Tenderloin Walking Tour
My work office is located in Downtown San Francisco on 6th and Market St. Despite being just several blocks away from tourist attractions like Powell St. Station, the Westfield Mall, and the Cable Car stop, it’s not uncommon for people to avoid this intersection and the Tenderloin, altogether. Looking down while you walk on the streets and sidewalks, you can easily find people sleeping, signs of drug usage, and human defecation. For those new to the city and even for seasoned locales, a trip through the Tenderloin can be intimidating and frightening.
I’ve worked in the neighborhood for over two years now. While I can’t say that I haven’t had any unpleasant experiences, I think the most frightening thing I’ve seen is the lack of empathy towards the homeless. It’s discouraging to see how many people view the residents of the Tenderloin as a problem rather than the human beings they actually are.
One way to develop empathy and overcome prejudices is to explore a world you might know little about. A few days ago, my team at Zendesk went on the Tenderloin Walking Tour with Del Seymour. Del has lived in the Tenderloin for a long time and has many perspectives of the neighborhood. From his time as a drug addict living in the street to being a volunteer and serving on boards of many charitable organizations, Del intimately knows the neighborhood and the people who live in it.
Del took us to many sites and locations including various volunteer organizations, a church that lets the homeless sleep in its pews, some of the earliest sites in gay rights history, and bars 1000 ft above ground (great story there). As we walked through the neighborhood, I found myself discovering a rich and vibrant community filled with the most diverse people I’ve seen in San Francisco.
St. Boniface Church
133 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102
Through a partnership with the Gubbio Project, St. Boniface allows the weary to rest on its 76 pews from 6:00am to 3:00pm.
Aunt Charlie’s Lounge
33 Turk St, San Francisco, CA 94102
In a neighborhood that once housed a majority of the city’s gay bars, Aunt Charlie’s lounge is now the last remaining gay bar in the Tenderloin.
I highly recommend the Tenderloin Walking Tour to anyone, even if you don’t live in the neighborhood. Walking through the Tenderloin, I found myself discovering a neighborhood filled with historical significance, cultural diversity, amazing food, and most of all, people like you and me.
Del left two impressionable quotes with me. The first: “The homeless aren’t an alien species. They didn’t come out of nowhere. They used to be members of society like you and me, even if it was a short time.” I think it’s important to remember that everyone out there came from somewhere and that everyone is going through something. We heard many stories on the tour where after a few unexpected life events, people ended up on the streets. The least we can do is to try and be kind to everyone out there. And if you’re fortunate enough to have more than you need, to explore what opportunities you can pursue to give back to those are in need.
The second quote was “It’s our fault that people are homeless. Some people say, ‘No, it’s not. It’s the government’s.’ Well you know what, we are the government. Those people in DC? Those are just clerks who work for us.”
Del’s right. And if you don’t like what the people there are doing, it’s time to fire them by voting tomorrow for new people and policies to work for us.