San Francisco native Alyssa P. proudly tells of the fact that she grew up in the Mission, ZIP code 94110 — the third generation of her family to do so. Some relatives were fishermen at the Wharf way back when, all coming home to the Mission each night.

Unfortunately, as a young adult, Alyssa found that not having stable housing is disruptive to every facet of your life. After starting to raise identical twins on her own at age 23, housing translated to a far-less-than-ideal living situation. Home was a room in a garage, with neither heat, a washer/dryer nor a kitchen. That communal kitchen was shared with family members who were facing challenges, making their behavior erratic and compelling Alyssa to rarely venture into the main part of the house. There were no home-cooked meals with a family gathering to discuss their day around the table — it was just quick, cheap meals from small eateries.

Alyssa worried at the model her little ones were seeing each day. She needed to be proactive.

So in 2017, the then 28-year-old spoke to a Family Success Coach based at her kids’ Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) school, Cesar Chavez Elementary. MPN is a collaborative of 20+ partners, for which MEDA is the lead agency. Family Success Coaches are based at schools and early learning centers, acting as a connector to resources available to strengthen families. When Alyssa told her story to the coach, they pointed her a few blocks away to MPN partner MEDA.

The first step was to get finances in order, so Alyssa was paired with MEDA then Financial Capabilities Coach Lupe Mercado. The big goal was to pay off student loan debt. While Alyssa had studied hard and landed a decent job working as an operating-room technician, the interest on the loan was building up. After some time — and with much diligence — that issue was successfully resolved.

When Mercado internally transferred positions, becoming a Housing Opportunities Coach at MEDA, Alyssa came along. “We continued bettering Alyssa’s finances, aiming to get her what we define at MEDA as ‘rental ready,’ meaning paying down debt and bringing up your credit score. Once that occurred, it was time to start applying to City lotteries for below-market-rate (BMR) apartments in San Francisco,” explains Mercado of the plan.

Apply they did. To about 30 lotteries over a two-year span. Alyssa had become hyperfocused, eschewing spending time with friends so that she could instead garner all the knowledge she could about affordable housing.

Despite the setbacks of failing to win the lottery, Alyssa remained determined, knowing it usually takes time.

Says Alyssa, “Each night, my girls and I said affirmations and prayed that we would find a new home. I told them to envision us in a better place. To remain hopeful.”

The great news is that Alyssa’s determination paid off, with her winning the lottery for a one-bedroom apartment at a MEDA Small Sites Program property at 17th and Mission, in the heart of the neighborhood and near where she spent her younger days. The City’s Small Sites Program allows nonprofits to purchase four- to 25-unit buildings with tenants vulnerable to no-fault evictions. To date, MEDA’s Small Sites Program portfolio includes 22 such properties, comprising 154 residential apartments and 23 commercial spaces. The 17th Street property had an opening come up organically, hence the lottery for that BMR unit.

There was one more issue to solve: the need of assistance with move-in monies and a security deposit. So Mercado reached out to Catholic Charities, which in a quick turnaround time assisted the family.

There were tears of joy for the close-knit family of three when they moved into their new home on April 5. They had never before been able to call a home their own. The apartment’s high ceilings and old-time charm remind Alyssa of the Mission flat where she lived as a little girl.

Alyssa now finds peace as she lovingly prepares meals for her family in her light-filled, updated kitchen. The twins have quiet places to study, so Alyssa knows they will now become all-the-more successful at school.

Yet Alyssa’s dreams have not all been realized.

“I now have a one-bedroom, and I am working toward renting a two-bedroom. Ultimately, I want to buy a three-bedroom BMR condo in MEDA’s 18th and Mission property they will be soon building. I feel like it’s fate — my twins have been part of Dance Mission Theater since they were two-year-olds, with me volunteering there, and I know that arts organization will have a new home at 18th and Mission, too. I’m going to make this happen,” exclaims a hopeful Alyssa, who recently took MEDA’s First-Time Homebuyers workshop to ascertain how to make that dream a reality.

It doesn’t stop there. Alyssa is also looking to start her own small business offering fitness classes, so she has been taking the weekly workshops — led by Business Development and Lending Liaison Luis Ramos — where everything from creating a marketing plan to commercial-lease negotiation is taught.

Concludes Alyssa, “My girls mean everything to me, making me determined to create a better life for us, despite the challenges. I want to thank Lupe and everyone at MEDA for offering me the tools to succeed. I know now that my twins will definitely grow up to be the best they can be.”


