After two and a half years of organizing and movement building, the #30RightNow campaign has come to an end here in San Francisco.
The movement to implement a 30% of income rent standard for all housing for formerly homeless San Franciscans ended with a victory rally in front of the Department of Public Health (DPH), which, 48 hours before, was slated to be a protest against the same department refusing to implement the standard in the few supportive housing sites they fund.
Indeed, it was the second time a protest turned into a celebration. The first time was in May, when the mayor announced a plan to transition all supportive housing to cost no more than 30% of a tenant’s income in this year’s budget cycle, months after she signed—but did not pledge to immediately fund—legislation that would call for said standard. However, even though all rents in supportive housing under the Homelessness Department were lowered to 30% of income effective in August 2021, DPH refused to implement the policy, which led to the campaign having to go overtime. We called into Health Commission meetings and Our City Our Home Oversight Committee meetings, and mobilized people to speak out at Conard’s public board meeting. It was difficult due to the fact that the health department blocks emails to its workers, so we had to commit to alternatives to get the word out, which led to having to plan a protest.
As we conclude this campaign, I would like to give a few reflections and lessons on this campaign.
- Hunger strikes are always a really powerful method of getting attention to an issue; although one hunger striker is powerful, a collective hunger strike can be even more effective, especially as issues get more difficult. I wish it could have been more of a collective effort, although I did not want to necessarily endanger the health of my fellow tenants.
- Allies are important, but there are no fairy godmothers in activism. As a supportive housing tenant, I have often had to fight a lonely battle at the beginning alongside one other advocate, and it was a struggle to be taken seriously at City Hall.
- Relationships are important as well. I am lucky that I served on a commission and was already known to many in the housing, homelessness and disability justice fields. I hope that future leaders help cultivate these important relationships.
- There has to be a lot of solidarity from outside of supportive housing. Many supportive housing tenants deal with multiple barriers to organizing publicly, though this campaign has been universally popular among our base. But to those supportive housing tenants who came out, thank you so much, and I hope this victory inspires you to keep fighting.
- I was so glad when, in the run-up to the #30RightNow victory last year, the Bay Area Reporter highlighted Adriana Kin Romero, a trans-Latina who was already benefiting from the rent reductions in supportive housing. As a white transgender woman, I was happy to see her get centered and photographed, as I should not have been the only tenant voice featured.
- Some people who have signed on have done a lot, while others have just signed on. Thank you for being part of this diverse coalition, especially to those of you who showed up and sent emails.
- Sometimes, going back to the basics may be the simplest way to win. Giving people the tools to send emails and a way to post photos of themselves was the bread and soy butter of the campaign.
- The pandemic could have derailed our campaign in its infancy. However, if there was one good thing to come out of the COVID crisis, it was a renewed call for economic justice and resistance to the austerity measures of the past. We may have even become stronger in having to do everything remotely.
- As a white person, I need to learn more to step up and step back. With all that said, I did my best to make sure that Black and brown voices were centered here, especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
But most of all, I close by saying that no matter how rocky the campaign has been, I hope we can all agree that the floodgates have been opened for autonomous tenant organizing and winning, and for all the supportive housing tenants who are reading this letter, the sky is the limit. I don’t know what is next for us, and I may not necessarily bottomline the next major battle, but the future is in your hands. If you want some tips to help organize, or are looking for ideas, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.