José Quiñonez from Mission Asset Fund Wins MacArthur “Genius” Grant

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Brilliant! José Quiñonez from the Mission Asset Fund just won a McArthur “Genius” grant! Mission Asset Fund is headquartered at 3269 Mission Street (near 29th) here in Bernal, and José Quiñonez is MAF’s founder and CEO. His spiffy new MacArthur Fellows page says:

José A. Quiñonez is a financial services innovator creating a pathway to mainstream financial services and non-predatory credit for individuals with limited or no financial access. A disproportionate number of minority, immigrant, and low-income households are invisible to banks and credit institutions, meaning they have no checking or savings accounts (unbanked), make frequent use of nonbank financial services (underbanked), or lack a credit report with a nationwide credit-reporting agency. Without bank accounts or a credit history, it is nearly impossible to obtain safe loans for automobiles, homes, and businesses or to rent an apartment.

Quiñonez is helping individuals overcome these challenges by linking rotating credit associations or lending circles, a traditional cultural practice from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, to the formal financial sector. Lending circles are typically informal arrangements of individuals pooling their resources and distributing loans to one another. Through the Mission Asset Fund (MAF), Quiñonez has created a mechanism for reporting individuals’ repayment of small, zero-interest loans to credit bureaus and other financial institutions. MAF participants are able to establish a credit history and gain access to credit cards, bank loans, and other services, and lending circles focused on youth provide individuals with fees for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival applications and apartment security deposits (which are particularly needed by youth aging out of foster care). All participants are required to complete a financial training class and are provided with financial coaching and peer support. Since the lending circles were established in 2008, participants’ credit scores, collectively, have increased an average of 168 points.

Quiñonez has established a network of partnerships with the financial services industry to enable other organizations to replicate his approach. With Quiñonez and MAF providing the technology necessary to disperse and track loans (a significant hurdle for many nonprofits) and assisting in securing local partners and investors, 53 nonprofit providers in 17 states and the District of Columbia are now using this powerful model in their communities. Quiñonez’s visionary leadership is providing low-income and minority families with the means to secure safe credit, participate more fully in the American economy, and obtain financial security.

José A. Quiñonez received a B.A. (1994) from the University of California at Davis and an M.P.A. (1998) from Princeton University. He founded Mission Asset Fund in 2007 and continues to serve as CEO. His prior affiliations include the Center for Community Change (2001–2004) and Bread for the World (2000–2001). From 2012 to 2014, he was the inaugural chair of the Consumer Advisory Board of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Felicidades, José and MAF!

HAT TIP: Neighbor Kathy
PHOTO: via John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation

Bernal Fire Victims, Now Homeless, Reveal Support System Shortcomings

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MissionLocal carried an important story yesterday about two Bernal neighbors who were displaced by the June Cole Hardware fire, who are now homeless.

Kimberley Walley and her husband Henry Texada were living in the Graywood Hotel at the corner of Mission and 29th Street when the building was badly damaged in the fire. Since then, they’ve received several rounds of financial assistance from the City and private donors, but the couple has still had a hard time finding and staying in places to live. They’ve been kicked out of a few SROs for various behavior-related issues, and they’ve declined offers to move into shelters.

Laura Waxmann from MissionLocal writes:

Ben Amyes, the [San Francisco Human Services Agency’s] emergency response coordinator, declined to comment on the couple’s case for confidentiality reasons.

“We were working on finding SROs for all of the tenants, and I have placed everyone that I have had the ability to place,” Aymes said. “There are extenuating circumstances [regarding Walley and Texada] that I’m not able to go into.”

Walley said that she has a criminal background including a charge for assault that landed her in jail for nine months. This happened before moving into the Graywood in March, 2011. She also said she suffers from bipolar disorder and depression, but visits a therapist regularly.

Despite this history she found a room at the Graywood Hotel in 2011 through a re-entry program, NoVa, run by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in partnership with the Sheriff’s Department.

Gerald Miller, the center’s director of community based services, did not work with Walley but said that she was likely a client five years ago. Upon hearing of her plight, Miller said that mental illness and a criminal background are not reasons for keeping clients seeking SRO residencies unhoused.

“[Those] issues don’t stop anyone from getting SRO housing,” said Miller. However, other factors, such as a limited housing stock and a client’s consistent refusal to comply with the terms of the agencies attempting to house them, could be a reasons why they end up on the streets.

