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Reflecting on Our Commitments to Racial Justice

As we approach the end of a year that has seen widespread calls for equity, our team reflects on the commitments it made to racial justice earlier this year. In the spirit of transparency and accountability, we have compiled our reflections and are proud to share them with you here:

Chris Block, Director:  For funders who care about eliminating racial disparities, it is difficult to have the same urgency as people who are actually living the experience. We can be the light, but what is needed is the fire that comes from directly living the experience. It is critical to assure that people with lived experience are at the core of everything we do.

Nina Catalano, Senior Planner: Since making this public commitment in June, I am proud that we have launched partnerships with the SF Pretrial Diversion Project and with the Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) to create more housing opportunities for Black people who have experienced incarceration. We can and must address racial inequities in our community by supporting leadership by people with lived experience, and putting in place systemic fixes to upend the status quo. I will continue to listen, learn and act. In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Andrea Evans, Senior Planner: Since June, I have upheld my commitment to examine policies and practices with a particular focus on the application of fair housing laws. While originally intended to increase housing opportunities for Black people, “fair housing” is now often cited as the reason why we can’t create policies that would reduce racial disparities in our homelessness response system. It is a cruel irony that I will continue to challenge.

Andrea Faiss, Senior Planner: With increased vigor, we have been pursuing paths that can lead to immediate progress to eliminate disparities. It can be done. As a system we can decide to make it happen. I will continue to try to be a part of this solution.

Mitch Findley, Senior Planner: Since making our commitment earlier this year, I am proud of the fact that we have recruited individuals with lived experience to join the Rising Up Steering Committee. Involving, including, and valuing the people with personal and relevant experiences in the process to implement change is one way I know that we can make a deeper impact as we continue to support individuals experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

Debbie Koski, Senior Program Officer, Housing: Since June, I have updated our grantee pipeline to be sure we are prioritizing leaders of color for future funding.

Hunter Meyer, Program Associate: Since making this public commitment in June, I want to ensure that we keep listening to, and acting in solidarity with people of color and our unhoused neighbors. Among other things, the Chronic Homelessness Initiative (CHI) has doubled down on its commitment to incorporate the voices and perspectives of those with lived experience into our program design and grantmaking. This is a small but essential step in reducing the racial disparities of homelessness in San Francisco, and will help CHI be a better ally and advocate for those we strive to support.

Luisa Montes, Communications Manager: As the newest member of the team, I commit to telling stories that celebrate the resilience and aspirations of the Black/BIPOC community and elevating the voices that, for far too long, have gone unheard.

Mayra Sierra, Community Partnerships + Inclusion Manager: In my commitment to be inclusive and center the lives of people with lived expertise, I have continued to engage and uplift the voices of our Community Advisory Board (CAB). Moving forward, I will continue to center the CAB, their efforts and their priorities for our unhoused neighbors. I will also ensure that equity is at the core of everything we do and that we identify and address the inequities that exist within the homelessness response system so that people have what they need to live and thrive.

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