Seniors in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point Community Speak Out at Senior University

by Anh Lee on July 2, 2006

Seniors residing in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point community attended the first of four class sessions of Senior University on June 28, 2006. Senior University, organized by Senior Action Network (SAN), educates and trains Seniors in San Francisco on community organizing skills, Senior Leadership, and Senior Empowerment. This round of Senior University classes is co-organized by SAN and the Network for Elders, an advocacy and service group serving Seniors in the Bayview Hunters Point community.

During the first class session, the Seniors, nearly all of whom are African Americans, were asked to share and discuss, “What are the main challenges which Seniors confront in San Francisco, and in the Bayview Hunters Point community in particular?”

The Seniors spoke out strongly and articulately on the challenges facing them in the community:

Housing
Affordable housing

Crime in the neighborhood
Violence in the community
Drugs in the community
Gangs taking over the community

Transportation (No Paratransit services)
Lack of Taxi and Van Services
Difficulty in getting a taxicab out to the Bayview Hunters Point community

Only 1 major supermarket (FoodsCo)

Lack of quality foods and fresh foods at the supermarket
Only 1 door is available for use as both the entrance and exit at the FoodsCo supermarket
Spoiled, stale, and expired food products at the supermarket
The aisles and shelves at the supermarket lack in cleanliness
The lack of bagging service at the FoodsCo supermarket

The lack of police protection in and around the supermarket and other stores

The overall lack of fresh fruits and fresh foods in the community

Car insurance rates and premiums are high (due to redlining)

Traffic violations in the community, including parking in the center of the street (double parking)
Drivers running stop signs
Drivers speeding
Drivers from outside the Bayview Hunters Point community deliberating violating traffic laws in the Bayview Hunters Point community
More time is needed by Seniors and others to cross at pedestrian crosswalks

High utility bills
High PG&E bills
High water bills
High sewer bills

The new Medicare Part D Prescription Program and the higher costs of prescription medications for Seniors

San Francisco Department of Adult Protective Services and their inappropriate efforts to remove Seniors from the Seniors’ own homes

Too many liquor stores

The issue of eminent domain in terms of the Third St. Light Rail Project, and the Redevelopment Plan

There was much discussion and brainstorming for solutions among the Seniors regarding the challenges facing them in the community.

Beverly Taylor, Volunteer Director at the Network for Elders, discussed with the Seniors some effective strategies on community organizing to help the Seniors address their challenges. Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director at SAN, also shared with the Seniors some main principles of effective community organizing.

Hui Thi Truong, a Vietnamese American Senior who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years and who graduated from Senior University last year, is a member of this Senior University class in the Bayview Hunters Point community. Truong is also joined by Ching Tso and Paul Ariano, staff members at the Network for Elders.

After a delicious and nutritious lunch, the Seniors viewed the film, “Saul Alinsky: The Democratic Principle – Community Organizing in Action.” The success stories featured in the documentary film, which included a housing organizing campaign in New York City in the 1980’s, led to further discussion by the Seniors in the class.

The Seniors, reinvigorated with the knowledge that they, both individually and collectively, do hold the power and strength to work for and achieve changes in the community and society they live in, are now looking forward to their next class session of Senior University.

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