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La misión de la Iniciativa Comunidad Promesa de la Mission vive en la familia Lourdes Velazquez – ya que son un ejemplo de lo que pasa cuando una comunidad trabaja colectivamente para apoyar y abogar por una familia. Juntos con La Raza Centro Legal, MEDA, Causa Justa, Mission Graduates y con otros recursos disponibles en la comunidad, hoy en día, la familia Lourdes Velazquez está sobresaliendo.

Oscar Moreno Sánchez (papá) fue víctima de un asalto violento en La Pulga de San Jose, sufriendo heridas críticas en el brazo. Lo transportaron desde San Jose al hospital general de San Francisco para su tratamiento, donde lo encontraron su esposa e hijo. Allí, operaron a Oscar y lo apoyaron con terapia física y emocional para superar su trauma.  

Las heridas físicas y emocionales no eran lo único que estresaba a Oscar y su familia en ese momento. Oscar fue que incapacitado después del asalto, sin seguro médico, y como no tenía documentación migratoria, no podía recibir seguro de descapacidad. La familia estaba en crisis.

En ese entonces, Oscar (hijo) estudiaba en John O’Connell High School y recibió apoyo de la Gerente de Educación de MEDA. Oscar (hijo) le comentó a la Gerente lo que había sucedido, y ella los refirió a La Raza Centro Legal.

En La Raza Centro Legal, Oscar (papá) aplicó para una visa humanitaria por el asalto violento que sufrió.

Después una Gerente de Apoyo Familiar les ayudó a aplicar al California Victim Compensation Board, un programa federal que provee un ingreso mensual en situaciones como la de Oscar que fue asaltado violentamente, hasta que el pueda trabajar nuevamente.

Con las conexiones a La Raza Centro Legal y al California Victim Compensation Board, Oscar (papa) empezó su proceso para tener documentación legal migratoria y a recibir los recursos financieros necesarios para la familia.

Pero no paramos allí. Ya que salieron de una crisis económica, Ana Avilez, Guia de Éxito Familiar, conecto la familia con el departamento de Oportunidades del Vivienda en MEDA, para ayudar a la familia establecer crédito y aplicar para un apartamento de BMR (Below-Market-Rate). Ana también refirió la familia a Causa Justa para ayudarles a resolver un conflicto con un dueño y explicarles sus derechos como inquilinos.

Y finalmente, sabiendo que la educación es lo más importante para asegurar un futuro mejor para Oscar (hijo), Mission Graduates está trabajando con él, ayudándole a aplicar a varias universidades, becas y asistencia financiera.

Para Avilez, su trabajo es muy personal. Ana dice, “a mí me gusta mi trabajo porque sé que estoy ayudando a mi comunidad. Años atrás, mi familia ocupó los mismos servicios, y alguien nos ayudó. Y ahora yo quiero ayudar. Saber es poder. Si ellos saben sus derechos, pueden llegar a alcanzar sus metas.”

Actualmente, Avilez sigue comunicándose con la familia regularmente. Ellos saben que el proceso inmigratorio toma tiempo, y se sienten confortable porque Ana les ayuda, no están abandonados, tienen una comunidad de organizaciones con la Comunidad Promesa de la Mission que aboga por ellos a diario.

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Immigrating together can definitely form a strong bond. Such was the case for Yeimy Moreno and Orlin Salazar, who separately decided to leave their native Honduras in search of a better life to the north. The bond formed put these émigrés on the path to becoming a family, but that did not happen overnight.

Yeimy wound up in the Northern California farming town of Watsonville, which offers a strong Latino immigrant community, while Orlin and his 8-year-old son, Dannis, headed to San Francisco’s Mission for the same reason.

Despite being 100 miles apart, Orlin could not forget Yeimy, so he started an online search — a search that eventually proved successful. A reunion turned into a permanent relationship.

The now close-knit Moreno-Salazar family rented a small bedroom in a three-room apartment on Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco’s Mission District, with the relatively low rent supported by Orlin’s work cleaning restaurants at night, while Yeimy took care of Dannis. All was moving along until the family learned that the building was going to be demolished, effectively being taken off the rental market. The challenge of finding new affordable housing began with this no-fault eviction. Further complicating the situation was that Yeimy had given birth just two months prior to daughter Brittani, which meant this was now a family of four in search of affordable housing in the Bay Area. No easy task.

Yeimy had always been proactive in seeking assistance, which is why she came to Family Success Coach Yadira Diaz, based at Dannis’ school, Cesar Chavez Elementary, one of a quartet of Mission Promise Neighborhood schools. (MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.) Diaz acts as a connector to services in the Mission.

Yeimy feared her family would wind up on the street.

