“The conversations about housing are critical at this time because we are really at the risk of losing the fabric of our communities.”
–Fahad Qurashi, YLI Senior Director of Programs
Dialogue about the housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area is ongoing. Research has been conducted, articles have been published, protests have been staged. The metrics tell the story of a mass exodus of people of color and low-income communities from the places they have called home for generations — and the vibrant cultures that made the Bay such a fabulous place to live are going with them. “The spectrum of impact is really high,” says YLI Senior Director of Programs, “and we need to take action today.”
But what impact are these stories having as gentrification marches forward, the changes happening all around us and seemingly out of our control? The millions of individual stories — of eviction, of losing teachers and friends, of quickly-shifting neighborhood culture — can feel lost in the din.
What would it look like, what would it feel like, to sit with our neighbors and friends, to share a meal, to be heard as we share these difficult stories and express our hopes for the future?
Last year, on November 15th, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation sponsored On The Table, a one-day event that brought over 7,000 Bay Area residents together to share their stories and their hopes for housing in the Bay. The discussions were intimate, family-style: small groups ate and talked in schools, churches, and community centers. There were tears and laughter. Connections were made. There was space for grief…and hope.
In partnership with Faith in Action and PACT, YLI led this effort, identifying 700 community and nonprofit leaders to facilitate these discussions and supporting outreach to ensure that low-income residents and communities of color were represented. “It’s really important to make sure that…we represent the voices of the communities that are most impacted because they’re the ones on the ground living through this,” says Michelle Buzbee, YLI Program Coordinator and On the Table participant. The video above recaps the event.
The stories were at the heart of our success: “Yes, it’s about policy, absolutely. Yes, it’s about affordable housing. Yes, it’s about tenant protection,” says Reverend Dr. Penny Nixon, Senior Minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo. “But at the end of the day, if people’s hearts and minds aren’t changed, then we’re not going to make the progress that is literally the salvation of our communities.”