My Room is Burning

Tiny - Posted on 06 April 2011

Photo of the Franciscan Towers

Photo Credit: Charles Pitts/PNN

I live in Twitter town where its not safe to be poor, black or brown...I live in Amerikkka where poor peoples and peoples of color are displaced, criminalized & incarcerated EVERY (pinche) DAY ….


“Tiny, my room is burning down”, I got one of the most terrifying calls of my life last night from a disabled elder and poverty scholar friend who lives, or rather used to live, at the Franciscan Towers, a poor people housing complex in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. The most terrifying part of the call was not only that her life was in danger but that my recently displaced and evicted body was miles away,  without money for transportation to go and help her.


The elevator was also out of service in the 105 unit residence, a property of Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) and there were several people that were injured and narrowly escaped with their lives. Happily, my friend got out safely, but sadly, as of now, she has nowhere to go.


"Twenty-two people were injured in the fire,  including four who required hospitalization, but none of the injuries were considered life-threatening," said Deputy Fire Chief Pat Gardner


“A lot of us tenants think there was foul play, we just don’t know by who,” After my friend managed to get through the craziness of last night she and I spoke about the possible cause of the fire, “ but we have been worried about something like this happening for a minute,” she concluded ominously.


When I heard her speak about the possible arson of the hotel which supposedly started in the garbage shute, I was haunted by the reminders of the Gentrification By Fire series of 1998-2000 re-ported and personally felt by many of us poverty scholars at POOR Magazine. This extensive insider investigation focused on a series of arsons started by slumlords so they could qualify for insurance pay-offs and redevelopment funds. The series and the deadly fires culminated with the tragic fire in the Hartland Hotel, also in the Tenderloin at Geary and Larkin streets.


I have lived through slumlord perpetrated evictions by fire, twice, once in an Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotel, not even as nice as the Franciscan, and once in a sub-standard apartment building. In both cases, the landlords had made multiple attempts to intimidate us out of the buildings before they resorted to out and out attempted murder.


Oddly enough, I got another call last night, one from a friend who told me that the Mid-Market/Twitter Tax give-away had passed, a tax giveaway which will increase the shortage of affordable housing, un-criminalized streets and services for poor people which led me to think the kinds of things I am inclined to think, maybe “they” are trying to burn the rest of us poor folks out of this increasingly rich and white town.

Wow, since things are so bad in Amerikka, maybe you should think of moving elsewhere. What country (that would let you in) do you think would be better?


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