Knowing the difficulty of locating a permanent residence the family could afford — especially when trying to find a landlord open to accepting a housing subsidy — Diaz helped them secure a temporary spot at a Hamilton Families shelter. The search continued, a diligent Yeimy daily scouring Craigslist ads, enlisting the counsel of Diaz on which apartments seemed appropriate for the family. Diaz then passed on the best options to Hamilton Families caseworker Miguel, who ascertained how the housing subsidy could be put to best use.

While this process was taking place, Diaz was busily connecting Yeimy to other services to strengthen her family. When Dannis starting exhibiting behavioral issues, possibly attributed to leaving his homeland, Instituto Familiar de la Raza’s services made sense. The youngster was also awarded a special slot in Jamestown Community Center’s after-school program because of the family being in the extreme situation of being in a shelter; that organization offers age-specific support groups as a means to bettered academic achievement.

Another problem was that Diaz determined the Moreno-Salazar’s were unbanked, an especially egregious issue because they were carrying around money they had received from the landlord when they were evicted. Being unbanked is often an issue with newcomers, who often have an inherent mistrust of their new country’s financial institutions. That’s where MEDA’s Financial Asset Program Manager Jackie Marcelo’s came into play, getting the family set up with an account at Self-Help Federal Credit Union, located in the heart of the Mission and with an ongoing offer of just $5 to open a savings account.

The good news is that the determined family finally found a new home — a rental located in Oakland. This was an exhaustive, eight-month search from the time of the initial eviction notice.

Diaz then connected Yeimy to the Families & Youth in Transition (FYIT) program via SFUSD. FYIT is providing the Moreno-Salazar’s with assistance procuring BART passes, now needed so Dannis can get to school in San Francisco’s Mission, plus uniforms and much more.

Always looking to learn and better her family’s life, Yeimy is also looking to better her English-language skills by taking classes at Good Samaritan Family Resource Center. Additionally, Diaz has connected her to Mission Neighborhood Centers to eventually put her infant daughter in quality child care so that Yeimy can start working outside the home.

“Yeimy is resilient. She’s a doer. I am proud to be part of a Family Success Coach team for the Mission Promise Neighborhood, connecting families to free, culturally relevant services that will better their lives so their children can succeed in school,” concludes a zealous Diaz.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.


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While the Mission Promise Neighborhood education initiative focuses on four schools — Bryant and Chavez elementary, Everett Middle and O’Connell High — the fact is all schools within the Mission footprint are deemed part of MPN. That why families at Moscone Elementary School, located on Harrison between 21st and 22nd streets, receive connections to free community services, too.

Being in the Mission, one issue of note for all Mission Promise Neighborhood families is affordable housing in what has become an ever-expensive neighborhood, six-figure earners moving in en masse since the tech boom.

The good news is that five Moscone Elementary families are now in safe, secure and quality housing: These are below-market-rate (BMR) apartments that cost only one-quarter to one-third the monthly rent of market-rate units in the same development. These brand-new properties feature many amenities, from rooftop terraces to on-site fitness centers.

Locating such affordable housing takes perseverance by families, all in search of a better life for their kids, the latter not wanting to leave their school, friends and, often, the only neighborhood they have ever known.

Some families have been living in cramped quarters, either several people in a garage studio or tiny, one-bedroom apartment. In fact, a comprehensive housing survey, taken of over 2,000 tax clients who came to MEDA last season, showcases the issue. (MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.)

Gauging by how many people per bedroom were denoted in the survey, the findings were that 21 percent of respondents reported living in overcrowded conditions (more than two people per bedroom, per HUD’s definition); however, the rate of overcrowding was more than twice as high among Latinos than non-Latinos.

While each Moscone Elementary family has their own story, they share a commonality of experience, as evidenced by discussions during affordable-housing presentations held Fridays at the school by MEDA’s Community Planning Manager Dairo Romero. He has already spearheaded these sessions seven times, afterward assisting attendees with the BMR application process.

An education is offered on the need to keep applying as a way to better your odds of winning the BMR lottery. Also, Romero explained the process of what would occur after winning the lottery, including paperwork required and the need to have one’s finances in order.

The five families having won lotteries and who have received keys to their brand-new apartments are:

  1. Heidi Deleon, now at Trinity.
    Heidi had been living in a studio apartment with her two children.
  2. Asenaida Escober, now at Five 88 Mission Bay.
    A master tenant had asked Asenaida to leave the unit.
  3. Maria Esquite, now at L SEVEN.
    Maria’s family experienced a no-fault eviction, so she received the City’s Displaced Tenant Housing Preference (DTHP), which helps the holder’s chances of winning BMR lotteries.
  4. Laura Mejia, now at L SEVEN.
    Laura’s family also experienced a no-fault eviction, so she received a DTHP.
  5. Edilma Castañon, now at Waterbend.
    Edilma is part of a five-person household that was living in cramped quarters.

