Robin’s Housing Story

Image of two adult light skin black women. They are each smiling at the camera outdoors. One is has mid length wavy hair with a head ban and black shirt. The other has short hair with glasses and has colored pink and blue flag over shoulders with headphones around her neck.

Robin (shown on left), a Disability and Sexual/Reproductive Health Consultant, joined our first Community Meeting for The Kelsey in San Francisco. She met with us to share her own experiences with affordable, accessible housing. Robin not only elevates the need for affordable homes but for explicitly racially-just, disability-inclusive communities. Her experience hasn’t been a positive one, even in “San Francisco–a place that is known for accepting those who have been marginalized." We’re grateful to incorporate Robin’s experience and insights into The Kelsey Civic Center’s development process, as she will join us as a member of the Civic Center Community Advisory Group.

Follow Robin on Twitter @sexAbled and learn more about Robin’s work at www.robinwb.com

“Thinking back to my housing search, I get mad all over again, because it was so hard and upsetting. I looked for months and months because I couldn’t find accessible housing. The place I was moving from had stairs leading up to it and the elevator was built in 1918. I remember getting stuck in that elevator and I didn’t want to call the fire department because I was afraid that if they came, they would stop the elevator from working and that wasn’t an option for me. So I knew I needed to leave.

For months, I went to service providers, and there was nothing. I went to different apartment buildings and as soon as I asked about below market rate options, they stopped talking to me. I don’t qualify for housing subsidies because I’m married, and my husband makes some money. My husband also has a disability and if it wasn’t for his job and his white male privilege, we likely would be in a very different situation. But even with his income, it’s still a challenge to find housing that we can afford.

Eventually, I found a one-bedroom apartment on Craigslist, that was accessible and affordable enough. It’s a condo that we rent from the owner, and one of us, the residents, had to be at least 55 years old or have proof of disability. So we qualified, and are now living here. The condo is accessible, even the sinks are accessible. 

But it hasn’t been easy. While I’ve come to terms with my housing, now I’m encountering a new issue in my neighborhood. When I go to a local business for the first time, I feel so stereotyped. People assume I will steal. Before I even leave the house, I feel I always have to be made up because I’m Black and Disabled. I’m paying too much money to be treated like this in San Francisco–a place that is known for accepting those have been marginalized. Microaggressions topped on top of eachother. The fact that I’m surprised when I’m greeted in friendly ways is NOT OK. It is hard to feel part of my community. On top of all this, I have a 15 year old son and with our 1 bedroom condo, there is not enough space, especially amidst COVID19 and shelter in place. 

So for my own safety and health, I’ve decided that I need to live around other people of color. My solution is that in order to find this kind of community, I need to take my housing search to the East Bay. But I have stress and anger about starting this housing process again because I know how hard it is to find accessible, affordable and inclusive housing. It is hard even if you have the money – it is hard.”

Stories by The Kelsey are collected to illustrate the housing issues facing people with disabilities and to elevate the voices of adults with disabilities and their families. If you’d like to share your housing story, contact us.

Housing Stories