Terrance has been working with Hunters Point Family as a public space steward for Civic Center for about four months. He likes being a steward but at times it can be challenging work.
“It has its good points and its bad points for me. But for the most part, I really love interacting with the people. I meet people from all over the world here and that’s great. The most challenging thing for me is seeing all the mean things that go on down here for us. So many people on drugs, so many women and children are homeless out here. There’s so many resources out here but drugs had ‘em in a strong hold and that’s really sad to me because I get too involved with the people. That’s the part of me that want to leave this job because I just get too involved. I meet people and I find myself worried. Are they alright or not? Do they have enough clothes to stay warm? A guy called me today and I have a jacket in my car for him right now because it’s really, really cold out here. So that’s the challenge I have with doing this job. I just get too involved.”
“I had officers say ‘Terrance look, you and your coworker need to stop giving some of the ladies money. And then some of ‘em you know, you have to watch it because they play on you. And I wouldn’t think you would do that, you wouldn’t use your kids to get money for drugs but they do. I see it a lot here but I still care about the people. I care about them being safe, being warm. These people down here, a lot of ‘em is forgotten about. Who cares about them? A lot of people don’t care about them. It keeps me strong mentally that I could be one of them too. Easily, you could be one of them…So that’s why, in a sense it makes me a stronger person because I see what hell can look like, excuse my language. Just seeing some of the faces. That breaks my heart sometimes, what you see. I guess it’s my age or my relationship with Jehovah God that has me just wanting to help. The flip side to that, you meet some awesome people…I just met a lady from China the other day and I gave her directions to Alamo Square. She’s like ‘Terrance, can I get a picture with you?’ and I got pictures of people from all over the world and that’s the great part. That’s the good part. And I tell them where to go and where not to go. I give ‘em one of my business cards and tell ‘em ‘if it don’t seem right, call the police then call Terrance and I’m gonna call the police too.’”
Terrance recently moved back to San Francisco after leaving eighteen years ago. He thinks the Civic Center has changed dramatically.
“Before this was not really much of a good area. Right here in this very place that we’re standing, a lot of drugs and bad people here. It would be totally unsafe. You know, they say ‘bad associations spoil your useful habits’ so no I wouldn’t [hang out here].”
Now Terrance believes Hunter’s Point Family and the stewardship program has helped improve the Civic Center.
“The stewardship here, the guys here keep it safe for everybody. You could [still] see the drugs, there’s still activities around here but for the most part at seven in the morning until seven at night, it’s amazing out here. We’re like tour guides, we help people with directions. We help save lives. I give a reference to people that’s homeless. I tell ‘em to go to ACCESS center for jobs. If they coming down off drugs, I send them to Ms. Lizzett at the methadone clinic; so I’m a resource guy for the people out here.”
“I think Hunters Point Family has something to do with some parts of controlling the mass drug use…Today you have people comin’ out of buildings from their work all around here. Coming up from the Financial District to sit down here and eat. Come to walk on the Quiet Walk*. People coming out the Federal building to sit out here and eat their lunch and know we got they back. When the schools come down here, I stand back so I can watch all the kids, make sure they safe, make sure nobody is using drugs. That’s the part that I like, where the kids can come and have a safe place to be.”
Terrance’s favorite Sound Commons Installation is the Quiet Walk in UN Plaza.
“All the kids, they come there and they love it and all of them are winners. They love it so I really like for the kids to be happy to have some kind of enjoyment. Like I said, we keep the drug dealers and the drug users away so the kids can kick back and just have fun. Even if they don’t have any money, they can still have fun. The children that live in the TL, they don’t have anything to do with they mom and dad having them in the Tenderloin. So they need a safe place too where they can come and just have fun with no money. So that’s the good part. And I think that the Exploratorium done an excellent job to give the kids fun. They learn to just have fun. And with me, I don’t care if, on the Quiet Walk it’s loud, all the kids are winners.”
Terrance says having access to the public spaces in the Civic Center is meaningful for many of the City’s vulnerable populations.
“It’s a place where they do dinner programs, nuns bring food here, and I think they enjoy [this place] because it’s safe when we out here, it’s clean when we out here, there’s no needles on the ground when we out here, so I know at some point during the day this can be just a safe place for ‘em. They can come and wait in the line or they can lay down and sleep and not be worried. The other day there was a girl that was laying down sleeping and there was a guy giving her a rough time. I came by and told him “Look man, leave her alone,” while being as stern and humble as possible. Just because she’s homeless, she deserves to be in a safe place. She needs her rest. And she cried to me and I just had to hold her back and say ‘It’s OK, he’s gone’. But I had like two people come and just say ‘That was awesome’, and so there’s not enough caring in the world at times for me. You know, for people that really care about people. I don’t look for anything in return but I know my God gonna make sure I be OK. It’s bittersweet for me down here. Like I said I really get involved with the people too much and I haven’t learned how to cut that off.”
Terrance thinks that not only did Civic Center change since he left, but also San Francisco.
“I think with San Francisco, I see there’s been so many changes. Everything is really, really expensive here. And I see so many buildings that’s been put up. So the poor people of San Francisco, they don’t have a chance. Even the working class, they really don’t have a chance here. So where do them people go when they can’t afford housing? So they’re throwin’ them out. That’s why you see so many homeless people, it’s just people can’t afford it here. So it breaks my heart sometimes to see the conditions of people.”
Despite how difficult it can be for Terrance to witness the things he does throughout his shifts, he likes that he can help in his own way.
“I like to be in a position where I can be of help to people and be kind to people. I wasn’t always this person, I’ve been this person since 2010. So that’s how I live my life and it’s good. I’ve been truly blessed too. I thank you for this opportunity to share because I most definitely have something to say. I think it’s a great thing you’re doing to get some of the people talk about how they truly feel about this place. Even some of the homeless people. Some of the people that’s going up to the methadone clinic up there, they come down here and play. A guy asked me the other day, ‘How much does it cost to do this? To walk on the Quiet Walk to do this?’, and I told him, ’All this gonna cost you is a smile’, and he smiled and he was happy and he laughed about it.”
Terrance’s most memorable experience was helping someone feel at home when they were far away from home.
“This young girl, an exchange student from China, she would come by here every day just to talk and we would tell her what places to go. And she was without her family so me and my co-worker, we made her feel like she was family. We would eat, go get her a soda or water and we’d just talk to her and she felt safe. When she came here she wasn’t so tense. I haven’t seen her in about a month. And to be honest, her old man was kinda worried about her. I hope she went home. Her learning and seeing her making progress with a place that she’s never been in, that was the greatest for me.”