Wells Fargo National Bank West
|Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp.||
$1.42 Million AHP Grant
The narrowness of her escape from a violent, abusive husband still haunts Hiba Elhag, as she works to heal from the severe physical and emotional trauma she experienced over the course of a 10-year marriage. Once she made the decision to leave her husband and the home they shared in Egypt, she turned to the American Embassy for help, and received passports for her three small children and airline tickets back to the Bay Area, where Hiba had studied and worked and become a citizen before her marriage.
Hiba turned to her brother living in Oakland for shelter and support, but he held the view that a woman belonged with her husband no matter what, and made it clear that he did not approve of Hiba’s desperate choice. As she began to feel unsafe all over again, she started looking for a place to go with her children. After many calls, she found a women’s shelter that could take them, in San Francisco. From there, the family’s journey through the homeless shelter system was years long and difficult, with not enough space, shared beds and bathrooms, unfamiliar food that the children sometimes wouldn’t eat, and worry that her children were learning the wrong things about life.
“Every day you feel like you are missing something,” Hiba says. “You talk to someone and have to say ‘I’m homeless,’ it’s really bad.” Eventually she transferred to Hamilton Transitional Housing and stayed for two years. In their one-bedroom apartment, the family had their own kitchen and bathroom, but still it wasn’t the permanent, healthy home environment they longed for.
Jesus Davila, 47, came to San Francisco from Mexico as a young man looking for a job and a better way of life. An accident put him in a wheel chair, and he was in and out of hospitals for six years. His parents moved up from Mexico to care for him, but he insisted on being on his own. Living in SROs, Jesus turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with his pain and loneliness, and at times he lost his housing.
“It’s hard on the street,” Jesus says. “People ask, ‘Where do you live?’ and you are ashamed to answer, ‘I don’t have a home.’” Still he resisted reaching out to his parents as he struggled with depression and other mental problems. When Jesus recognized that trying to prove he was independent and not reaching out to his parents was his way of running away from reality, he wanted the comfort and support of his family and decided to find a place to live together.
Hiba and her children, and Jesus and his parents, are among the 30 families who’ve been able to put homelessness behind them by moving into the brand new Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. (TNDC) family apartments at 626 Mission Bay Boulevard. The complex has a total of 143 residential units: 53 one-bedroom units, 47 two-bedroom units, and 43 three-bedroom units in a 5-story main building and 18 3-story town homes. Twenty percent of the units are set aside for formerly homeless families earning 30% of Area Median Income (AMI) or below, with the balance available to households at 50% AMI or below.
“Thousands of people applied,” explains resident social worker Huyen “Kiki” Vo. “People wanted it because it’s new, it’s safe, the air quality is great, that’s what tenants are saying.” The multicultural, mixed-use, transit-oriented development received a $1.42 million Affordable Housing Program grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco through member Wells Fargo National Bank West. “Investing in the community is part of our culture at Wells Fargo,” says Patty Parina, Vice President, Community Lending and Investment. “Together with our partners and the AHP, we’re helping TNDC have impact in their neighborhood.”
Building trust is hard for Hiba, but Kiki has earned it. “She reminds me if I have an appointment, and she’s always nice,” Hiba says. “I can go to her to talk about something important.” Hiba has seen a lot of doctors, trying to get relief from the headaches she’s been living with since her husband hit her in the head with a knife. Now she’s going to physical therapy and talk therapy, and medication is also helping her control the sadness, worry, and bad memories that plague her still. Kiki is a strong advocate when it comes to services for Hiba and the children.
“I was so scared before I came here,” Hiba says. “I really like this place. I love my apartment, I feel more free and more secure.” Her sons, nine and seven years old, and her 5-year-old daughter, are also healing. The boys went to therapy for a year, and all the children are benefiting from the programs and services the building offers. 826 Valencia, a renowned nonprofit dedicated to supporting under-resourced students with their creative and expository writing skills, opened a new center in the building, and Hiba is thrilled that her daughter’s work has already been published in A Magical Forest with Sparkles and Stars, a book published by the nonprofit. “It’s going to help my children be smart – I like that,” she says.
“Sad to say a story like Hiba's is not uncommon,” Kiki relates. “But her journey of perseverance and resilience is. Fighting for her kids - she's very, very vocal about what she wants her kids to have, and she's adamant in making sure they get those needs met.” Originally trained as a pharmacy technician, Hiba thinks it’s unlikely her memory issues would allow her to go back to work in that field again. When she’s ready – when she and her children are further along with their healing – she’ll find something new to study and do.
Now that Jesus is also getting his housing and support needs met, sharing a brand new apartment with his parents and making use of the supportive services and community activities available onsite, his outlook is bright. “I’m very happy to live here with my family, it’s a great boost for my confidence,” Jesus says. “It’s helping me to understand that dreams – you can build them again.”
To that end, Jesus is studying architecture full-time at San Francisco City College, taking public transit to campus and back, and to other places he likes to go in San Francisco. He’s got specific building projects in mind as he studies: he wants to create a safe place for kids from the street in his hometown of Chihuahua, Mexico. And he wants to be involved in creating more affordable housing in San Francisco, with places for families who have experienced homelessness, as he has. “These are my two priorities, the architecture projects I’m working on in my mind,” Jesus shares.
No doubt his current home is a source of inspiration. “626 Mission Bay Boulevard represents the best of what our City and community can do to address the housing crisis—a beautiful, functional design of family housing with onsite services built at scale, serving a range of people including those emerging out of homelessness,” says Don Falk, CEO of TNDC and a member of the Bank’s Affordable Housing Advisory Council. “It requires a collective effort, including financial institutions like the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, which reinvests a percentage of its profits into community assets to benefit lower-income people and communities.”