The startling findings of a San Francisco Asian and Pacific Islander Health and Wellness report challenged the perception that Asians are one of the most successful and well-educated ethnic groups. The report revealed the mounting struggles that APIs living in San Francisco face, including having the highest rate of poverty. The neighborhood-by-neighborhood analysis was commissioned by the API Council, a coalition of 30 San Francisco-based non-profits. Some of the report's key findings include:
The Hidden Struggles of San Francisco's API Community
We spoke with Sarah Wan, Executive Director of Community Youth Center, an Asian Pacific Fund affiliate, to get her take on the report and the importance of its findings.
APF: You were part of the group (API Council) that put together this report. Why is this study important?
- Between 2007 and 2012, the number of APIs living in poverty increased by 43%—more than any other ethnic group.
- The unemployment rate of Asians (7%) and Pacific Islanders/Native Hawaiians (14%) is substantially higher than the city average (5%).
- Roughly 86% of the 23,000 children in southern neighborhoods do not have a childcare option near their homes.
With this data, we can really show that the need for support for APIs in San Francisco is real and urgent. It’s a response to cuts in social service programs and a way to challenge misconceptions about Asians in this city.
APF: What do you consider to be some of the key takeaways?
That poverty is a major issue for Asians in San Francisco. And it’s not just in the eastern part of the city (Chinatown, Tenderloin, Downtown), but there is significant poverty on the west side of the city as well. The west side is totally overlooked. We found overcrowding, four or five families in one home, and a total lack of childcare options for working families.
APF: What issues are Community Youth Center working to address?
We provide Behavioral Health, Leadership Development, Education, Workforce Development, Intervention and Street Outreach programs for youth. We started 44 years ago with 12 staff members and today have over 45 full-time and 44 part-time staff serving 5,000 API youth a year. We have waiting lists for our programs and see lots of demand—
especially from newly arrived API immigrants.
APF: What are your hopes for this report?
We know we have the programs that can guide youth, especially immigrant youth, through the American social and educational system. Our hope is that with this report, decision makers see that APIs, which make up 35% of the city, have significant needs that can’t be overlooked.
APF: What kind of support do API non-profit organizations need?
Support for capacity building, which means building an organization’s infrastructure and sustainability, is crucial. For CYC, that means developing databases, expanding fundraising and building a strategic plan. It’s hard to get funding for capacity building. Asian Pacific Fund understands how important this is to an organization’s future and is supporting our capacity building at CYC with a three-year grant.