Earlier this week, for VOICE: San Mateo County, we met with over 125 residents and service providers, public officials and advocates, congregational leaders and teachers from San Mateo, Redwood City, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, San Carlos, Daly City, San Bruno, Menlo Park, and South San Francisco. To understand the county, is to understand the diversity of the county.
We want to share with you, and reflect on, what we learned about the lived experiences and stories of the families that were shared with us as we tackle the hard truths of how far too many can’t make ends meet.
The themes of affordability, community and opportunity continually surfaced throughout the day.
Many spoke about the lack of affordable housing, and the isolation particularly for seniors. We also heard about the exodus of people across income and wealth brackets who have been living in San Mateo County for decades.
We heard about how the imbalance between where people are working and where people are living is putting tremendous pressure on the infrastructure of the region. We heard that in many instances the people who are most passionate about the county can no longer live there.
We heard about community and collaboration across sectors as a tremendous source of pride and opportunity. We heard about the importance of lifting up the voices of those who are directly impacted. We also heard that with the great spirit of collaboration, the way resources get allocated to do the work creates tension and at times undermines that spirit.
We heard many speak about opportunity and the multiple barriers that exist for people to access opportunity in San Mateo County. That with great wealth, economic and job creation, and educational opportunities, there are many barriers—barriers of race, language, immigration status and geography across cities and within—to accessing that opportunity.
Collectively, these listening sessions are an important part of setting the course for our work at The San Francisco Foundation in the short and long term. For our work to be effective, it must be grounded in community, in the voices and lived experiences of the residents. And the stories that were shared illustrate the heart of our purpose at this moment in our region, and in our nation.
In addition to the stories we’re hearing as we meet throughout the region, we have an opportunity for you to share your stories with us online as well. This is only the beginning of sharing and building on what we’re hearing, as well as taking action on what we’re learning to expand opportunity in the Bay Area.