Friday, March 12, 2010


In a blog dedicated to ending slavery, I would be remiss if I failed to mention those who are part of the solution.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I met with Julie Doherty, Major Gifts Manager for Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), a nonprofit housing developer which has rehabbed or built 21 multi-family and single room occupancy apartment buildings in San Francisco since its inception nearly thirty years ago. Check out their website and see what they have been up to. You will be amazed.

In TNDC's February 2010 Newsletter you will find a fascinating biography of one of the tenants, a formerly homeless artist who has found a new life in one of TNDC’s communities. Residents in these communities are treated with particular respect and honor (a word rarely used or thought of these days), unlike the typical low-income housing projects - where residents often feel as if they are just numbers on a rent roll. 

Here residents know that somebody cares about them, and that is something that money cannot buy.

TNDC has developed communities which are changing the face of this no longer entirely blighted portion of San Francisco. Each building has a caring staff, and TNDC’s social workers are available to help residents in myriad ways. Children are encouraged with after-school programs and other activities. Seniors and those with special needs are provided with various forms of assistance. Birthdays and holidays (so many in this diverse area!) are observed with building-wide celebrations.

In its community outreach efforts, TNDC hosts a number of events throughout the year. Upcoming soon is the “Yes We Count” Census Block Party Saturday, April 17 in Boeddeker Park, from 11:00 to 3:30. An accurate Census count will benefit the entire Tenderloin area, as many were not counted last time.

According to TNDC Executive Director, Don Falk in the latest newsletter:

“First and foremost, unlike virtually any nonprofit developer in the country, TNDC combines a community-based orientation with the scale and productivity of a for-profit regional developer. On one level, we operate with a grassroots touch—how could we help it? Our offices are at the corner of Eddy and Taylor right smack in the ‘hood, 20% of our staff live in the Tenderloin, and our prime focus is on this one neighborhood. At the same time, we run a mid-sized corporation with revenue exceeding $25 million along with $250 million in assets.

“But that’s not all. In contrast with most of our counterparts, TNDC serves almost exclusively the most vulnerable people in our community—at least a quarter are homeless, a third are seniors, and more than 75% have monthly incomes under $1000.

“TNDC is home-grown. We have been rooted in the Tenderloin since 1981. Our origins lie in the activism of the 1970’s and 1980’s that led to rent control, the SRO Hotel Preservation Ordinance and the down-zoning of the Tenderloin to prevent the gentrification and “Manhattanization” of the neighborhood.”

Thanks to the many caring people of TNDC and other big-hearted San Franciscans, thousands have found hope in new surroundings and freedom from the fear of homelessness that plagues many low-income people. If we could duplicate these efforts in other distressed areas, how much better our country would become. TNDC has provided an example (and would gladly give pointers to anyone trying something similar in their community).

Learn about them and from them and change your city. Support them if you are able.

Detail of mural by Muralist Mona Caron at the intersection of Golden Gate Avenue and Jones Street. For more photos of this and other murals in that vicinity and of changes in the new and improving Tenderloin, go to my online album of my recent visit.

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