The IYD Blog

Helping to Bring San Francisco Together, One District at a Time

posted: September 4th, 2014 by Yves-Langston Barthaud

In a city undergoing a massive transition, suffering and transforming from conflict between generations of communities versus corporate, technological infusions, how does one preserve one’s original identity, how does one maintain a connection to the heart of the people? Remaining motivated and involved in the welfare of one’s district is an avenue that many San Franciscans continue to explore.

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Yves-Langston Barthaud

When Yves-Langston Barthaud was interning at the District 6 Supervisor’s office, on a daily basis, representatives of local organizations as well as city residents would visit the office in search of resources. Oftentimes, the requests were for information: How could someone get involved in their community? What organizations could help with their specific needs? Who else was out there doing what he or she was doing, or trying to do? The answers ultimately came from the Supervisor, legislative aides, and interns who happened to have the appropriate contact information and names on file. While this is a great service to offer, Yves-Langston realized that there could and should be a much more efficient, centralized and accessible way to offer these resources to the public, and devised It’s Your District, a platform for small non-profits providing support in recruitment, fundraising, and advertising.

In order to take this idea to the next level, Yves-Langston enlisted the help of long time friends and fellow San Francisco natives, Elizabeth De Nola, with a background of non-profit employment as well as an MBA with a concentration in non-profit management, and Lionel Jingles who is a product management consultant with a background in mechanical engineering. What they created was a free, comprehensive database of non-profit and community organizations in a given San Francisco district, starting with District 6, an area that encompasses the Tenderloin, South of Market, Mission Bay, and Treasure Island. This area is unique in that it is home to a number of large and small-scale operations, and while it experiences the highest levels of poverty and social unrest in the city, it also boasts an impressive number of motivated and conscious individuals who truly want to contribute to and preserve their community.

Resources Available:

For individuals seeking to engage their community socially or politically there are many organizations to choose from. There are establishments out there that have hundreds of employees and interns at their disposal who seek them out. In these situations, It’s Your District can handle the overflow and redirect individuals to other groups in need. Access to our database of local organizations can serve to make these groups even more aware of their surroundings, and give them the opportunity to reach out and share needed resources.

Each district has numerous non-profits and organizations that are founded and managed by very few people, and don’t have the time or resources to promote themselves and increase their productivity in the capacity they would like. In these cases they have a valiant mission with not much bandwidth. One of the biggest goals of IYD is to give equal visibility to them through our website, positioned alongside larger recognized organizations. The site also allows them to observe and communicate with each other, to increase collaboration and resource sharing opportunity. IYD can also offer social media publicity, long-term volunteer recruitment, event sharing capabilities, and can maintain an Internet presence amongst their peers. These basic tasks can drain smaller operations, and by taking some of the load off, the groups can instead focus on their mission.

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Elizabeth De Nola

The reason why IYD has chosen to gather and list organizations based on districts goes beyond proximity and convenience. The districts of San Francisco have their own character, geographic demarcation and political potential. If all of the organizations dedicated to a certain cause or sector can communicate and align on a given mission that would benefit them, they can collaborate and further their shared goals. This was recently observed when tenants groups rallied together to oppose the Ellis Act, which allowed landlords to evict longtime tenants from their homes. The political pressure helped city and state lawmakers make reforms to curb such evictions. While the Ellis Act was a city and state wide issue, similar steps can be taken at a more local level by district.

Process and Next Steps:

When organizations register, they describe themselves based on any number of sectors (arts, social justice, homelessness, etc.). The IYD site is searchable and organized based on these identifiers for this reason: to unite like-minded groups and individuals that have similar goals. Many organizations offer different avenues to pursue their mission that are not always apparent on the surface; they also offer varying degrees of opportunities to get involved. By being able to track and visualize what other groups are doing, stakeholder engagement is encouraged and emboldened.

The feedback from registered organizations has been tremendous, and has helped shape the direction and content of our site. Personal outreach and fostering authentic relationships have been key in development and these efforts will continue to increase exponentially reaching to the greater San Francisco and Bay Area.

 

Elizabeth De Nola is the Director for It’s Your District. She completed her Masters in business administration with a concentration on non-profit management at Mills College in Oakland, CA.


