Bay Area Artist: Ning Hao

Below is an article I wrote that will be included in an upcoming book called Remembering Locke 1915-2015.

Locke, California, artist Ning Hao was born and raised in Shanghai, the son of two Chinese doctors practicing Western-style medicine. Ning says that until 1949, his family owned and lived in a huge house—taking up a whole block—but then “we were liberated by the Communist Chinese Party” and favor went to those who had supported that party.

Even though his father donated their house and hospital to the government, his parents were discriminated against because they formerly had owned their own practices and had been in “business.” They were assigned to work in various sections of the city that the government determined: his mother in what had been the French District during Japanese occupation, his father the Chinese section.

Ning, born in 1957, remembers doing a lot of drawing from the time he was six. He has found inspiration for his art in various places. First were the pets he dearly loved. Unfortunately, he arrived home one evening from school during Spring Festival and all his pets were gone. He found out later that they had “gone” to dinner plates for the festival. “In China at that time you were not allowed to love anything that closely. It was traumatic for me. But compassion for animals—the word pet ceased to exist—was considered too remote. Animals became just food. You were supposed to love humans like that: your mother, father, sisters and brothers.

Ning’s brother, five years older, went to best local government school. Only one child per family was allowed that privilege so Ning was sent to a private school. Private schools had the opposite connotation from American ones. “It was not high quality. Sometimes we didn’t have enough pencils or paper.”

Here is a photo of Ning Hao with the paintings in his shop behind him. Main Street, Locke, CA. Taken by James Motlow, co-author of the book Bitter Melon about the Chinese in Locke.
Here is a photo of Ning Hao with the paintings in his shop behind him. Main Street, Locke, CA.
Taken by James Motlow, co-author of the book Bitter Melon about the Chinese in Locke.

He describes the web of political parties and classes that existed in his formative years. His father was a leader in the Democratic Party, but Ning says the meetings were already fixed by the government before they occurred. “Even though there were nine political parties, Mao made sure that none of them was against him. It was a system designed to protect his power and save face internationally,” Ning says.

He also grew up in a time of austerity for women. “I never saw an earring, necklace, lipstick, false eyelash. Chinese women were only supposed to love red, the color of the Chinese revolution, never pink. All these (accouterments) were considered a sexual disease.

“If you had pimples on your face as a young person, it means you were mentally poisoned. You were to stay home and self-criticize. The community did not want to see you. Like if you were gay, you couldn’t survive.

“Two thousands years ago, they had already dismissed homosexuality,” Ning says. “So our race was seen as ‘healthy.’ It is really about old minds, even worse than Communist thinking, showing it had been a prejudiced society all along.”

Ning says that as a young person attracted to art, he was looking for a way to survive. “Because of my background of educated people with money, I was already seen as the rotten part of society. Neighbors did not trust us.”

His father was considered to be in the intelligentsia class, “like teachers or anyone with a brain to use for his own way to think. We couldn’t escape. For me it was a prison. My family was continually investigated. They broke into our house and sealed off antiques, the piano, gold, money into one room. “

Ning recalls the day that President Nixon visited his school. Curtains were drawn on all the school windows so that the important visitor would not see anyone peeking at him, and he would think all was being run properly. “As a young person of 16 or 17, I was very confused. The U.S. was called a dismissive name, the Paper Tiger, but when Mao was so polite to Nixon and we couldn’t even look at him, I thought he must be a god from the West coming to us. I couldn’t say this out loud, of course.”

Ning saw examples of what he didn’t want to have happen to him. His friend’s father who had been a scholar was forced to become a carpenter. “He used to be high ranking in geometry. Suddenly he could only use his knowledge to make furniture,” Ning says. “My friend was one year older and always doing paintings. I tried copies of the things—Communist Party designs—but he always said I was doing it wrong. He is the one who taught me color, how to mix it right.”

When Ning came to the U.S., he lost track of his friend. Later he heard that he stopped painting. He had been studying art, but there was no future in it. “He was locked outside society. He couldn’t marry. I could never find him. I lost my best friend.”

Getting to United States was no simple matter. There were lots of hurdles, major ones within his own family. It was partly because Ning had a “famous fight” as a freshman in high school with an adult over the issue of knowledge and whom it benefited. Ning pointed out that the riches stayed with the government. His father told him not to speak out any more because he was always politically incorrect. “They can put us all in jail and I could be executed,” his father told him.

