties," Garcia said. "We're demanding a secure neighborhood. We cannot allow our children to live in this sort of environment. We need to finish with all of this."

Residents decried the lack of parks and recreation facilities in their neighborhood, the drug dealing on their sidewalks and the lack of protection for seniors and children.

"Just because you're poor, doesn't mean you need to be ignored. Enough is enough. We're not going to take it any more," said Elise Westbrooks-Williams of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, another organizing agency.

San Francisco police Capt. Gary Jimenez of the Tenderloin station said the demand for drugs is behind much of the violence. The Police Department's gang task force has been concentrated on stemming the violence since it flared up again in December, he said.

Jimenez said he sympathized with the marchers. "I share their dream for a better city and a safer city," he said.

Jimenez said city officials should focus on "sanctions and solutions" for drug dealers and users in order to help police clean up the streets.

"It's time the city stood up and did something," he said.

The Tenderloin marchers were met at City Hall by the Family Budget Coalition, made up of youth, childcare and family services advocates.

At a press conference, the Family Budget coalition unveiled its $20 million budget agenda. Coalition leaders have asked Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to allocate the money for new and expanded services in violence prevention, alternatives to incarceration, childcare, children's health and youth employment.

The coalition's plan includes more than $7.3 million for affordable childcare, including a voucher program to protect low-income families from cost increases.

The plan also includes $6.4 million for violence prevention, including mental health services for public housing residents and re-entry and intervention services for paraplegic gunshot victims, serious and ex-offenders.

The plan calls for more than $2.2 million dedicated to land use and parks, including after school programs in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, improvements to existing parks and a new skate park at Golden Gate Park.

More than a million dollars each is allocated for workforce development and family support services under the proposed plan.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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