The Real Fight of the Century: 3 San Francisco Neighborhoods Leading the Way

posted: June 5th, 2015 by Yves-Langston Barthaud

With the “Fight of the Century” between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather now over, the real fight of the century continues. There are 5200 reports of child abuse in San Francisco each year, and only a fraction of those receive the support they need with countless more going unreported. Raising a family is as personal as it gets, and not everyone shares the same beliefs or values on how that should be done making identifying abuse all the more challenging. But with further education and resources, abuse can be intervened upon and even prevented. Three organizations around San Francisco are leading the way in supporting the community in abuse education and prevention.

Haight Ashbury

The San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center (SFCAPC), located in the Haight-Ashbury district, once home to the Summer of Love, helps families take the first steps to prevent emotional and physical abuse inflicted upon children. Since its inception in 1973, the SFCAPC is the largest and most prominent child abuse center in the city helping thousands of children a year. The SFCAPC educates the parents on social and emotional developments throughout a child’s life, leading to understanding versus frustration which can be a cause of abuse. Just like a fingerprint, no two children are the same, and their development varies. For some parents that reality is sometimes challenging, and can create emotional instability at home. Families can seek the support they need to have a home that is abuse free through one of the many programs and services provided.

CAPC2SFCAPC also focuses on increasing other “protective factors” which are proven to prevent child abuse, in at-risk families. This focus allows SFCAPC to address many of the risk factors of child that can be prevented. By offering a social support system where families can get together and discuss the challenges they face, whether it is having an abusive spouse or confronting their own demons, they are exposed to a network of like minded individuals who suffer the same obstacles. “Talk Line” is a 24 hour phone service; anyone can call and speak to a volunteer to seek guidance through the stresses they are facing at home. The SFCPAC also offers family dinners where the families can come together and share a meal that gives them a sense of normalcy and stability in their lives.

It’s not only emotional or intellectual support SFCAPC provides: they also offer concrete solutions to real world problems. Stress that is taken out on the child often stems from the instability in the parent’s life. Furthermore, there is a high correlation between economic distress and child abuse. Parents in low-income households, struggling to provide the basic necessities, sometimes reach a breaking point and have difficulty caring for their children. SFCAPC connects families to services that provide basic needs, such as food, housing, job workshops, and employment opportunities, to help alleviate that stress. Recently, they’ve introduced “Integrated Family Services” whereby families living in San Francisco with a child of 12 years or younger can work one on one with staff members. Assistance can come from a therapist, a housing counselor, and a variety of workshops that give the family what they need to restore order in their home. This is a long term commitment, and the family graduates from the program once it is determined that they no longer need the service.

Bayview

SFCAPC’s sister center, the Child Advocacy Center, located in the Bayview district of San Francisco, is where families come when children have been abused or exposed to violence. With the creation of the CAC, SFCAPC has created a strategic partnership with community members and city partners to prevent any further abuse, and to ensure that abused children and their families are supported through the investigation process with one, age-appropriate interview and connection to follow-up services. Before the CAC arrived there was a system gap, still experienced in many cities around the world. The CAC brings together the different entities that are involved in a child abuse investigation and those that address the child’s needs. The CAC houses offices for police, the District Attorney, doctors, social welfare, and forensic interviewers, which allows one streamlined interview with everyone participating, rather than multiple investigations that can be unnerving and traumatizing for a child.

Safepassage3The Child Advocacy Center more than 300 children come through their facility each year, though that number is a far cry from how many should be attended to. Another of the ways that SPCAC is helping families receive the support they need is not only by working with city and community partners, but also by educating the public about the signs of abuse. They have programs in schools, teaching safety education to the students and parents, and trains professionals working with children and other community members on how to recognize and report abuse. SPCAC also works with city and county agencies on policies and procedures related to child abuse.

Tenderloin

Right in the heart of San Francisco lays the Tenderloin neighborhood, home to some of the most extreme economic disparities in the city. In 2008, a 6-year-old child heading to a neighborhood summer program was turned away and told to head to another program down the street because the program was full. The child instead went home while his parents were at work.