Since they lived in a tiny house now and Ning was the youngest of four, he slept in the same room with his parents. Many times at night he heard their arguments over his fate. His father took the position that this son would not fit into Chinese society. His mother may have agreed but was reluctant to have her youngest removed from her.

Ning met a “blond haired, blue eyed, skinny, American-looking” neighbor who had documents allowing him to leave China. He was just divorced, had no kids and said he was going to the U.S. to look for his own race and wife.” Ning’s father said, “Don’t talk to him. He doesn’t like China.” Ning said, “I don’t either.”

There was one more “secret midnight conversation” about Little Bear (Ning’s nickname). His mother relented and a student nurse his father had employed in the 1950s became Ning’s sponsor.

He had an aunt who worked in San Francisco. He was allowed to bring a mere $37.50 with him from China so he was dependent upon his relatives. His aunt and uncle sent him to another uncle’s house in Philadelphia. He was a painter, supposedly a well-known artist from China, but he was upset with Ning. “You use too much paint,” he told Ning. “Put it on too thick. You’re an idiot artist like Van Gogh.”

He told Ning, “Go outside and make money.” Ning did hit the streets and painted people’s images for money. One day he made $100 and was proud. His Philadelphia uncle was mad at him, though. He said he forgot to turn the gas off and he ate all the food in the fridge. He never could please his uncle, it seems. He came back to San Francisco.

There he stayed at a hotel on Broadway, the Big Al. “My room was above a porno shop. It was the only place I could find for $150 a month. Eight by six with one sink. No mirror. A bed. I had one suitcase. That is how I started my independent life.”

In China he had been studying at a Shanghai artists’ school in graphic design but had not completed a major. He went to the San Francisco Academy of Art and took all manner of art classes for his liberal arts degree. Meanwhile, he charged $2 per drawing at the wharf, doing likenesses of the tourists. Because he had no license and was getting more popular than many of the regulars who did portraits, someone called the police on him. He was very nervous because this would be a major infraction in China, cheating the government, but the San Francisco police told him to go home and not come back. “But there I had already earned $400.”

After his graduation, he applied to the Academy to be a teaching assistant and work toward his master of fine arts. He received a scholarship for eight semesters and taught with Thomas Mache, the director of the sculpture department.

He finished his MFA in two years but only had a work permit for one year. He wondered how he would get a green card. His advisor introduced him to City College of San Francisco where he took his portfolio, the same one he later carried to New York City. There he met future wife. I took her to Chinatown, which she loved, particularly when it closed down at night. You could hear the Chinese voices and violins. We had a very nice dinner.”

When his future wife found that he lived in a dumpy place, she said she would help him move. He moved to Chinatown, a fourth floor place on Clay and Stockton. “But I spoke Mandarin. They spoke Cantonese. I had moved to another foreign land,” he laughs. He soon married and moved to his wife’s apartment.

Ning got a traffic ticket and had to go to driving school. As luck would have it, the first night he met a woman who was a French teacher in San Mateo and had lived in Paris for two years. She made connections for him so he could take his portfolio to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because he had copied the masters so well, the museum thought he had stolen Cezannes and Matisses from them.

When he said they were his, they told him he was a very good copier, in that case. No galleries in New York wanted to work with even very good copies of masters, Ning relates. One said, very simply, “Where is the you?”

At the Gallerie Rienzo, they asked what painting Ning had done in this country. He showed them a few pictures he had of Golden Gate Park “and they said ‘sold!’ That is how I got my first paintings in a gallery in New York. But I thought I had better find a local gallery in San Francisco.” He was able to sell three watercolors to the Maxwell Galleries, each for $1,500. “I was moving up in price,” he says, “even though the paintings didn’t even have frames on them.” He also retouched some paintings he had done on Broadway and sold them for $3,000 and $5,000. He has much gratitude toward Maxwell Galleries who jumpstarted his formal painting career.

Ning joined competitions and won best of show at the Santa Rosa show. He was invited to have a show at the Concord Community Center with two other Chinese painters. He also showed at Fairfield and Walnut Creek. It was in Walnut Creek that he was told there was a place called Locke in the Delta. “When I came to Locke, I came to the River Road Gallery and saw Connie King (the woman who helped preserve Locke after many other Chinese died.) I asked her if she sold any other than Locke artists. She told me, ‘This is a membership. You also have to sit here.’

