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‘This shouldn’t be normal’: Tenderloin parents grapple with neighborhood woes

The daily hardships Adama Bryant witnesses around her apartment in the Tenderloin neighborhood, where she’s raising three children, are all too familiar. 

Growing up in the Plaza East housing projects, many of Bryant’s family members struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Her sister died, in part, because of continuous drug abuse. And over 30 years ago, someone shot and killed her uncle just around the block from where she lives now.

Despite decades of dealing with the issues the Tenderloin faces, Bryant, like so many others, still feels she doesn’t have clarity on a good solution. While many Tenderloin residents have asked for more police presence in the neighborhood, Bryant contends that the answer isn’t that simple.  

“The police have not been kind to Black folks. We know better,” Bryant said. “That would be generalizing a situation that can’t be generalized.” 

But Bryant also said that she’s never felt so unsafe on San Francisco’s streets, prompting her to join a group of residents who met with Mayor London Breed to plead for better conditions last November. She said that the neighborhood is a containment zone, not only for the city’s drug and crime woes, but also for low-income parents and children who stay in San Francisco to pursue their dreams. 

“I don’t hear too many people talking about the kids,” Bryant said. “The long term impact is this deep sense that I’m not worth that much in my life, and what I do is not impactful.” 

The meeting with Breed set off a string of fiery press conferences and hearings from city officials. In the subsequent weeks, the mayor called for immediate police deployment and an emergency ordinance to expedite shelter, mental health and drug addiction services for those living on the neighborhood’s sidewalks. 

Since January, the city has reported cleaning up over 1,500 tons of waste in the neighborhood and the police department has seized over 15 kilograms of fentanyl.  

But none of it has produced lasting change, according to residents. Bryant, as well as other local parents, say that the neighborhood may actually look worse than it did before.  

“They’ll probably have to do this the rest of their life to fully clean the streets,” Bryant said. “It’s horrible—that this is normal, that I can’t live without playing hopscotch over poop.”

David Sjostedt can be reached at