His disappearance for that day created panic among the parents and other adults in the neighborhood. In an area where drugs and crime are rampant, the concerned parents formed Safe Passage, a nonprofit organization that enlists community volunteers to stand on some of the toughest corners of San Francisco to ensure the safe passage of children from school to home every afternoon. The volunteers consist of parents and active community members, wearing brightly colored vests, signaling to the children and everyone else that this is a protected path. When they notice a child walking home alone, the adults will watch after the child, usually until the child arrives to their home or after-school program.

Safepassage5The volunteers at Safe Passage make it clear that they are not the police. The “Corner Captains” are not there to report drug deals or any other misgivings that are happening in the neighborhood. They are standing on some of the most dangerous corners of San Francisco for one reason, and one reason only: to ensure a child’s safety. Maybe surprisingly, many of the local drug traffickers are in full support of the program. Many of them are not there to harm kids, or have kids of their own, and are sympathetic to the cause. Since its inception in 2008 the program has grown to include a “yellow brick road” of painted yellow footsteps along the sidewalk giving visual markers of where the kids should walk. They have also increased the number of volunteers, averaging 6-8 daily, though still falling short of what is needed. Safe Passage is looking to provide Corner Captains three times a day five days a week, who look after the “walking school bus” where child service providers walk the kids the entire route from school to home. They are also looking to have more organizations and individuals involved on a regular basis. They are raising community awareness by providing a beacon at each corner, and creating a culture in which the safety of children comes first.

The fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather is behind us, and will soon be forgotten. What we cannot afford to forget the least vulnerable that are beside us every day. Child abuse and neglect is a problem that doesn’t just affect a single family, but an entire community. By relying on neighbors, families, and community organizations, and by educating each other on how to better protect our loved ones we can better protect our future and ourselves.

 

Yves-Langston Barthaud is the Founder and Executive Director of It’s Your District, a non-profit that connects non-profit organizations through communication and collaboration.


Tales From District 6

posted: July 8th, 2014 by Yves-Langston Barthaud

To the average passerby, the Tenderloin may appear to be a bit…grimy, to say the least. San Francisco seems darker here. The sidewalks are covered in trash, with unmentionable and undesirable items scattered about that visitors tend to tiptoe, dodge or leap across to avoid. Some visitors simply avoid the Tenderloin altogether.

But not to Del Seymour. One could call Del the ‘Mayor’ of the Tenderloin. He sees beyond the intimidating, at times frightening first impression given off by the very center of our city. He knows the heart of the community, the drive of the workers, and the love of the families. He sees the history and richness of the Tenderloin, and reveals these hidden truths on his “Tenderloin Walking Tours.” This venture is a labor of love, and one he is eager to share. To join him on a stroll down the street is to witness a special vision captured by someone who truly loves their neighborhood and wants to see it not only survive, but thrive.

 

While Del continues to teach through his walking tours, he has also started his own one- man crusade to improve his district: he is currently working with local start-up tech companies to give women who have fallen down a path towards drug dealing the skills to interview and work in legitimate sectors.  In a speech in front of Ted X, he challenged companies to contribute to a solution by training and ultimately hiring these women for entry-level positions. Del wants create a system that guides struggling mothers into job interviews rather than jail cells.

Del is not alone. A few blocks away from where he begins his tours you can often find Amos Gregory, the founder of the San Francisco Veteran’s Mural Project, in Shannon Alley. Amos’ passion and enthusiasm are contagious. He, like Del, is well aware of the bad reputation that residents of the Tenderloin, including its war veterans, have been given by outside observers. He has created this project as a healing mechanism for these locals. For the past four years,  he has invited community members affected by war and violence, be it on foreign lands or within the city itself, to paint the walls along this street, thus giving a voice to the voiceless. He believes in empowering the participants by giving them ownership over their stories and control over the telling.