“When I told her I was from the Bay Area, she said there was a house for sale here. My wife had always wanted a house. We bought one that Ping Lee (the unofficial mayor of Locke) had owned. My wife loved Ping Lee’s garden. We asked him if he would please take a loan. We had no history of owning a house, only of renting. Our housecleaning money would never buy a house.”

Ning has fond memories of Ping who let them pay him for nine years. “He was a very kind and honest businessman,” he says. “Later Connie introduced me to this studio.” He looks around at the Locke Main Street gallery he has created in the old Happy Café and dance hall. It is chock a block full of his strong, colorful and skillful paintings of the Delta and California scenes, the animals he so admires—both wild and tame—and a variety of other themes.

He says most of his clients are from San Francisco, New York and Europe, people who are familiar with him since his Maxwell Galleries days. He sells more locally as well, in Walnut Grove, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Fairfield and Concord. He has paintings in a gallery in Tiburon.

He knows Danny Glover, who has visited him in Locke. Ning was once part of a gallery that Glover owned in San Francisco. Eddie Murphy came to use Ning’s Locke building in a movie and Ning earned $700 a day just for the setting.

The artist works on his “sculpture paintings” avidly every day. “I call them that because they have a high posture, lots of paint, lots of mixing which I combine in every stroke. Every stroke is like a carving. Some I do smooth like the Renaissance painters but I fully understand the difference between the two- and three-dimensional.”

Ning, who has taught art history for a number of years, has ambitions to rewrite an artist catalogue. He sees this as a way to dissolve the problems of prejudice and racism he thinks has affected the world’s art. “We all live under the same blue sky. We need to stop all this nonsense of denying different people and their environments. We are brainwashed in our backgrounds to judge others. My solution is to respect the others: the people who we are not familiar with.

“Locke is a good place for a painter,” he says, “even if you don’t receive a big value selling your paintings like you do in the city. It’s a good place to live, where the Chinese transition has been to a beautiful land. California has beautiful light. A symphony of color. The bottom line is how we see color.”

 

 

 

F and Main Gallery Opening Saturday May 16th – Isleton,CA

FandMainGallery_Chamber_Ad_FinalI’m excited to invite you to the opening reception of my new gallery and home of Home Free Publishing beautiful downtown Isleton, California.  Save the date and join us for an evening of art, music, food and fun. Everyone welcome!

What:
Grand Opening Reception of the F and Main Gallery

Featuring works by these Artists:
Painter, Gregory Crawford
Painter, Sally Ooms
Photographer, James Motlow
Photographer, Keith Palmer

Where:
36 Main Street, Isleton, CA

(on the corner of F St.)

When:
Saturday May 16, 2015
5PM – 8PM

Hors d’oeuvres from local purveyors
Local wine and other beverages
Live music

Everyone welcome!

FandMain_photo

 

Local Authors Sacramento

SO_SacLibraryA beautiful venue at the Sacramento County Public Library in downtown Sacramento April 12. The Authors’ Fair was a great success for all. I had a booth next to the California Writers’ Club. I’m a member and was proud to be placed next to them. Sold some books but, best of all, met so many other authors and readers. Thanks to the library for this first event!

March 24-31 National Farmworker Awareness Week

March 24-31 is National Farmworker Awareness Week. In perusing a recent newsletter from the folks who made Food Chains , I discovered the alarming stat that 85 percent of the fruits and vegetables we eat in the United States are hand picked.

That means by human beings. Human beings whom we rarely think about as we decide what to eat every day.

FoodChainsTheatricalPoster-e1409496194559For me, this comes on the heels of having seen the movie Food Chains which now is airing in 50 cities in the country as well as being available to watch in iTunes for .99 cents. This is an important documentary about farmworkers in Florida who take on the supermarket industry. It is about their attempt to lead fellow farmworkers, who are suffering subhuman working and living conditions, out of poverty.

Maybe it’s a good opportunity for us this week to read a bit about what farmworkers are enduring and think about our sources of food. It doesn’t stop with the farmer. Someone has to pick it.  The producers of Food Chains have done a great job with their website and social awareness campaigns.  Check out their Take Action page to get involved.

