Category Archives: Journalism

NoPa’s newest neighbors; new life for homeless seniors

NoPa neighbors take a tour of the finished Zygmunt Arendt House (ZAH), Community Housing Partnership’s (CHP) first housing development to exclusively serve formerly homeless senior citizens.

Staff from the Community Housing Partnership lead the tour, pointing out design elements in the apartments, like easy to grab thermostat controls as part of American Disability Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for the Arendt building.

Neighbors step inside the apartment studios, soon to occupied by Arendt's residents.

NoPa is about to get 47 new neighbors at 850 Broderick Street. Construction that broke ground in February 2009 is the now finished Zygmunt Arendt House (ZAH), Community Housing Partnership’s (CHP) first housing development to exclusively serve formerly homeless senior citizens. Residents began moving in mid-February, and will continue at gradual rate until June when full occupancy is expected. All tenants were referred by the San Francisco Human Services Agency’s eight different access points of homeless shelters and social service agencies throughout the city.

At the Open House on February 4, CHP staff led about 30 NoPa neighbors on the first-ever tour of the building, answering questions along the way about architecture, funding and programs. The first floor hosts offices, lounges and community meeting spaces, a laundry facility, and a kitchen and dining area. Studio apartments, located on the second and third floors are each fitted with a single bed, small kitchen and private bathroom. The residency also features a courtyard garden, landscaped roof deck, and solar photovoltaic panels to reduce electricity costs.

At a community meeting on January 13, Gail Gillman, Executive Director of CHP, said ZAH is a wonderful opportunity for formerly homeless seniors. “The goal,” she said, “is for tenants to remain housed while integrating them back into the community.”

In addition to a long term commitment to maintain a property that adds values, community and safety, CHP will also administer extensive on-site supportive tenant services. The three case managers for ZAH will assist tenants who have a history of mental health and substance abuse issues. However, Gillman said that most of the case management will be helping residents to navigate the health care system.

On-site classes like cooking healthy on a tight budget, time management and civic engagement, life skills often lost as a result of chronic homelessness, are part of a full range of services that residents can voluntarily participate in. A large community room attached to a full kitchen provides opportunities for community meals and programs like senior exercises, computer classes, arts and crafts and books clubs. All of these classes and programs are part of a full range of services that residents can voluntarily participate in. There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities for NoPa neighbors to engage in with the residents of ZAH (at the end of article).

Neighbors are encouraged to bring questions and concerns to Stephanie Burch, ZAH’s Property Manager, for resolving issues to reinforcing curb appeal. NoPa neighbors can anticipate news to come on a Welcoming Party in June to celebrate the new ZAH residents and CHP staff in the community.

Stephanie Burch, Property Manager, (415-735-2700 x106)

Contact Kendra Fuller, Tenet Services Supervisor, (415-735-2700) for volunteer opportunities:
• Senior exercises (yoga, Tai Chi, nature walks in GG Park)
• Computer classes
• Games/Cards
• Film/Music appreciation
• Arts and Crafts (Sewing, Knitting, Fashion Design, Photography)
• Gardening
• Accompaniment to/from doctors appointments


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Filed under Journalism, San Francisco

Future of journalism: Multimedia training projects from KDMC

The Knight Digital Media Center’s offers regular Multimedia Reporting and Convergence Workshops– intensive, short course multimedia training for mid-career journalists. In five days, participants find a story or topic then learn how to move from the storyboard to the production end of incorporating  audio/video recording and editing, Flash graphics, digital cameras, Photoshop and web design concepts to present it. I was impressed with what the participants created in the January 10-15, 2010, particularly Fourth Street Studio Home:

At the 4th Street Studio in Berkeley, artists from around the world have gathered to share inspiration and gallery space. The studio provides work areas and a place where patrons can watch art being created. But it’s more than a studio and shop. For this family of artists, it’s a second home.