The principal at Moscone Elementary is thankful students are now in much-improved housing, plus being connected to other free services available to strengthen families in the Mission.

Romero will continue to offer his presentations, putting forth the important message that “¡Vivienda económica es posible para todos en San Francisco!” (“Affordable Housing is possible for all in San Francisco!”)


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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“For all families, health starts with food on the table and a roof over our heads. It warms our hearts to see the smiles on the faces of these families in their new and secure homes,” says Executive Director Brenda Storey of Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC). She was speaking in general about Mission Promise Neighborhood families, and specifically of the families of siblings Jazmin and Marcos Florian. MNHC has served the Mission’s Latino community for almost five decades and is a valued Mission Promise Neighborhood partner.

Jazmin Florian, spouse Antonio Chunux and their two children (photo, left) are now in a below-market-rate (BMR) apartment rental at Abaca on Third Street in Dogpatch, while Marcos Florian and wife Jessica Alvarez (photo, right) found affordable housing at Five 88 in Mission Bay. Both are brand-new developments featuring many amenities.

To make affordable housing a reality, it took determination by the families and a partnership between MNHC and MEDA, the latter the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

MNHC knows that a lack of safe, secure and quality housing can lead to major health issues.

Chronic Disease Coordinator Iran Pont explains the issue as follows: “Studies show that if you are under stress because you don’t have a home, then major health issues can occur. if you don’t have the roots of your home established, you can’t build anything else.”

That’s why MNHC’s Storey reached out to MEDA to provide affordable-housing workshops at her clinic. This formal request occurred during one of Mission Promise Neighborhood’s monthly referral network meetings, where the 20+ partner organizations share information and best practices around direct services.

Last December, Jazmin Florian attended the first workshop at MNHC, with MEDA Community Planning Manager Dairo Romero availing Latino families of the affordable-housing opportunities in San Francisco’s pipeline, plus how to get rental ready so that eligibility requirements can be met once you win the housing lottery. At this meeting, a distressed Jazmin shared with the group that her entire family was in the throes of an owner move-in eviction from their Bayview neighborhood home — a home where her family of four lived in one unit, and her brother and his spouse lived in the other flat.

Jazmin was made aware of how San Francisco’s Displaced Tenant Housing Preference (DTHP) for evicted residents could help her family win the lottery and find a new affordable home in the form of a BMR rental. So she and sister-in-law Jessica filled out the necessary DTHP paperwork. They then applied for BMR rentals at multiple properties.

Jazmin won three lotteries, but was initially denied because her family had not filed for the 2015 tax year. MEDA helped appeal Jazmin’s case with the developer, plus the MEDA tax team prepared the taxes for free. Jazmin, Antonio and their children moved into Abaca in July. Additionally, during the process of obtaining a BMR rental, Jazmin decided to become an affordable-housing advocate, even providing Board of Supervisors’ public testimony in favor of MEDA’s 1296 Shotwell affordable-housing development for seniors.

Jessica was a victor of five lotteries, but was denied at one project because of too high a household income (every development has its own minimum and maximum income requirements.) Their case for Five 88 was closed, but later reopened by Romero.

Romero states, “Our Latinos families who win the lottery need support throughout the leasing process because some developers do not offer bilingual staff. Plus, families don’t always understand what additional documents are being requested by the developers.”

Jessica was also counseled by Family Success Coach Yadira Diaz at Cesar Chavez Elementary — a Mission Promise Neighborhood school — to apply for a Hamilton Families housing subsidy that covered the required first month’s rent and security deposit. Marcos and Jessica moved into Five 88 at the end of June.

“MNHC is excited and eager to continue our collaboration with MEDA, with the goal of having many more Mission Promise Neighborhood families find their secure home in San Francisco,” concludes Storey.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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“Our bathroom is larger than the one room my two children and I used to share,” says a thankful Juana Martinez of her two-bedroom apartment at brand-new FIVE 88 in San Francisco’s burgeoning Mission Bay.