The whole article is an essential, gut-wrenching read, because it underscores the sad truth that while we can be pretty good at providing economic support to people in need, we’re generally really bad at managing the mental health issues that are often a root cause of homelessness.

PHOTO: Fire-damaged Graywood Hotel, August 2016 by Telstar Logistics

RIP Bernal Neighbor KC Jones

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Bernalwood is saddened to report that Neighbor KC Jones, a proud resident of Bernal Heights and vibrant member of our community, passed away last week following a bicycle accident.

Bernie Hirschbein shared a lovely tribute to KC on the Wild Side West Facebook page:

My best friend…my de-facto brother KC passed away last Thursday. It still seems so unreal, and I am so very devastated.

On Friday evening 6 weeks ago we were at El Rio eating the free oysters and having a couple drinks, just like always, and the next day I learned he was in a bicycle accident and was at SF General. I rushed over and he was just coming out of surgery. He had suffered very severe brain damage and was in a coma, and he never came back.

KC was an amazingly vital person, so intelligent and kind. He was just so very special. I learned of his passing while Wendy and I were having Shabbat dinner in Tel Aviv, Israel with my lifelong friend Joel Dzodin, his wife Suzanne, his daughter and son-in-law, and his young granddaughter. It was comforting to be among friends, but nothing could really ease my feelings of loss.

I still think of calling him to share the nice bottle of wine I brought back from Israel. I still think of calling him to help me with computer issues. It’s just so unreal that he is gone.

My deepest condolences to his wife Beth, his daughter Hana and his son Sam, and to all the other family members and friends that loved him so much. My life will never be the same.

This hits close to home for Bernalwood as well. Neighbor KC was active in Bernalwood comment threads, and your Bernalwood editor always appreciated his calm demeanor and keen sense of humor. We send condolences to Neighbor KC’s family and friends.

PHOTO: KC Jones via Facebook

RIP Bernal Neighbor Thea Anderson, 24

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Neighbor Leigh brings Bernalwood heartbreaking news about Neighbor Thea Anderson, age 24, who died last month after a collision in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Neighbor Thea had been working as volunteer at a New Zealand school for children with intellectual disabilities.

Neighbor Leigh says:

I’m emailing on behalf of dear friends of mine, Consuelo and Thor Anderson, who are fellow Bernalites. They wanted to share the news of their daughter death a few weeks ago. Thea Faust Anderson died the day after her 24th birthday in a car crash in New Zealand, where she had been living and working.

Thea and her older sister Madeleine were born and raised in Bernal Heights, spending countless hours at the Bernal branch library, exploring the hill, and gaining newfound independence walking to Holly Park on their own. Consuelo remembers trick or treating with them back when there was only one cafe on Cortland.

As a fellow parent raising kids here in Bernal, I can imagine all the memories, milestones, and experiences Consuelo and Thor shared with Thea as she blossomed from her Bernal roots into an adventurous, vibrant and deeply caring young woman.

Here is a link to a beautiful obituary for her in last Sunday’s Chronicle.

There will be a celebration of Thea’s life at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin Street, San Francisco, on Saturday, July 23rd at noon. Gifts in memory of Thea may be sent to the Thea Faust Anderson Fund for Dance, Mills College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, California, 94613, or online.

Please join Bernalwood in extending  our deepest condolences to Neighbors Consuelo, Thor, and Madeleine, on behalf of our Bernal community.

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PHOTO: Top, Thea Faust Anderson. Below, Thea Anderson at Phia Beach, NZ, via The Dominion Post.

This Guy Remembers Growing Up on Mission Street During the 1940s

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Robert Tiedeman Jr., photographed on June 25, 2016

A few weeks ago, your Bernalwood editor wandered into the fabulous Secession Art and Design store on Mission Street near Valencia to say hello to Neighbor Eden Stein, Secession’s equally fabulous proprietor. As fate would have it, Bernalwood dropped in just as Mr. Robert Tiedeman Jr. was visiting as well.

Neighbor Eden introduced us, explaining that Robert is actually a Bernal neighbor emeritus, because he was born and raised on Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street, in an apartment above 3471 Mission .

