San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood is the city’s “forgotten place,” say Catholic Charities outreach workers who walk the area daily to offer hope and support for those without homes or living in makeshift housing. The need is greatest around the former naval shipyard site north of Candlestick Park, five miles from downtown, where the city’s largest population of homeless or near-homeless outside the Tenderloin lives in tents, vehicles and abandoned buildings. Although relatively free from the gaze of the public, property owners and police, this mixed population of San Francisco residents and transients also is invisible. Catholic San Francisco accompanied a Catholic Charities Bayview Access Point team to the former shipyard area on March 13.
A chain of dilapidated campers and cars are parked on both sides of a street in the Bayview, forming a neighborhood of sorts for homeless families and individuals who are hiding in plain sight.
“We’ve seen families living in RVs outside of a home they can no longer afford,” said Cynthia Thomas, an outreach worker and a one-time Bayview resident as she drove the red Catholic Charities outreach minivan loaded with shoes, toys, baby formula, backpacks, personal toiletries and other necessities.
Once they’ve gained the trust of homeless families, outreach workers help them find appropriate housing and provide rental assistance including the payment of some security deposits and housing application fees. They also find short-term remedies, such as buying groceries, paying utility bills and mediating disputes between tenants and landlords, to support those at high risk of homelessness.
‘Most are surprised anyone cares’
“It’s Catholic Charities and we’re here to see if you need any help,” Catholic Charities’ Strahan called out through the entrance to an apartment in a boarded-up public housing complex in a predominantly African-American neighborhood known as Double Rock.
A young woman cautiously parted the shower curtain that served as her front door. She told Strahan she had essentially been squatting there alone without power or water since her release from jail. She wanted to be reunited with her 5-month-old baby who is in protective custody. She accepted some personal care items and agreed to come into the Access Point for an assessment.
“We don’t really know what to expect when we go out,” Strahan said. “Building rapport is the biggest thing to make people feel comfortable. Despite their caution, most are surprised that anyone is looking for them or cares about them.”
Full story at Catholic San Francisco.