It’s design is clean and moves with fluidity, with the character, Gera Hasse, as a solid foundation for telling the story of this studio. The video quality is terrific with interesting angles, good use of still photos and compelling interviews. I liked how the map was incorporated at the end to allow an opportunity for interactivity.

More projects from the Multimedia Workshops.

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Ode to story-telling, home for the holidays

Bim Willow, named after his talent for transforming willow trees into unique furniture, has hosted the Michigan Peace Fest on his ranch in Locota for the past 18 years. (June, 2007)

It’s been a month since my dSLR camera broke. The holiday season has been kind in granting me the time and resources (I’m a broke AmeriCorps volunteer after all) to slow down and fix what needs fixing. Now with my camera ready to go, I’m motivated to hit the ground running when I get back to San Francisco. There is an endless supply of people and projects to write and photograph about, especially a community garden I, some folks from the SF Society of St. Vincent de Paul and a couple of  experienced permaculture designers are launching in the Richmond district this January.

In the meantime, I’ve been spending my time at home in Illinois rejuvenating from a chaotic, challenging, yet empowering, last five months as a caseworker in Oakland, CA. The broken reality of the hundreds of job-less individuals that walk-in each month struggling to keep stable housing, care for sick relatives or expunge rehabilitating criminal charges have compelled me to be more diligent about taking a closer look at the intricate mosaics of personal stories. Committing myself to a year  as a underpaid caseworker in a financially struggling social service agency is exactly where I belong right now. It’s been an invaluable opportunity to be immersed in the real failings of a system that does not give able and willing employees a chance to work and support themselves and their families.

I’ve been inspired in learning about techniques in documenting the everyday stories of people I work with. In addition to the videos from Media Storm, I’ve been plugging into audio narratives and  am excited to try recording a couple of my clients (with their and the Society’s consent) for this blog’s purposes. I really admire and respect what these media production groups and how they are appealing to National Public Radio.

StoryCorps… an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.

By recording the stories of our lives with the people we care about, we experience our history, hopes, and humanity. Since 2003, tens of thousands of everyday people have interviewed family and friends through StoryCorps. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to take home and share, and is archived for generations to come at the Library of Congress. Millions listen to our award-winning broadcasts on public radio and the Internet. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, creating a growing portrait of who we really are as Americans.”

Long Haul Productions….documents stories of everyday lives, stories of people and communities in transition, and stories of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things.

When we choose a story, we’re really in it for the long haul: we spend months, sometimes years, getting to know our characters. These are documentaries that mark the course of human life: they’re inherently dramatic, immediate, and true. As such, they yield some of the most memorable programming in American media today, stories a thousand times more compelling than the sensational programs and news features that crowd television and radio, far removed from our everyday.”

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Filed under Journalism, San Francisco, St. Vincent DePaul Center, Urban Agriculture

Evidence of a photojournalist’s existence

Evidence of My Existence is an incredible short video, based on photojournalist’s Jim Lo Scalzo’s memoir, that humanizes his role as a journalist, husband and new father. Each time I watch his video, a deep-rooted desire to travel and document devastation in the world stirs inside of me–for reasons I am still discerning. Scalzo acknowledges it can become an obsession and ultimately a choice between family and career.

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Nopa’s Firehouse 21on City’s cutting board

Captain Nikki Griffey and her crew at Firehouse 21 in the North of Panhandle neighborhood are often the first-responders to life threatening situation in the North of Panhandle and Haight neighborhoods,

Captain Nikki Griffey and her crew at Firehouse 21 in the North of Panhandle neighborhood are often the first-responders to life threatening situation in the North of Panhandle and Haight neighborhoods,

Captain Nikki Griffey became a firefighter haphazardly. Bored with her old job, she explains, “I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.” Since being promoted to captain of Firehouse 21 about 16 months ago, the Richmond native says the best part of her job is spending 24-hour shifts with a crew she enjoys working with.

Yet, with a city budget in crisis and public services like the San Francisco Fire Department feeling its effects, Griffey and her crew’s future is an uncertain one.