 

Local Author Book Festival – Sacramento

Local-Authors-(1)Join the Sacramento Public Library and 40 local authors (including me!) at the Library’s first Local Author Book Festival.

Visitors will be able to meet Sacramento area writers and purchase their books. Several authors will also give short presentations about their work.

Sunday April 12th from 1pm – 3pm
Tsakopoulos Library Galleria
Central Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento

The authors, chosen by a library selection committee, represent a wide range of genres, styles and ages. Participation was limited to authors living in the Sacramento region who have published a book within the last two years.

SACRAMENTO PUBLIC LIBRARY
http://www.saclibrary.org

Delta Neighborhood Saddened Over Murder

This is a copy of the letter I wrote for the Rio Vista BeaconThere is also a brief news story from the local CBS affiliate.  Photos from the candle light vigil on Saturday 3/28/15 will be posted next week. 

I don’t usually see people in terms of good or bad. But this last week has jarred me out of my non-judgmental mind-set.

A kind elderly man on my rural block was murdered. He lived about five houses from me on a levee with his wife of 56 years who had been his high school sweetheart. The murderer was a young man whom I do not know but who obviously had anger issues. He had had altercations with many neighbors. He lived in a trailer hidden from the street by the house he once lived in but lost. Neighbors who know him say he has become increasingly bullying and irrational of late. I don’t know if he was doing drugs or not.

I came home Sunday night, Feb. 15, and was escorted through a crime scene area. When my partner told me who had been killed I was in a state of shock. Who would kill this gentle older man? He kept a few animals and last year wanted to give me a sheep that had followed him around since it was a lamb. He brought equipment to help neighbors with their gardens. He let people in the neighborhood swim and fish off his private dock on the slough, including the man who murdered him.

On Valentine’s Day, my partner and I pedaled our bikes past the older couple’s house. They were having a gathering and called out and waved to us. Although they own the levee road, they are always nice about granting access to walkers and bicyclists.

So, here is the story, as I understand it: Apparently my elderly neighbor went to the trailer to inquire about a dispute between the younger man and his son. The unbalanced younger man had thrown a rock through the older man’s sons’ window and cut his son’s face. I don’t know if our older neighbor had entered the house invited or uninvited but he had no weapon. He did not own a gun and all of us feel certain that he did not have violent intensions. He was shot dead.

The next day we learned that the shooter was still on the loose. While police knew who he was, there were no photos of him on the sketchy news reports, so that was frightening for us. We then heard that he was in jail, that he had turned himself in. Next we heard that he had been released because “there was not enough evidence” to charge him. There was much anger, confusion and more fear in the neighborhood, along with absolute outrage and sorrow on behalf of the dead man’s family.

Two days after the shooting, three Sheriff Department SUVs were parked near the murderer’s trailer. Finally, I thought. They are going to arrest him. But, when I took flowers to the widow and family gathered at the dead man’s house later that day, I was told that, no, the police were protecting the murderer while he got his possessions out of his house. The shooter had been afraid someone would take revenge on him for what he had done.

Now we all have learned that if you go into anyone’s house and they say they feel threatened, they have the right to kill you. In this case I feel the murderer was mentally impaired or on drugs or both, and that he did something a person in his right mind would not do: kill a non-aggressive kindly man who had been friendly to him in the past. So, the shooter got away with murder and moved on. As far as we know, he is not in any kind of program to help him so he doesn’t do this again.

I wonder what the dead man’s family will tell their children about how their beloved grandfather died. What kind of lesson is this for the children in our community? What kind of lesson is this for us adults? The murderer has two children of his own who were thankfully not at home during the killing. But think of the legacy they are yoked with.

I wonder if the murderer will come back. I don’t know what he looks like, so should I just be afraid of every stranger that comes to my door? I also wonder whose neighborhood he is living in now. Not yours, I hope.

Once-homeless family surmounting adversity

This post is a companion piece to the article I published last week on the Family Promise Shelter in Sacramento.

Rachel Brown is jittery today. She sits in the Family Promise Day Center with one eye on her children who are playing nearby. She is feeling nervous because this afternoon she will go for a job interview. Rachel is half African-American (she mentions that her father was the first black attorney in Vallejo) and half Cuban. She is going for a position as a Cuban-English translator.

