In Conversation with Isaac Haney-Owens, Golden Gate Regional Center Board Member

Isaac, a black young man, wearing a suit and eye glasses next to his art featured at Creativity Explored

We met Isaac in one of our first focus groups back in 2015. We were excited to reconnect in our Together We Can Do More initiative this past year. Isaac is a Golden Gate Regional Center Board member and an artist. Born in Oakland and living San Francisco, some of Isaac’s favorite art subjects include the build environment, Bay Area landscapes, and local neighborhoods. When he’s not making art about cities, Isaac is an advocate working with organizations like The Kelsey to make cities more accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities. He’s joined us in Sacramento to meet with state policymakers, attended local convenings, and regularly shares insights about how to design buildings and communities where all people are welcome and supported.

This week, an exhibit Isaac curated opens at Creativity Explored. ‘CityScape’ explores life and art in urban environments. The Kelsey is excited to sponsor the opening reception this Thursday, July 18. Learn more and RSVP to join us here.

In the meantime, we sat down with Isaac to talk about his journey to independent living and his advocacy to make ‘Cityscapes’ accessible and inclusive of all people.

1) You live in San Francisco. Tell us about your home.

I love that I live alone with no roommates. My apartment is downtown, close to everything, and the people who work in the building are supportive of me.

2) How did you find your current apartment? What was that process like?

First, I completed an independent living skills program to get the skills I needed to live independently. Then, I started applying for an affordable housing unit through the Mayor’s Office of Housing. That process was complicated because I needed to submit all these documents and documentation about my income so they know I qualified.

3) How can policymakers make applying for affordable housing more accessible for people with disabilities?

They need to make this process easier for people with disabilities to understand. I couldn’t have done it on my own. We need more affordable housing for people with disabilities in the Bay Area and in other regions where housing is really expensive. People should have choice where they live, and who they live with. Not all housing works for everybody. I like The Kelsey’s approach because its set up to accommodate for all people, including people with disabilities and their needs.  

4) Even though you have housing, you continue to advocate locally and at the state level for more housing. Why?

I did get housing, but I also got help. Not everybody gets help.

They should know that housing is a right. It’s a right for people to have housing; they deserve housing. They shouldn’t be stuck living in a home, or living with families, they should have their own housing. Housing should be for everybody, not just for certain people. I also have a message for developers. Don’t just think about how much money you can make on a building. Think about the fact that people need housing that accomodates their needs. It can’t just be all about the money, and how much money you can make off a tenant. Think about those that are less fortunate.

Thank you Isaac and we can’t wait to see your exhibit this Thursday!