Without long-term support, human trafficking survivors at risk of re-exploitation

Some who flee captive labor conditions end up with low-wage jobs, insecure housing
People trafficked into the country receive temporary government and nonprofit social service benefits after rescue or flight from captivity: shelter, health care, counseling, employment and legal help. But once these benefits term out, counter-trafficking specialists worry that victims, who generally have little work experience and weak social and family networks, could fall back into labor conditions as exploitative as the ones they fled. As a victim of international labor trafficking, Lili Samad received government help to stay in the U.S. But she is among hundreds of trafficking survivors each year who end up, months after getting help trying to build a new life, living in marginal housing and working in low-wage jobs.


U.S. visas help trafficking victims, if applicants can vault legal hurdles

Chance for permanent residency, access to federal benefits hinge on cooperating with law enforcement
This special report appeared in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.
A special visa created 12 years ago to save thousands of victims of human trafficking and curb international human trafficking has been vastly underutilized. Attorneys for rescued victims seeking residency protection say law enforcement agencies are often unwilling or slow to “certify” victims’ claims of having been brought to the U.S. to work by force, fraud or coercion. Legal experts and social service providers in high-trafficking regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area, suggest that victims are placed in a dangerous dilemma: Promising to cooperate with an investigation could possibly help their visa cases, but it could also expose them and their families back home to retaliation.


Payday loan industry: the stories

Public Press writer Rick Jurgens reported on San Francisco’s payday loan industry in our Winter 2011 print edition. He found that large corporations like Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse are among the biggest backers of these profitable low-finance firms. A subsequent whirl around the world of social media has revealed that payday loans are a fact of financial life for many, and some alternatives do exist. 


Sharing skills during the holidays

With the holiday festivities swiftly approaching in a year marked by global protests over economic inequality, people in the Bay Area are turning to alternate, community-based means of exchanging goods and skills. Collectives like the Timebank help people circumvent buying gifts with money during the holidays. “The systemic way in which the economy works undermines every good that we try to do,” said Mira Luna, co-founder of the local nonprofit Bay Area Community Exchange, an organization that has been facilitating trades of talents and commodities using time rather than money as the currency. “There’s a lot of underutilized resources and a lot of needs out of there.”


“Visual Aid” offers outlet, insight into artists with AIDS

Group archives, displays works of hundreds from Bay Area
To help artists who were suffering from life-threatening illnesses, a collective of artists, art collectors and gallery owners began convening at local art spaces in the city in late 1980s. Their mission was to find a means to record the existing works of artists with AIDS and provide them with the materials they needed to create new ones. The group grew into a fullfledged nonprofit called Visual Aid in 1989, and the organization has been supporting hundreds of Bay Area artists since then.


Bay Area nonprofit helps develop affordable medicines for Third World patients

Q&A with OneWorld Health CEO Richard Chin
A South San Francisco nonprofit drug development organization, OneWorld Health, is shattering the conventional profit-generating model of pharmaceutical companies by using a social enterprise approach to global health problems. Richard Chin, an internist and CEO of OneWorld Health, said the organization develops new therapies for diseases where there is either no treatment or the cost of treatment is too high.


Microfinance comes under intense scrutiny for high interest rates, profits

LENDING: Bay Area firms call for greater transparency and education in small-scale loan sector
A spate of suicides and scandals that rocked the microfinance community in South Asia has prompted Bay Area-based microfinance groups to join a growing movement calling for better transparency and education involving small loan distributions.  Kristin Houk, president of San Francisco microcredit group NamasteDirect, said her organization is well aware of the negative press and scrutiny surrounding the microcredit industry. “Unfortunately, there’s a lot of money to be made in microfinance because interest rates can be quite high,” she said, “so people often see it as an opportunity to get in the game.”


Book examines life along Octavia Boulevard

For San Francisco writer Yvonne Daley, the birth of the city’s Octavia Boulevard signified more than a swanky refurbishment of the streets to replace the neighborhood’s dilapidated Central Freeway. The thoroughfare that was created following the ruin of the freeway in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and its impact on the people who resided there, serves as the backdrop for her latest book.

The book, “Octavia Boulevard,” is designed as a memoir, and Daley moves between stories of her life and the people she befriends in the neighborhood, and intertwines snippets about some of the economic and political issues in the city at large — homelessness, drug abuse, housing woes, same-sex marriage — as it relates to those people.


Fund to boost Mid-Market Street cultural district has money but few takers

Small arts groups can’t come up with capital to lease property

An $11 million city fund to create a mid-Market Street cultural district so far has yielded one government loan—to a restaurant—while dozens of small performing arts groups cannot take advantage of the program because of their limited financial resources.

Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the Central Market Cultural District Loan Fund in January as a way to support and concentrate arts groups to bring life back to the city’s long-depressed central corridor. Mid-Market stretches from Fifth to 10th streets on Market Street and from Mason to Larkin streets and up to O’Farrell Street in the Tenderloin, according to the city loan guidelines.


Women’s comedy groups offer another outlet for humor in San Francisco

For the women running the Monday Night Foreplays comedy group, their short skits are an effort to fill a large void that exists in the female sketch comedy scene.

The group’s creators, Ruth Grossinger and Kate Jones, said that women are in the minority in leading sketch comedy groups in the city.

“In San Francisco, there are a lot of sketch comedy groups, but there aren’t a lot of just female-based groups,” said Jones. “The voice for female sketch comedy, not just in the city, but across the board, could definitely be expanded on.”