Rachel Brown and daughter Daisha spend time together at Sacramento's Family Promise Day Center.
Rachel Brown and daughter Daisha spend time together at Sacramento’s Family Promise Day Center.

Rachel, 32, and her husband lived for a long time in San Jose but became homeless in Sacramento. Her husband was a Bay Area limousine driver whose car, through no fault of his own, caught on fire on a bridge. He was able to save four of his passengers but five of them died. Even though he wasn’t culpable, he was fired from his job. He started going to therapy. Rachel says he has a lot of anxiety surrounding the accident, so much so that he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has had a hard time at subsequent jobs.

A common story when people are struggling to maintain jobs, the couple got behind in payments. They lost their Sacramento dwelling and paid to stay in motels because they couldn’t save enough to rent an apartment. They called Next Move Shelter but were unable to get in. When they called Family Promise Rachel says “one of the ladies did an intake over the phone. The next morning they took us in. November 11th. We have been here all through the holidays and they really took good care of us.”

The parents and their children, 9 and 6, go each evening to their lodging in the church that is sheltering and feeding families in the Family Promise rotation system.

Rachel’s husband is working now and Rachel hopes to be at a job soon too. Since they have been part of Family Promise, they have saved some money but they have $1,095 to pay back to make up for their eviction and get the debt cleared off their credit report. “Here they help us with resources. They tell you people you need to contact and send out faxes for you,” Rachel says. “I can get phone calls here too. It is probably the best family shelter here in Sacramento. All the pictures on these walls are success stories.

“But you have to be willing,” she says. “You have to do your footwork.”

Find out more about Family Promise on their website: http://sacfamilypromise.org/

 

Family Promise Shelters and Shows a Way

This article will be published in the February 2015 edition of the Homeward Street Journal produced in Association with Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee 

Family Promise  wants to keep families together and solvent. Marsha Spell, executive director of Family Promise of Sacramento, says she is seeing more and more families desperate for housing, people who have found themselves on the streets because they could not make the rent. Calls from people wanting to be taken into the program are averaging about 115 a month.

The non-profit, one of 187 affiliates in the country, guides families toward lasting independence. “The problem of poverty is complex,” says their website. “It won’t yield to a simple solution or quick fix.” For the past 10 years, the local Family Promise has approached the problem by meeting immediate needs but also by helping alleviate the root causes of their clients’ poverty.

Spell describes her 90-day program: Families are taken into their center and assigned a case manager to work with. Children go to school and parents who are not employed are required to spend their time investigating five jobs a day. Staff helps develop budgets, stressing that rent, food and utilities come first with extras after that. They also look at ongoing expenses people may have, like storage costs, car payments and insurance. “And do they have parking tickets or speeding tickets they didn’t pay,” says Spell. “We want them to address it all, moving forward, with nothing to hold them back.”

There is help with emotional setbacks as well. Family Promise offers marital counseling and anger management courses, to mention a few.

Family Promise_kids          Families use the day center for laundry, showers, telephoning, and researching and sending out resumes on computers. There is a child play area and adults who have not gone to work do chores. In the evening, Family Promise transports everyone to a church host. Churches who participate rotate the family night care once a week. Each family is given a room and meals. Currently 16 churches are a part of the local Family Promise. The faiths included are Catholic, Jewish, United Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Latter Day Saints and non-denominational.

“Each family is different. We focus on families we can help the quickest,” she says. “Most families have been evicted. The next landlord then wants two and a half times the rent to get into the building. So families get motel rooms by the month and run out of money the third week. The motels do not give them a break. The no-tells are the worst. They charge $325 a week at least.

“They could get a good apartment for that much a month but they can’t muster the deposit. So then they usually go from family members’ to friends’ homes couch surfing, but there is limit to that.

“The most common thing we see is that people do not know how to get started again,” Spell says. “They may not have had parents who taught them life skills. They may never have balanced a bank statement or know how to budget themselves. If they get behind in car payments, they might just ignore them so they don’t have to think about the problem.

“We hold them to it while we show them what they have to do to make it work. One family went out to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack and spent over $100. Another was paying $125 for a gym membership. We steer them back to basics. Most of our graduates make it when they leave,” she says proudly. “Many have stayed in contact.”

