Skating Artist Reggie Dickerson on a Roll this Thanksgiving at His New BMR Apartment in The Duboce

“It was heaven on earth.”

That’s how Reggie Dickerson (photo, left) describes growing up in San Francisco’s tight-knit Fillmore community.

“Everyone lived in big Victorians. I used to roller skate in my bedroom,” remembers Reggie.

Having always been an artist at heart, Reggie turned avocation into vocation by becoming a street entertainer — on roller skates. His incredible moves thrilled audiences across the Bay Area for years. After all, not many people can tap dance or roller skate on 14-foot stilts.

Reggie eventually fell on hard times, winding up on the street for a decade and a half. Looking to better his life, he took college classes paid for by entertaining on the street, but he eventually wound up at the Apollo Hotel in the Mission using a Section 8 housing voucher.

Life was less than ideal at the Apollo. Reggie lived in cramped quarters — a 200-square-foot room. Tobacco smoke filled the hallways. The communal kitchen was dirty. This environment was especially tough for Reggie’s 7-year-old daughter, a student at Fairmount Elementary School in Glen Park, so much so that she rarely stayed with her dad.

MEDA Community Organizer Dairo Romero has been spearheading a campaign to avail communities of color of their below-market-rate (BMR) housing options, and that included a workshop held at Fairmount. Knowing of Reggie’s housing needs, the school’s Parent Liaison Tilcia Ayala contacted Romero to see if he could offer assistance. That led to Reggie applying to four BMR developments available at that time: Waterbend; Trinity Place Apartments; 855 Brannan; and and The Duboce.

Reggie was thrilled when he ranked eighth in the lottery at The Duboce, a brand-new building on Market Street near Sanchez, due to his Neighborhood Resident Housing Preference. That preference is designed to benefit residents living in the same neighborhood as projects containing city-supported affordable-housing units.

Unfortunately, there was a glitch.

The protracted time it would take to transfer Reggie’s existing Section 8 subsidy at the Apollo Hotel to The Duboce was not workable.

So Property Manager Paula Tran of The Duboce referred Reggie to MEDA’s Juan Diego Castro  (photo, right), knowing the nonprofit had recently received a grant from the San Francisco Art Commission to help artists like himself find affordable housing. That’s where Castro intervened, contacting the Q Foundation, which agreed to offer a subsidy in just one week. The application was approved.

“Juan Diego offered me a ray of hope,” says Reggie.

Reggie is now living in his brand-new, two-bedroom apartment at The Duboce. He is especially grateful this Thanksgiving, his daughter now having her own Arabian-themed room for her visits, which are now more frequent. This is affordable and stable housing — what MEDA wants for all families.

“My daughter is already a better roller skater than me. There’s room to skate in this apartment … but we won’t out of respect for our new neighbors,” jokes Reggie.

He has found his self-described “heaven on earth” again.

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Are you an artist looking for affordable housing in San Francisco? Contact MEDA’s Housing Opportunities team at (415) 282-3334 ext. 126; homeownership@medasf.org.

MEDA’s next artists workshop is Saturday, Dec. 2, at Alley Cat Books, 3036 24th St. @ Treat Ave. Drop in at any time between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. that day for free affordable-housing counseling.

Program funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission; sfartscommision.org

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