Our presence in SF related to homelessness: A letter

As seen in an email sent out on August 7th, 2018 by Meiyang Kabada:

Dear AAPA,

As a clinician living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m thrilled that my beloved hometown will be hosting our gathering tomorrow. At the same time, I want to draw attention to an issue that’s top-of-mind for many of us who call this city home. Individuals living with homelessness have been a part of San Francisco for a long time, and they’re very diverse in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, mental health status, and the reasons/narratives that contributed to their living situation. Increasingly in recent years, this population has become a lightning rod for many challenges (e.g., gentrification, shortage of affordable housing, unfair eviction practices, increasing income disparity) that we’ve long been facing as a community. During the mayoral election in June, all three top candidates cited homelessness as their number one priority, with heated debates about approaches and solutions.

About a month ago, a medical association canceled their convention at the SF Moscone Center, citing safety concerns and “unpleasant interactions” with homeless individuals (http://abc7news.com/medical-association-cancels-san-francisco-convention/3693233/). This center is also where APA will be taking place and is located near one of the districts with the highest concentration of individuals living with homelessness. From what I’ve seen, this piece of news has reverberated through the city like few other headlines about homelessness have in recent memory. It disturbs and saddens me that the association’s decision has contributed to legitimizing and reinforcing prejudiced views of those who struggle with homelessness as dangerous and a problem to be removed. It’s also a powerful reminder of the voice and privilege we have, as both professionals and visitors/consumers, to shape local conversations and lives, even in communities we only have brief contact with. Our actions can move the needle between capitalistic approaches that are for the benefit of those with wealth and power vs. humane ones that center around the dignity and rights of those who struggle with homelessness.

In this spirit, I want to express appreciation for AAPA’s presence in San Francisco tomorrow (and for those who are staying on, through the week at APA). It’s a choice that isn’t to be taken for granted. I’d also like to ask for us to be mindful of our presence in the city this week. Let’s set an example of how to use our privilege to stand in compassion and solidarity with individuals who struggle with homelessness. Even small actions can create positive ripples. Below are some tips, writing, and local organizations to donate to if you feel inclined to make a contribution:

Tips for helpful interactions with individuals living with homelessness:

Local organizations:

Helpful overview:

Again, welcome to San Francisco, and I look forward to connecting with many of you in the coming days!

Best,
Meiyang

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