Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Aint Nothing Like a Job and Affordable Housing To Make Our Streets Safe

On Tuesday the Mission Community Council hosted a very emotional and inspiring community meeting in response to the latest upsurge in street violence in the Mission District & throughout Southeast SF . The community room at Mission Recreation Center was packed with public officials, cops, front-line outreach workers, youth organizers, reporters and concerned mothers. Many in the room, long-time and newbie residents alike, were alarmed and wanted justice for the 7 homicides that have taken place on the streets of the Mission over the past three weeks. Check out the photos on the HOMEY website.

These past months life has been challenging for many in the neighborhood, especially young Latinos and Blacks who have to navigate & survive on these streets. The recent flare ups in street violence targeted at our young people has us all worried and wanting to take action. People in the community are expressing their pain and anger through marches and vigils. Others have been holding prayer circles. And yet others have been clamoring at our local officials to do something about it. The media, especially the virulent and sensationalist Chronicle, Examiner and Fox News, has politically attacked and pointed fingers at our immigrant community thus frightening Mayor Newsom into getting soft on our Sanctuary City ordinance.

With all the attention and talk of stemming the violence, the debate being shaped by the Mayors Office, cops and reactive neighborhood associations has focused solely on aggressive police tactics. One highly controversial strategy has been the five month old Gang Injunction (already in place in Bayview and Western Addition). Youth advocates from here to LA agree that this is a free pass to racially profile youth/adults, stigmatize & label non-affiliated youth as gang members, make the neighborhood "desirable" for land speculators and weekend bar-hoppers, and has do nothing to change the conditions of our communities.

Over the past 8 years that we have been organizing amongst Mission residents on behalf of an healthy & equitable community plan, we have witnessed and experienced first-hand the multitudes of challenges working families throughout San Francisco's eastern neighborhoods are undergoing. From poverty, unemployment/underemployment, displacement of family/community networks, uncontrolled debt, inequitable education system, no or poor health care, and a disconnect from the political process.

Groups like HOMEY, Community Response Network, CARECEN and others are taking a deeper approach- holistic and equitable- towards remedying the ills that are beating down on the community. They and others see law enforcement as a small part of the equation towards realizing a safe, healthy, affordable and vibrant Mission District. The members and activists of the Mission Anti-displacement Coalition have joined in on these efforts. We believe that our young people and their families need real opportunities like affordable housing, good paying career driven jobs, strong community institutions and a land use plan that treats our community as if we matter.

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