Juana (photo, right, showing winning lottery ticket) is the devoted mother of sons Eduardo, a seventh-grader at Everett Middle School, and Edwin (photo, center), a fourth-grader at Sanchez Elementary. Back in El Salvador, Juana was concerned that gang violence would soon become part of her children’s lives. So she made the difficult decision to start anew, first heading to Houston in January 2016, and then venturing to San Francisco a year ago. Some cousins and friends advised her of opportunities in the Bay Area, translating to that trip out west.

Their prior rental was that tiny room, far removed from the Mission. Because of the distance, Juana’s children needed to wake up at 5 a.m. to get to school on time. She also knew that the landlord needed her family to soon leave that rental.

To make ends meet, Juana worked six days a week at a restaurant, plus some Sundays at another eatery in Oakland. She was allowed to bring home food, which was a blessing, but her kids weren’t that interested in Italian and Filipino cuisines. These picky eaters longed for rice, beans and homemade tortillas — not easy for Juana to make in a communal kitchen.

Life remained difficult.

An introduction to the  BMR rental process
Juana was introduced to the possibility of a BMR rental via a flier hand delivered by Eduardo; this flier came from Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Roberto Aparicio (photo, left). Based at Everett Middle School, Aparicio personally greets all unaccompanied minors throughout the school year, to make sure newcomer students know a caring adult at the school. This welcoming process also helps Aparicio gauge family and student needs, with the latter always getting a brand-new backpack.

Juana set up a meeting to speak with Aparicio to discuss affordable-housing options, one item denoted on the flier.

Now armed with some information, Juana was connected to MEDA Housing Opportunities Program Manager Juan Diego Castro, who helped her fill out an application for Five 88. It was just two weeks later that Juana received a voicemail from the City, but the only word the monolingual Spanish speaker recognized was “apartment.” So Aparicio came back into the picture, listened to the message and advised Juana that she had won the lottery. Great news, but the work was just beginning.

It was imperative to gather six months of bank statements and pay stubs. When Juana ran into trouble getting pay stubs from one of her employers, the stress built up as the deadline was imminent. Aparicio called the leasing agent at Five 88 and advocated on Juana’s behalf; this led to a few more days being granted, in which time the correct paperwork was received.

Aparicio later counseled Juana to bring a bilingual friend to her initial meeting with the property manager at Five 88, so she enlisted a co-worker named Celida. Aparicio then accompanied Juana to her second such meeting. Everything was now in the works.

A new home
Juana was elated when a week after her meeting with the property manager she received a call that she had qualified. It was time for a tour of Five 88, accompanied by Aparicio. They saw the terrace. The gym. The laundry room.

Then Juana was handed three sets of keys. She was at first confused until it was explained that she could choose from one of a trio of available two-bedroom units. As configurations were fairly similar, Juana asked Aparicio which of the three should she pick. He suggested an apartment that offered a view of the development’s entrance, so that she could see her boys coming into and out of the building.

Now with a stove of her own in an open-concept kitchen, Juana’s children can indulge in those handmade tortillas, loving made from scratch by their mother. The boys have bunkbeds in their own bedroom, and Juana now has the privacy every parent deserves.

Commute times have greatly decreased, older brother Eduardo escorting Edwin to Everett Middle school each weekday, as they both take the MUNI 55 bus line. Juana can get to work much faster, too, meaning more time to spend with her boys.

Life has definitely improved for this Mission Promise Neighborhood family.

Juana advises others seeking affordable housing in San Francisco to know that this could also happen for them. Her main advice:  Make sure your documents are always up to date.

Todo es mejor aquí. Hay esperanza,” exclaims Juana, translated as “Everything is better here. There is hope.”


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.



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Julio Alvarado chose San Francisco’s Mission as his adopted home when he emigrated from Guatemala back in 2000. He felt immediately welcomed in his new community, so much so that when he married and had two kids, the family planted roots in the neighborhood.

That comforting sense of place became tenuous when Alvarado and his spouse, Jennifer, got an official-looking letter from their landlord.

“I wasn’t fully clear on what the letter meant, so I came to talk to Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Celina Ramos-Castro. I knew it wasn’t good,” explains Alvarado (photo, right).

Turns out Alvarado’s 12-unit building on Cesar Chavez Street was going to be gutted, with his apartment being taken off the market. Translation: The family had eight months to leave their two-bedroom apartment and try to find another affordable housing rental in San Francisco. A daunting task.

Alvarado and his wife were extremely worried. This led to depression once they crunched the numbers, comparing what they could afford in San Francisco versus a move to the East Bay, the latter having the additional cost of transportation back and forth to their jobs in the city and, worse yet, meaning little time to spend with their kids. With all seeming lost, the Alvarados considered moving out of state.