Robert explained that his parents purchased the entire building for $7500 in 1937 with a $250 downpayment. (That works out to about $125,000 in 2016 dollars, with $4200 down.) His dad ran a store on the ground floor, where Ankor Borei is now located. The store was called Tiedeman Appliance, and here’s a photocopied photo of it:

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And here’s what it looks like today, in Google Street View:

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To capture more of the history lesson, Bernalwood deployed our mobile video recording system and interviewed Robert Tiedeman about his memories of La Lengua during the 1940s:

He also shared this story written down by his mother, describing what it was like for a new merchant setting up shop on Mission Street during the late 1930s:

Welcome and Congratulations — NOT

We had just completed our move to our new building on Mission Street. This consisted of a store building and two six room flats; it cost $7,350, $250 down which we borrowed from my sister and her husband. Times were so tough (it was the end of 1937) that the real estate agent took his commission from the seller on the installment plan. We had two boys; George had turned four in November and Kent would be one in February 1938.

The store had once been a bakery, and the windows in the back of the Window alcove were many-paned and ugly. They would have to go, we decrded. Bob and I were standing in the store, glad we were there, but also pretty scared as to how we were going to fare. We were the San Francisco Regina Agents, so got busmess through that listing in the phone book, but what other business would we get and how would the neighborhood be for customers?

As I stood in front of the store, I saw the accordion music teacher from across the street and his brother in the barbershop next door start across the street in our direction. “Gee, Bob,” I said, “I’ll bet they are coming over to wish us well and make us feel welcome in the neighborhood.”

The Antoninis approached our building and came into the store. They started to talk, first one, then the other. “Well, of course, you should know, this side of Mission Street gets no business; our side is much better for business.” “Yes, we get the morning sun ‘ and people like to walk down our side of the street.” The elder brother shook his head dolefully, “You’ll never make it over here on the wrong side of the street.”

“No, never,” his brother echoed, and back across to the good side of Mission Street they went.

Bob said, “You and your ideas . . . some congratulations.”

Years later, the accordion music teacher moved to our side of Mission. I wanted to remind him that it was the poor side of Mission, but we had become friends, so I just made him feel welcome.

PHOTOS: Robert Tiedeman Jr., photographed by Bernalwood

Bernal Neighbor Eddie Ramirez Honored as Veteran of the Year

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Last week, Assemblymember David Chiu invited Bernal neighbor Eduardo Ramirez to come to Sacramento.

Neighbor Eduardo is a resident of Cortlandia, and David Chiu was honoring him as Veteran of the Year for Assembly District 17, in recognition of both Neighbor Eduardo’s long service career and his post-retirement efforts to assist other veterans. Here’s the announcement from Assemblymember Chiu’s office:

Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) this week honored United States Air Force veteran and Bernal Heights resident Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez as the 2016 Veteran of the Year for the 17th Assembly District.

Eddie served in the United States Air Force for over 20 years and is a veteran of Operation Watch, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the Cold War. His distinguished military career has earned him numerous awards and decorations throughout his tenure in the Air Force.

Eddie has remained committed to serving his fellow veterans in San Francisco, acting as the founder and CEO of OneVet OneVoice, an organization that refers veterans to health care services. Additionally, he created the San Francisco Veterans Town Hall Collaborative and the San Francisco Veterans Film Festival. Eddie is the co-owner of the Excelsior’s Mama Art Cafe, a neighborhood cafe providing artistic space and entrepreneurship opportunities to veterans.

Eddie is a passionate, dedicated, and committed leader whose work has truly benefited our San Francisco’s veterans and is most deserving of his selection as Assembly District 17’s Veteran of the Year.

Bravo, Neighbor Eduardo, and congratulations!

PHOTO: via @DavidChiu

Scenes from the 2016 Cortland “Summer” Solstice Stroll

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The sun was out, the fog stalled over Twin Peaks, and last Thursday evening many smiling Bernalese friends and families headed to Cortland Avenue to partake of the ancient ritual of the Solstice Stroll.

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This being summer, of course, was a little chilly. So Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter insisted we head to Pinhole Coffee, where we’d heard there would be Japanese-style curry. The rumors proved true, the curry was warm, hearty, and delicious, and the Cub Reporter was happy and fortified:

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One BIG news flash occurred when we realized that celebrity Bernal neighbor Terry Milne…

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…. may have actually been separated at birth from his imperial highness Emperor Norton (aka Bernal neighbor Joseph Amster):

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Although, in the realm of rockstars, no one could touch the little guy we saw jamming with the big kids in front of Healthy Spirits. He was totally feeling it:

Thanks for making it happen, Bernal Business Alliance!

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics