by Nishat Kurwa
Well, we were waiting for the other shoe to drop on this one.
About a week ago, we began seeing this interview circulate: a Vice writer talked to his friend, a young social worker in San Francisco's Tenderloin, about what it was like to work in what the writer called "the most hellish neighborhood in San Francisco."
The TL's terrible reputation is attributed to its high rates of crime and open drug use. For people who live there, like a recent interviewee of mine, these aspects of the TL are used to paint the neighborhood with a too-broad brush that doesn't account for its diverse populations, or for the contributing role of San Francisco's urban planners in their efforts to sanitize the rest of the city for tourists.
The interview with social worker "Lorian" highlighted the most sensational aspects of her work, like the often scary sexual harassment she encounters, and the scategorial pollution of a neighborhood populated by people who have often lost control of their mental faculties. It also included some eyebrow-raising pictures of Lorian's clients' notes to her, which immediately made us wonder about possible confidentiality violations (they've since been removed from the post).
For Bay Area natives (and it's not clear whether this social worker is one), it also smacked of an outsider/newcomer's condescension to the one place in the city that hasn't been remade by the sanitization campaigns that began under Mayor Willie Brown, and the gentrification which my aforementioned interviewee compared to District 13, the French movie in which the government unleashes a neutron bomb on the ghetto.
About that other shoe -- it dropped from the Tumblr of Dregs One, a musician who's also a social worker in the Tenderloin. He wrote a scathing response to Lorian's interview, saying it was derogatory and damaging to her clients, and then he went on to detail his view of the civic and social developments that have constructed the contemporary Tenderloin:
The Tenderloin is a containment zone- it is a place to house and control many of San Francisco's unwanted residents. The reason they are unwanted is because San Francisco is a city that heavily relies on its tourism and beautiful architecture, landscape, and neighborhoods to attract people and income. Therefore, in order to keep the elite neighborhoods and tourist attractions exclusive to SF's wealthier residents, the socially and economically worst of the worst are dumped in the TL. Within this neighborhood you can find the most housing and services for the homeless, the elderly, substance users, HIV patients, immigrants, parolees, and the mentally ill. When you mix all these populations in overcrowded settings and continue to marginalize and oppress them, the result is the chaos that now exists in the Tenderloin. This is done very intentionally. They don't want a housing site for Arab immigrant families next to new condos in SoMa. They wouldn't care to have an employment resource center for the homeless around the corner from the tourist traps on Pier 39. And the idea of mental health treatment services happening next door to a trendy North Beach café would have the whole neighborhood outraged.
Read the rest of Dregs' post here.