 

While this has been an organic process, Amos has introduced a level of discipline whereby the participants plan out their pieces and therefore receive help and support from fellow artists and community members, enhancing the therapeutic aspect of the ever-growing mural. The alley itself physically connects the “TenderNob” to the “L’s”, and is a reflection of the diversity (and evolution) of that neighborhood. He wants the messages to go “viral”: beginning on the North end, paintings depict a more classic and commercial protest to the treatment of veterans. The messages work their way southward, telling the stories of those lost and forgotten. Amos has expanded his project to Puerto Rico and to Mexico, and he and the community are creating a community center in the TL, which will include audio/visual labs and a veteran’s community garden. The community center will be the second point of presence, including the alley, for their project.

unnamed-1Another proponent for green space, Stephanie Goodson, is a resident of San Francisco’s Mission Bay area, and was told by her apartment complex that she could not have a garden on the premises. She decided to approach the city with the goal of building a community garden in one of the many underutilized lots in her neighborhood. Because these empty lots may get developed in the future, she found a solution by creating NOMADgardens, San Francisco’s first mobile community garden that launched this past year. According to Miche, the garden’s coordinator/organizer, each member pays a yearly fee for one metal container that sits on a pallet that they can use however they see fit. The members grow everything from strawberries and tomatoes to succulents and roses. Most live nearby, however members can be found all over San Francisco supporting this new project. Not only can groups or individuals grow their own food or flowers, this garden is also used as an opportunity to learn about farming and vegetation in the microclimate of San Francisco. When contractors are ready to build on the land, the garden can be moved to another part of the neighborhood. This flexibility allows for development, while maintaining a bountiful and educational garden that the community is committed to.

It’s Your District, a new organization currently registering members in District 6, is helping to empower and promote collaboration between these existing and blossoming community organizations. One goal of IYD is to support the missions and accomplishments of these homegrown community activists, by facilitating connections between them. IYD can help get Del’s powerful messages out to the public. We can contribute to planning and fundraising for Veteran’s Alley, as well as garner support toward the renaming of Shannon Alley to Veteran’s Alley. Amos is able to link with Stephanie to help with his next project in creating a veteran’s garden. These are just a few examples of participating organizations and ways their missions overlap. Members of IYD can offer resources and support to one another in countless forms, strengthening organizations, their solutions, and the community as a whole.

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Yves-Langston Barthaud is the founder of It’s Your District, and has been working closely with organizations and residents of District 6 for the last 2 years. Born and raised in San Francisco, Yves-Langston attended the University of San Francisco where he earned a Bachelor’s in Global Politics and Societies. 

Elizabeth De Nola was born and raised in San Francisco. She studied politics as an undergrad in Santa Cruz, and completed her Masters in business administration with a concentration on non-profit management at Mills College in Oakland, CA. After many years of working with non profits in the Bay Area and a couple of years living in the South of France, she has returned to her hometown and is working with Yves-Langston on the exciting project of It’s Your District.


Together We Are Giants

posted: October 28th, 2014 by Yves-Langston Barthaud

Because together, we are GIANT.

Hunter Pence spoke to a stadium full of hopeful fans right before the playoffs and gave them a mission to envision success, and permission to stay true to their superstitions. This means some said a prayer before each game or drank a chosen beer; others wore the same jersey or hat, while making sure to NOT clean given jersey or hat, all in the name of good luck. Whether or not Hunter had been demanding such extreme commitments, fans, nicknamed this year “The Forever Faithful”, dutifully obeyed. While this might seem a bit crazy to some, it doesn’t to us. San Francisco is chock full of prideful and loyal believers. With the Giants in the World Series, a word that comes up again and again is FAITH. This faith pumps through the city on so many levels, from sports to religion, from business to the individuals that make up the community.

The 500 year plan

FaithfulfoolsphotoTo hear Carmen Barsody and Sam Dennison talk about the people in the tenderloin, it’s easy to forget they are talking about one of the poorest communities in San Francisco. That’s because they find the beauty and importance in everyone they come across. They help run the non-profit Faithful Fools, a “ministry of presence” that acknowledges every person’s worth in the world. The building they both live and work in keeps them deeply in tuned with the needs of the neighborhood, and the people who live there. Faithful Fools has built a safe, homey place for people from all walks of life, whether they are living middle-class or living on the street, to gather together and build strong relationships through different programs including art, writing, poetry, and play just to name a few. They help people find housing, help take the steps to stop an addiction, or even simply reconnect with their family. What is most important is the connection they make with each individual.