            One hundred and seventy-three families that have graduated in 10 years, 31 this year. That is a national high within the Family Promise system.

Family Promise receives no federal or state monies. “That’s a huge thing,” Spell says. “We are totally dependent on donors and grants. We are not a rich non-profit.” Like their families, “we have to watch every penny.”

Spell never seems to rest. She manages estate sales on the weekends, ferreting out cars, furniture and household supplies she can give to the families. “We get 35 percent of the proceeds. Sometimes we sell cars right on the spot, or when families are moving out, we find out if cars are available.”

She says it takes about $15,000 a month to run the program. Since the 2008 crash, donations have gone down. “But we have just picked up a couple of grants,” she says. “We have to constantly work to keep the numbers up.”

New Mexico Men’s Shelter Now Open

Taos Men s Shelter

The Taos Men’s Shelter has finally reopened at its new location!  None too soon as Taos weather has taken a turn for the worse. The shelter will now be open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every night.

You can read the full story at Taos News

If you are in the Taos, NM area there will be a fundraiser at the Wilder Nightingale Gallery on Saturday February 7th.  More information about the Hearts & Stars Fundraiser for the Taos Men’s Shelter on their Facebook event page.

 

 

 

 

Widespread dearth of affordable housing squeezing more people into poverty

This article  was originally published in Homeward Street Journal produced in Association with Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee 

Gentrification: a general term for the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture. The term is often used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders.

Every year the National Low Income Housing Coalition puts out figures that relate to housing and wages, that is the wage a person must earn to afford rentals in communities across the country.

The report, called “Out of Reach” is appropriately titled. For at least the last 20 years, the crisis of unaffordable housing has been growing so that even renters with adequate jobs who think of themselves as middle class are finding themselves in trouble, and low income and extremely low-income renters are forced out onto the streets.

About this displacement, the Sacramento Housing Alliance says “our neighbors, friends and loved ones are making decisions that no one should ever have to make to pay rent—like going without medical and dental care, nutritional foods and adequate child care.

So when is a rental house/apartment considered affordable?  Most guidelines say:

a.   When an individual or family can pay for it out of their monthly income and still have enough money left for food, clothing, transportation and health care.

b.    When the rent and utilities cost no more than 30 percent of the household income. However, this means that a family of four with two working parents earning the minimum wage can only afford $700 in rent or mortgage payment and utilities.

Image from Owen G. Richard’s Flickr photostream
Image from Owen G. Richard’s Flickr photostream

Sacramento’s growing population is creating a demand for rental housing that is not being met. Rents are rising. What was a short time ago an average of $1,021 for a two-bedroom apartment has popped up to around $1,369 a month, according to the online real estate data base Zillow.com. Senior citizens on social security, people receiving unemployment insurance and people with disabilities receiving SSI are but a few of the population who are staring impossible rents in the face.

It is looking grim even for working families. If you take the recent statistic of what was considered fair market rent in Sacramento ($1,021 for a two-bedroom apartment), the affordable rent and utilities without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn an annual salary of $40,840. In California the minimum wage workers earns $8 an hour. To afford the fair market rental for two bedrooms, a minimum wage earner must work 100 hours a week for 52 weeks a year.

Compounding the unavailability problem is Sacramento County’s recent decision to change an ordinance that required developers to include housing for low income and extremely low income people to be built in their future developments. Now developers pay fees into a housing trust for poor people en lieu of building more affordable housing.

And, it looks as though the city will soon enact a similar ordinance revision.

Carol White, a social worker with Family Promise of Sacramento, says families she sees are recently displaced and homeless predominantly because either their landlord has decided to sell their dwelling and has evicted them, or they have been living with others who then move out and they cannot make the rent.

“When you have been evicted from other places, it a big problem in terms of renting anything else. Most of the families we see all seem to have one or two evictions of this nature,” White says.

Family Promise is a non-profit group of approximately 13 Sacramento area church congregations who rotate hosting families at night in their churches and feeding them a warm dinner. During the day, they provide a center in the Loaves and Fishes complex to help them find housing and solutions to problems blocking permanent independence.

Director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance Darryl Rutherford says the calls to his office from desperate people who are finding it impossible to rent a place to live are increasing. “Rents are what the market will bear. Couple this with the low minimum wage, housing is getting out of reach for a lot of people,” he says. The median rent in Sacramento has increased 13 percent over the past year, he says.