Daughters 10-year-old Kimberly and 12-year-old Shirley were equally stressed, their grades dropping because of an uncertain future. The children were constantly questioning their parents about where they were all going to reside; they even said they would be willing to live in a one-room flat if it meant they could stay in their current schools and not have to leave their lifelong friends and neighborhood.

Ramos-Castro (photo, left) connected Alvarado to neighborhood partner Causa Justa :: Just Cause, who sent the family to a lawyer, availed the tenants of their rights and organized the residents.

Alvarado then came to MEDA, the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood. Housing Opportunities Coach Diana Mayorga worked with the family to explore below-market-rate (BMR) housing lotteries via the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD).

The first thing to do was to put in for a Certificate of Preference based on the Alvarado family’s impending Ellis Act eviction. This paperwork greatly increases the odds of winning the housing lottery.

Mayorga also made sure the family was rental ready, meaning they had a good credit score (must be better than 650), didn’t have any collections (must be under $500) and met BMR income guidelines for the developments to which they were applying (vary by property). When clients don’t meet these requirements, a MEDA coach works with them to develop a plan to become rental ready. The good news was that the Alvarados were in decent financial shape.

Then it was time to apply for lotteries. Mayorga helped the Alvarados fill out the paperwork and send in submissions to eight BMR apartment rental developments in San Francisco. Due to the Certificate of Preference, they won the lottery at four properties, choosing 200 Buchanan as their new home.

The Alvarados will be paying just $1,264 for a two-bedroom apartment — this in a city with a staggering $4,510 median price for that size unit, according to the latest data from real estate site Zumper.

“My family chose 200 Buchanan because it was brand new and in a safe, clean neighborhood. When we took a tour, my daughters were so happy. They couldn’t believe we were going to live there. They also knew we had found stable housing, they could stay at their schools and that we were still very close to the Mission,” states Alvarado.

The family’s relatively short move will take place this weekend.

Concludes Alvarado, “The stress is gone. I felt so supported by the community — and we never felt alone. My family is truly thankful to everyone who helped us get into our new home.”


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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2551-11152016_hop-homeowner-bridget-early-social-media_blogBridget Early has been a social worker at the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Everett Middle School in San Francisco for the past nine years, following in the footsteps of her parents, who were both educators. Raised a few hours north in Chico, Early relished her childhood outings to the Bay Area with her folks. These trips solidified one idea: that she would one day live in San Francisco.

That dream became a reality 15 years ago.

Apartment living proves tough
Early met Bay Area native Kai King a decade ago. King also works in education, as a teacher at a private school in the city.

The couple lived in an apartment in the Richmond District, but were evicted via owner move-in a year and a half ago. At the time, Early was seven months pregnant with her second child. Talk about stress.

While a new apartment was eventually found, it was tiny place in the Inner Sunset for $600 a month more — cramping the family’s space and budget.

Hearing of Early’s plight, proponents of the November 2015 ballot’s Proposition A asked the politically savvy social worker to be a spokesperson on the need for passage of the $310 million bond for affordable housing in San Francisco. There was a commercial. A picture in a voter pamphlet.

The measure passed, with three-quarters of votes in the affirmative.

Despite relishing a citywide victory, life in that Inner Sunset flat remained tough. Kids like to jump. They drop toys. The neighbor below wasn’t amused.

“I was constantly telling my kids to stop being kids. That didn’t make sense,” explains Early.

The only solution was for Early and King to buy a single-family home.

Would that even be possible?

A numbers game
According to San Francisco Unified School District data, the 2016-2017 school year starting salary for teachers with a Bachelor’s degree was $52,657; for a teacher with 13 years of service, that jumps to $61,999. This translates to a San Francisco teacher’s salary being about half of the $103,000 a software engineer makes in the city, according to NerdWallet numbers.

CurbedSF calculations showcased that just 11 percent of San Francisco households can afford a home. That compares to 58 percent nationwide. The same story also indicated that $254,000 was the minimum qualifying household income needed to buy a home, based on median sale price in San Francisco.

Time for Early’s family to pack up and head out of town to find that home with the white picket fence, right? Not so fast.

The plan
Things sure changed with the help of Mission Promise Neighborhood lead agency MEDA’s free Housing Opportunities program, coupled with revised guidelines and qualifications from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). This translated to the family of four recently moving into a three-bedroom, one-bath Outer Sunset home. In San Francisco. As two teachers.

When Early originally came to MEDA’s First-Time Homebuyers workshop two years ago, she found that she didn’t qualify for MOHCD programs, as her household income was actually a bit too high. When Early heard of the changes, she knew it was time for she and her husband to come back to MEDA to explore options once again. The couple received one-on-one coaching from Housing Opportunities Program Manager Juan Diego Castro.

