The stories about San Francisco’s housing crisis that haven’t been heard.
Latina mothers turned a lens on housing conditions, housing insecurity and displacement in the Mission with the PhotoVoice exhibit, “An American Dream? Community Assessment for Safe & Affordable Housing (CASAH),” a project organized by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), and the Mission Economic Development Association (MEDA).
Through photographs and narratives, eight Mission-based Latina mothers have told a housing story that has yet to be in public view. MEDA Community Planning Manager Dairo Romero, a co-lead of the project, worked with the women to help them write their photo narratives and frame their housing-advocacy message.
These portraits of courage and resiliency are intended to deepen viewers’ understanding of how the extreme lack of adequate housing and the resulting overcrowding affects the well-being of poor and marginalized families — in particular, the impact on women’s pregnancies, child development and educational achievement.
“PhotoVoice has been used worldwide as a community research technique that gives everyday people a powerful tool for documenting and reflecting on their community’s strengths and health concerns,” said Shivaun Nestor, SFDPH project co-lead.
“This exhibit has allowed community researchers to provide a human context for the cold statistics used to describe San Francisco’s housing crisis. It has the potential to ground public dialogue about housing insecurity and its solutions more fully within the reality of peoples’ lived experiences.”
Overcrowding, a prime indicator of housing insecurity, is negatively associated with food security, mental health status, ability to cope with stress, child-parent interaction, social relationships and sleep. It increases the risk for childhood injuries, elevated blood pressure, respiratory conditions and exposure to infectious disease. Overcrowding also contributes to maternal stress, which is considered a key risk factor for preterm birth.
“We have had many Mission Promise Neighborhood families tell us about the stress of retaining their housing and how it impacts the educational attainment of their children. None were more forceful than the photos and narratives of these mothers,” said Mission Promise Neighborhood Leadership Program Manager Laura Olivas, project co-lead. “I know that all who see this photo exhibition will find these housing situations sobering, and the resilience of these women and their families quite inspiring. But it cannot stop at that. We need housing solutions for our families…now.”
Low income families with children, generally — and Mission-based families, in particular — have been deeply affected by San Francisco’s housing crisis. The San Francisco Unified School District reported that 40 percent of their homeless and marginally housed students stay in temporary shelters, residential motels or outdoors. The remaining 60 percent are doubled up. SFDPH Maternal Child and Adolescent Health staff report meeting someone who is housing insecure on a daily or weekly basis.
MEDA has created the Mission Action Plan 2020 with community leaders and public officials to halt displacement of Latinos from the Mission. While Latinos are historically the Mission’s largest demographic segment, since 2000 their population in the Mission has decreased as a percentage of the total population, as well as in real terms (a net loss of 8,252 individuals).
This inaugural exhibit in July 2016 was sponsored by multiple agencies, including MEDA, Mission Promise Neighborhood, the SF Health Network and Population Health Division of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, with partial funding from First 5 San Francisco and SF Public Health Foundation. Community partners include the Homeless Prenatal Program, Good Samaritan Family Resource Centers, Mujeres Unidas y Activas and Felton House.
About Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA)
About Mission Promise Neighborhood
About SF Department of Public Health
Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health Section
Children’s Environmental Health Promotion Program