The Displaced Citizens of San Francisco

Project Length: 10 Months

 

There are approximately 7,500 homeless people in San Francisco, a city with limited affordable housing. Everyday people living on the streets are forced to move around the city, while at the same time struggle to eat, sleep, and survive. My response to this issue was to focus on designing a foundation for better integration of homeless communities into the existing San Francisco neighborhoods. 

The Community Bridging Toolkit is designed to help people learn about the real issues occurring around homelessness, and the various ways in which they can get involved in engaging with the homeless community. The content of the toolkit breaks the stereotypes and fear people have about homelessness and eases them into positive engagement with the homeless community. 

Research Phase: 5 Months

 

Let's start with terminology

Hover mouse over terms to see definitions.

Immersing into the issue

When I was homeless for 24-hours I realized that people living on the streets face many barriers that can prevent them from focusing on getting back into a home and getting a job.

I discovered that living on the streets people are living day by day looking for their next meal or drink of water. They're trying to keep warm during the cold and keeping safe at night.  They are working hard trying to meet their basic human needs.

Hearing from a few displaced citizens

" I wait to get help for hours and hours, and sometimes I won't even get help because they [outreach programs] run out of time. "

- Marc B.

" It's [The Pier 80 Shelter] surrounded by barbed wire and has all these rules restricting me from living... That place is a concentration camp and I want my freedom. "

- Shane P.

" I never sleep at night. It's not just because of the cold but because sleeping is when I'm most vulnerable and makes me more likely to get hurt. "

- Tavis S.

I sleep in front of cameras just in case something happens to me and I sleep on top of my things to keep it from getting stolen. "

- Anthony S.

They [the city] need to get out of their nice offices and come on the streets to talk to us. They don't understand what we are facing and yet they're forcing "solutions" onto us that make everything worse. "

- Lisa P.

What's currently happening

The current system surrounding homeless is causing a lot of barriers to this problem getting solved.

There's a lack of communication, understanding, and relationships that is preventing necessary resources from being provided. 

What needs to happens

For improvement to occur around homelessness, everyone needs to be involved and everyone needs to communicate with one another to develop better relationships. 

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San Francisco's lacking resources

The current system lacks key resources that are needed to solve homelessness. there needs to be more volunteers and donations to programs, there needs to be more access to space so we can develop more programs and affordable and supportive housing to put people in.

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The path to change

In order to evolve into this holistic system and improve access to needed resources, San Francisco citizens will need to participate in the strategy plan below.

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Design & Prototyping Phase: 5 Months

Due to the time frame of this project I focused on designing around Stage 1 of the strategy plan above.

Thoughts from some experts

I pitched the holistic system and strategy plan to various outreach programs in San Francisco to if this was the right space to be in.

Key Moment: A few programs offered to act as an advisor to me while I continued to work on this project.

Learnings: Programs thoughts the strategy plan was right on track and are beginning to realize that their next big initiative is to get more support from neighborhoods and businesses. This is a necessity in expanding assistance.

Time to build relationships

Once or twice a week a member from my college, California College of the Arts, would join me in going out to form relationships with the homeless community living near our school.

Key Moment: The people I brought along on this relationship building activity started to realize homeless people don't fit into the stereotypes we have of them and began feeling more comfortable with engaging them. 

Learnings: Trust and respect are huge factors in forming communities, and while members of the homeless community want to form relationships with the neighborhoods they reside in, many of the neighborhood members do not see there being any trust or respect to work with in doing so.

A moment of reflection

I realized I was getting plenty of people from my own community to engage with the homeless community but I wasn't getting people from outside my college to do the same.

How will I encourage people outside the my college community to engage with the homeless community? 

Learning: I got people from my community comfortable with engaging by properly informing them about homelessness and creating safe opportunities for them interact and break their own stigmas about the people facing this issue.

Here comes in the Community Bridging Toolkit

The Community Bridging Toolkit is designed to help people learn about the real issues occurring around homelessness, and the various ways in which they can get involved in engaging with the homeless community.

The content of the toolkit breaks the stereotypes and fear people have about homelessness and eases them into positive engagement with the homeless community.

Sharing toolkits across San Francisco

I shared the toolkits with people in San Francisco and I also shared them with volunteers from Project Homeless Connects' outreach walk. 

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Learnings: People found the toolkits to be very informative and felt that they took something away that they could use in future interactions with the homeless community. People also enjoyed the stories in the toolkit and thought it helped them understand the issues people are facing on the streets and empathize with them.

Overall Insight: The toolkits have the ability to expand further in forming a bigger community across San Francisco with outreach programs, SF residents, and the homeless community. 

Moving forward

I've formed partnerships with the following outreach programs: Project Homeless Connect, 25 Cities, and Episcopal Services. 

I will work with these programs to further expand the Community Bridging Toolkits and continue sharing them with San Francisco citizens.