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Fear and desperation
in Western Addition

Residents plead for City assistance

By Elizabeth Pfeffer

June 24, 2006

Residents of the Western Addition called on City officials to help save their community from unemployment and violence Friday evening, at a forum sponsored by Bethel A.M.E. Church and the San Francisco Organizing Project.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, Citybuild Director Chris Iglesias and Director of the San Francisco Workforce Development Division Tony Lugo listened soberly as teary-eyed neighbors spoke of the fear and desperation that has washed over the Western Addition.

"I'm a parent of a 16-year-old daughter," resident Jolanda Griffin said. "And I don't want her to die in the streets."

This was the common message from parents who hadn't already lost a child. The other message: Give residents of the Western Addition jobs.

A young mother and her two children saw a man shot dead on McAllister Street, June 2.

"Violence in this neighborhood has gotten out of hand. I'm tired and I'm only 28 years old," said Latanya Jamerson. Her 10-year-old and 4-year-old are both in therapy after witnessing the homicide.

The reason residents shared their stories was not to report crimes, but to draw attention to the reason for them. That cause, resident Roy Holden said, is that people can't find work.

Holden brought a picture of his wife and three kids on their move to San Francisco from Louisiana, for what they thought would be a better life.

After twelve years in the Western Addition riddled with unemployment, lay-offs and poor wages, Holden is grasping onto hope that the City will intervene while his children have already become jaded.

"I really feel one of my children is going to die in the streets … What do I do? Sell drugs … get your condolences … do I have to bury a kid to leave?"

His family doesn't leave the house after 9 p.m.

"It's a trap," Holden's son once told him. "We're never going to leave here."

The San Francisco Organizing Project recently conducted six months of research and surveys on the Western Addition.

Their findings showed that the majority of residents between ages 18 and 30 are unemployed.

"The people who testified are people who tell the truth of why the City government should step up," said Supervisor Mirkarimi.

He committed to join with the community and create a Report Card for the Western Addition, to provide better monitoring of the neighborhood's employment record and job access, as well as apply pressure to businesses, and demand that they hire local residents.

"I keep hearing that in order to stop a bullet it takes a job," Mirkarimi insisted.

Chris Iglesias from Citybuild, a pilot program training and placing residents with construction jobs, pledged accountability, promising to look for ways to increase job accessibility to residents.

Tony Lugo from the Workforce Development Division shared the sentiment.

"I'm going to tell you that my commitment is that I'm going to do whatever I can. I am totally in agreement that One Step doesn't have adequate resources to help you."

With the support of the City officials they called upon, the residents of the Western Addition are looking forward to change, and expressed that they will continue to work for the right to jobs and neighborhood security.




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