HousingOutofReachAnother issue is the proposed development for Sacramento’s downtown area, Rutherford says. “Soon it will be catering to the few elite and ultimately shove the working poor out to the fringes.”

He says people will either move to where they can afford to rent or make do somehow. He is hearing of families doubling and tripling up in rentals and still having a hard time making ends meet.

Rutherford says that with the gentrification of downtown, a lot of small businesses that are not included in the economic development plan will be displaced as well. “Sacramento is definitely not going to meet its goals for sustainability. One can appreciate the focus on redevelopment of downtown but it should be with a minimum impact on the people there.

“You lose a lot of the fiber of the community, all the social connections of the neighborhood, when you drive people out to create condos, boutique hotels (as is the case of the Marshall Hotel on 7th Street which has been a 90-room single room occupancy hotel for low income people) and large hotels.”

“People are not seeing the larger picture in the need for affordable housing. They think it is for ‘those people’—the homeless or extremely poor. They do not think about themselves as being low income. If only more people would understand that we are fighting for the working class.”

A recent article in the Sacramento Bee quoted neighbors of the Loaves & Fishes’ Friendship Park area, where there are plans to expand homeless care facilities, as saying they were afraid that more people will be drawn to their part of Sacramento and cause sanitation and petty crime problems. But with the rapid displacement of people from ever more expensive places to live, a surge in homeless, near homeless, poor, and low income workers searching for cheaper housing is already a fait accompli.

Director of Counseling Programs Tommi Avicolli Mecca at the Housing Rights Commission of San Francisco says right now that city is seeing an epidemic of evictions in working class neighborhoods. “There is a mass exodus of poor and working class people. They are being forced to leave the city or become homeless.”

He says real estate speculators are coming from around the world and availing themselves of the Ellis Act to buy cheap rent control buildings, then evicting tenants. The Ellis Act provides loopholes for landlords in selling their buildings and circumventing municipal rent control provisions like San Francisco’s.

Avicolli Mecca says the new landlords typically divide up or re-rent the spaces for an astronomical fee. “Then we are seeing lots of condos being built. There is a need for affordable housing but the city is not paying attention here either.

“So now you have SROs turned into Air B&Bs or tourist rooms sold for tons of money by the night. We are no longer housing poor people in SROs.

“I live in a city that is supposed to be filled with the most compassionate, understanding and caring people in the world, I see a constant abuse of the homeless and displacement of the working class. Plus we are losing diversity. The African American population is down from 21 to 6 percent and Latinos and LGBT people are being pushed out of the Mission, particularly young people. The Castro is losing older gay men, some of whom have AIDS. Upscale tech types are moving into all these neighborhoods.”

Avicolli Mecca calls San Francisco “a war zone” with working class and strong communities being pushed out. “We are becoming a city of the rich.”

And the poor are going elsewhere. A flood of displaced people coming to the Sacramento area certainly is imminent if people do comparative shopping. A family in the San Francisco Mission’s upscaled buildings will have to earn $30,000 a month to afford their $10,000 a month apartment. In the Castro, the rents for newcomers will soon go as high as $8,500 a month.

“If San Francisco is not dealing with these problems in a caring and compassionate way, I don’t know how anyone can,” he says.

Nationally, says Out of Reach, the 2014 two-bedroom housing wage was $18.92, more than two and a half times the federal minimum wage, and 52 percent higher than it was in 2000. In no state can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom rental at Housing and Urban Development-estimated fair market rent.

In December, the National Low Income Housing Coalition urged policy-makers to raise the federal minimum wage and combat income inequality. They also have pushed for funding of the National Housing Trust Fund to build, preserve and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for extremely low and very low-income households. “The shortage of affordable housing must be addressed. Expanding the supply of affordable rental homes dedicated to the lowest income renters is a critical and fundamental part of any real solution,“ says the coalition.

“In both rural and urban America, renters are affected by the affordable housing shortage and rents are expected to continue to rise in coming years as the demand grows. Over half of all renters (53 percent) are cost burdened, paying over 30 percent of their income for housing, up from 12 percent” a decade ago.

“The lack of decent housing affordable to low income households has remained a pervasive national issue for over 25 years, affecting every single community across the United States.”