“I knew the City had recently changed guidelines and increased available monies to assist homebuyers, as a way to get more San Franciscans into their first place. When I met with this Mission Promise Neighborhood family, I crunched the numbers and saw that we could now make this work,” explains Castro.

One big factor was the Downpayment Assistance Loan Program (DALP) increasing from $200,000 to $375,000 last July 5. Additionally, MOHCD raised household income ceilings to 175 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) to broaden eligibility to qualify for DALP. That meant a four-person household, like Early’s family, could earn up to $169,650 per year and still qualify for DALP assistance. That was up $40,400 from the prior cap.

A DALP loan must follow a first mortgage, which is required to be a 30-year, fixed-rate loan from a lender approved by the City. Also, a DALP loan must be paid back, along with part of the calculated appreciation value, whenever the home is sold.

The DALP changes meant there was now a workable plan in place.

The future
Early lights up every time she sees Desmond and Ellie frolicking in the yard of their new home, located near the ocean and Golden Gate Park.

“I feel like my kids are now free to play and be themselves. There will also be the freedom that comes with being raised in the liberal, accepting place that is San Francisco,” says Early of how her clan’s future has completely changed.

Early plans on cooking a Thanksgiving meal in her new home next week. Her family will be making that trip down from Chico, plus King’s mother will join them. There is an old-school kitchen in the 1940’s property, with two ovens, one above the other.

“I can’t wait to be in my own home for Thanksgiving. Those double ovens are primed for cooking a big meal. I am grateful … and settled,” concludes an elated Early.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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June is HUD’s first-ever “National Healthy Homes Month,” but a dearth of affordable housing is translating to stress-related health issues being the norm for the historically underserved families of the Mission Promise Neighborhood. It’s definitely anxiety creating when you spend over 50 percent of your household income on an apartment in San Francisco, as is the case for the majority of these families.

Such health issues also adversely affect the well-being of these households’ children, putting them at risk of difficulty bonding, lower vocabulary skills, increased behavioral problems, and delays in school readiness and overall academic achievement.

The numbers tell the story
A recent Smart Asset analysis of the most-expensive rental markets in the nation showcased that a San Francisco household needs to make over $216K to not be deemed rent burdened.

This translates to the impossible task of a single mother needing to work eight-and-a-half full-time, minimum wage jobs just to pay such astronomical rent. This is an untenable — and unhealthy — situation for low-income Mission families seeking economic opportunity, as they live in perpetual fear of displacement from their neighborhood of choice if they lose their rent-controlled apartment through no-fault eviction.

If current trends continue, the number of Latinos living in the Mission will decline from the 60 percent of the Mission population they were in 2000 to just 31 percent in 2025, according to a San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office October 2015 report.

Advocacy is needed. The community’s voice must be heard.

Genesis of Photo Voice project
To portray the health issues of the Mission housing crisis using an innovative form of advocacy, a Community Assessment for Affordable & Safe Housing (CASAH-SF) Photo Voice exhibit is in the works. CASAH-SF is preparing Mission Promise Neighborhood mothers with young children to record, via photography, their community’s concerns about the lack of affordable housing. The goal is to abet a City policy of housing first, thereby strengthening families. CASAH-SF team includes Shivaun Nestor, Dairo Romero, Ada Alvarado and Karen Cohn.

The goals are:

  1. Assess and diagnose families’ health and cognitive impacts with regard to the housing crisis.
  2. Identify community strengths in addressing the housing crisis.
  3. Recommend culturally relevant solutions for the housing crisis.

Leading the work
Spearheading this advocacy is Mission Promise Neighborhood Leadership Program Manager Laura Olivas (photo, center).

“The Photo Voice project is allowing pregnant women and mothers of young children to share how San Francisco’s housing crisis is affecting their health, plus the health and well-being of their children,” expounds Olivas. “The goal is to have six Photo Voice exhibits and then take these stories to San Francisco City Hall. Mission families need affordable and dignified housing in which to raise healthy children who can go to college and thrive.” The first such exhibit is slated for July 13.

As an education initiative, it is imperative that Mission Promise Neighborhood partner with families and create family-led spaces and platforms so that they can address the issues affecting the academic success of their children, like this housing crisis, and offer solutions.

Families must take charge of designing, researching, analyzing and evaluating the work. Disaggregating data, complemented by providing tools in Spanish, allows the very families being affected to engage in the conversation of the issues with negative implications for them and their community. These families can then propose solutions to the problems they face and, ultimately, mobilize around those solutions. This is vital, for when solutions are created by the community for the community, a sense of ownership is created — the core meaning of community engagement.