This past summer, the Board of Supervisors approved to slash an additional $6 million from the Department. SFFD Public Informer Mindy Talmadge said that another budget cut may result in the closure of a fire company–and Firehouse 21 could be the first to go.

Temporary closures of fire companies, also known as “brown-outs,” were a reality for many stations in 2005 with Proposition F. Although Station 35 has been the only one to permanently shut down, Talmadge says this was due to the extreme costs required to earthquake retrofit the already rotting building on the pier.

The criteria for determining which stations could be closed, Talmadge explains, are determined by the SFFD‘s research department.  Call volumes and response times from one station to the next are analyzed to determine which closure could have the least impact on a particular area. Mandatory response times for an emergency vehicle to reach the destination of any call must be under four and half minutes. Talmadge says Firehouse 21 meets this requirement before most other companies.

Captain Griffey and her crew, who respond to an average of five or six emergency calls each day, worry that there would a longer response time for the nursing home next door, in addition to the already high volume of calls in The Haight neighborhood and Golden Gate Park.

NoPa neighbors are not staying quiet on the matter. Life-time resident, Kip Fuller considers Fire Station 21 a staple to the community, adding that it would be devastating if they were forced to shut down. “They’re the first responders to life-threatening situations,” he commented, adding that they are good neighbors too. The crew frequently shops at the Divisadero Farmers’ Market, wave as they drive by and host field trips for local school children.

“We want all our companies up and running, and providing the same quality service in every neighborhood of The City,” Talmadge said. “We have used every creative bone in our body to prevent brown-outs and shut-downs, and we’ll continue to try.”

Kip Fuller is starting a Facebook group with the crew of Firehouse 21 to create more awareness about the issue. Griffey says it’s important for the neighbors who want to ensure the future of the firehouse to write a letter to Mayor Newsom and talk to District 5 Supervisor Mirkarimi to not make further cuts. The Mayor begins meeting formally with citizens in February each year to hear their concerns about the previous budget and how to improve funding for public services.

 “If The City thinks the people don’t care,” Griffey said, “then it will be easier to get rid of us.”

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Filed under Journalism, San Francisco

No signs of squatters

Since my first post on squatters in relationship with the foreclosures of the Lincoln Park/Bucktown area, I’ve had 4 oppotunities to follow Mike and Antonio as they jump from one vacant building to another. Here is the video I’ve made of those interviews thus far:

I’ve been in contact with ChiTown Daily News to publish this video on their website, the problem is the sound though. When I made the video above, I used the HD video feature on my Nikon D90. However it’s built in mic made it hard to hear my subjects and there was no option for an av input. So now I’ve invested in a high-quality portable mic (Handy Recorder H2) that records the ambience of the scene and has the capability of hooking in an external mic, like a lavalier. Prepared with my equipment this morning, Mike and I had made previous arrangements to meet at a cafe so I could get some better sound clips to sync to some previously recorded B-roll. He was a no show. I waited outside of the St. Vicnent DePaul soup kitchen in hopes I would see him or Antonio there. Nothing. I’ll try again tomorrow, but I’m running out of time. In two weeks I’ll be in Montreal, then moving to San Francisco for a one year volunteer program.

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Filed under Chicago, Journalism

Back, and bouncing back, from D.C.

I am relieved to back from D.C. The inauguration was phenomenal as I was able to sit in the ticketed orange section with a mere 250 feet separting me from the stage. The experience left me feeling so drained, testing my physical endurance and stealing any good sleep. For four days, I had to put aside all other priorities to stay focused on reporting for the SunTimes blog. However, this put a damper on my community, especially RJ, who I completely forgot to mention that I would be gone on our night to cook. Although I’m sure he was disappointed, he told me not to worry and that he had some extra help from other housemates. Still, I felt terrible that something like that slipped my mind. It was careless. So today, I bought some groceries and made RJ delicious stuffed green peppers. It was a good time to catch up with RJ while we cooked together. It was a good way to end a long, relaxing afternoon at the house.

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Filed under Journalism, Travel