Not only is Faithful Fools the stability that someone down on their luck needs, because their door is always open, and staff accessible, but the practice in mutual respect, and self reflection is what keeps people coming back. One of the programs they run is a Street Retreat, where, much like a regular retreat where one goes away for self reflection, the street retreat is the same, only it also it brings that reflection to their surrounding area, the Tenderloin. Since 1998 over 5000 people have participated in these Street Retreats, ranging from schools, churches, orientations for new employees, and individuals. Once a year, the staff also participate living on the streets for one week, this helps them keep in perspective and get a better understanding some of the challenges some of their neighbors face on a daily basis. What has resulted is the” 500 year plan”, a plan of building close, long term relationships with anyone and everyone who wants to share, or who needs a helping hand, on a person to person level. They refuse to join the chorus of businesses telling people to move out, rather they believe as long as you can take care of people on the street, then the street will help take care of you. That is having faith in individuals, that is having faith in their neighbors, that is having faith in the community.

Faith’s Kitchen

ECS-photoWhen Zendesk had an opening for their new building, guests enjoyed an assortment of hors d’oeuvres prepared by the CHEFS, Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Services, program from the Episcopal Community Services. The ECS traces its history in San Francisco back to 1894, and has been in its current location since 1994. Their mission addresses the value of the basic human spirit, and having a strong belief that people can change their lives for the better given the right tools. Individuals seeking direction can find life-changing opportunities in their program “CHEFS,” where they spend 6 months training to cook for a variety of restaurants throughout the city. 75% of graduates from the “CHEFS” program have gone on to find housing with the help from the earned employment. Such a formation not only instills marketable skills, but also develops the sense of confidence and self one needs to succeed, particularly difficult to find once having faced dire circumstances.

ECS extends beyond the kitchen. They provide 900 units of housing for 1,200 formerly homeless people, including 100 family homes. In an area where single room occupancy has become the norm, the need for family homes is reaching an all time high. The presence and influence ECS has in their community is immense and palpable.

They’re on a mission from God

Youth with a Mission, or YWAM, has a strong public faith in God. They are a part of a Brotherhood for 4 nonprofits in San Francisco and another 4 in the Bay Area. The space they provide in the Tenderloin of San Francisco acts as a home to many. Individuals who are down on their luck find solace and a place to take a shower and get a haircut, grab groceries to cook with, with an option to participate in a program that offers employment development life skills like one on one interview training. The interpersonal relationships built go beyond professional mentorship. The YWAM building is also a place to relax, to be oneself, and connect with others- friendships are often formed and family is built.

 

With the infamously current rising housing costs in San Francisco, the most imminent challenge YWAM faces is maintaining this space they provide. An outside offer was placed on the property; they took the opportunity to match this offer and have now purchased the buildings against all odds, thanks to fundraising and donations. But they are still looking for donors to complete the shortfall they are facing. Their story has become an all too common theme for organizations that depend on donations. To lose the building, means losing the space where so many go to feel like a human being, because, when you can’t take a shower, enjoy a haircut, or simply talk to someone, then you’ve lost the piece inside you that makes you feel that you belong in this society, you’ve lost the piece that makes you feel that someone cares. That feeling is immeasurable.

There is a common thread that runs throughout these three organizations, and that is faith. They each have faith in the potential of the human-being, and they have faith in the power of the community. They take people in and give them the tools they need to function in the real world, enabling them to not only improve themselves, but also their surroundings. This kind of faith in the individual is as generous as it is purposeful- there is an innate responsibility transferred to the beneficiary to pay it forward and to keep that spirit of San Francisco alive. And much like Forever Faithful, these organizations and many others like them believe in each individual that ultimately makes up the team. They believe that by empowering each person, they empower the community as a whole. Though they work on a smaller scale than San Francisco’s local baseball team, to the community and the people they serve, they are Giants.

 

Yves-Langston Barthaud is the Founder and Executive Director of It’s Your District, a non-profit that connects non-profit organizations through communication and collaboration.

Elizabeth De Nola is the Director for It’s Your District. She completed her Masters in business administration with a concentration on non-profit management at Mills College in Oakland, CA.