Explains Olivas of her role: “As a facilitator and curriculum developer, my job is to bring the tools and information families need to activate their inherent talents and advocacy skills. I do so in their native language, with respect and admiration. My background affords me the opportunity to connect with, understand, influence and authentically engage the families with whom the Mission Promise Neighborhood works.”

Such empathy for Mission families is what drives Olivas’ work. Born and raised in East Los Angeles, a Latino community that mirrors San Francisco’s Mission, Olivas was raised by a single mother who emigrated from Sinaloa, Mexico. The devoted parent worked tirelessly and selflessly to provide for her children and offer them a better life. The family was met with the challenge of maintaining affordable, stable housing, plus Olivas’ mother endeavored to create a college-going culture in the home.

Olivas now hears these same stories every day as she works to strengthen Mission Promise Neighborhood families. Photo Voice is a step in the right direction.

Zealously stated one Photo Voice project participant, “The power is in our hands.”

Words to live by.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.


Read More

Last night, hundreds gathered in the Mission Promise Neighborhood for the second community meeting on the Mission Action Plan 2020 (MAP 2020). The theme was “A Plan for and Community Discussion on Affordability, ” with the venue Buena Vista Horace Mann School on 23rd Street. A resource fair on tenants’ rights — and other issues of community importance — was part of the event presented by the City and County of San Francisco, Calle 24, the Cultural Action NetworkDolores Street Community Services, MEDA, Pacific Felt Factory and other community-based organizations.

The goal of MAP 2020 is to retain the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the Mission neighborhood by providing solutions to help protect tenants at risk of eviction, increase affordable housing, stem the loss of social and community services offered to low- to moderate-income residents, and support and retain local businesses, including employers providing working-class jobs. The aim is to keep 65 percent of the Mission as low- or middle-income residents.

City officials on hand included District 9 Supervisor David Campos, Director of Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services Joaquin Torres and Jeff Buckley, who is senior advisor to Mayor Lee.

To welcome the attendees, City Planning Director John Rahaim took to the mic, explaining how San Francisco is trying to address the needs of Mission residents by being part of these community meetings.

Rahaim was followed by Director Antonio Aguilera at San Francisco Day Labor Programand Women’s Collective, who explained the need for the community’s voice to be heard.

Next up was Chirag Bhakta, of the Mission SRO Collaborative, who shared data from a PowerPoint. Bhakta’s dialog was peppered with these sobering facts: there were 989 eviction notices in the Mission from 2009 to 2014, with 1,174 Latinos compelled to leave the neighborhood between 2010 to 2013. He then explained that these numbers are probably conservative, as eviction numbers do not showcase buyouts and that undocumented people may be fearful of being part of a census.

Urban Planner Claudia Flores, from the San Francisco Planning Department, then continued on with the presentation. Flores spoke of the major accomplishments in the Mission community since the initial meeting one year ago. In that time, a set of community organizations and the City have been working to research and discuss the ideas collected, and implementing some immediate, short-term solutions.

There have been major wins, including:

  • Pushing for neighborhood-preference legislation.
  • Increasing resources for legal representation for tenants.
  • Expediting 100 percent affordable sites (more than 300 units).
  • Acquiring an additional affordable site at 490 South Van Ness.
  • Dedicating funding of $50 million for the Mission from the Prop A housing bond that voters passed last November.
  • Implementing higher scrutiny of market-rate projects through interim controls.
  • Launching a nonprofit and creative-space displacement program, with $4.5 million in funding.
  • Augmenting resources for PDR enforcement and technical assistance.

“We’ve already had some major victories in the past year, but there is much more to do. Mission Promise Neighborhood community input is vital to this process, so I am excited to see so many partners, city officials and neighbors here tonight,” stated MEDA’s Director of Community Real Estate Karoleen Feng.

Topics for discussion tonight ranged from how to preserve existing rent-controlled housing/SROs and increase job opportunities to stemming the loss of community-serving businesses and building more 100 percent affordable-housing developments. Attendees broke into groups, in English and Spanish, to discuss these weighty topics. The clear topic of interest was affordable housing — and how it could be funded. Community Engagement Manager Dairo Romero of MEDA acted as a facilitator for the Spanish-speaking tables.

The community’s valuable input will be discussed by organizations and the City, collaboratively working on solutions based on the ideas collected.

The final meeting will be in June, with the date and time to be determined.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More



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