By Alexandra Fradelizio | m/Oppenheim Media Writer
When Hollywood legend Francis Ford Coppola first founded North Beach Citizens in 2001, he sought to address the prevalence of homelessness within his San Francisco community. In the 1990s, the “Godfather” director lived in the Telegraph Hill area of North Beach and often saw the same people living on the streets whenever he would walk to his office or local coffee shops. Coppola began to speak with residents, merchants, and public service officers about the pressing homeless issue and wanted to help those who were being neglected by society. He quickly discovered that no services were being offered to the homeless in North Beach and that many were unable to travel to the Tenderloin district were more programs were available. The lack of services and the growing homeless population prompted Coppola to start North Beach Citizens in order to “innovatively address the issue of homelessness and to serve low income clients and homeless clients in an atmosphere of trust, dignity, and respect,” said the organization’s executive director Kristine Fairchild.
Today, North Beach Citizens continues Coppola’s mission by providing education, counseling, addiction prevention, food services, and other support to those living in the District 3 area of San Francisco. While a large concentration of North Beach’s homeless population is centralized in Washington Square Park, the organization’s outreach impacts parts of the city’s Financial District and Fisherman’s Wharf.
“Our main goal is to ensure that this area is addressed,” explained Fairchild of the organization’s outreach.
“We really have created a place within the community as a nonprofit serving the homeless and low income.”
The goal of North Beach Citizens is two-fold: the organization not only provides services to have participants’ needs met but also helps homeless individuals in becoming contributing members of society. One of the main programs that assists participants to become employees in a working environment is the Street Beautification Program. Every day, participants clean San Francisco’s streets, particularly areas that are popular tourist destinations. The program allows previously homeless individuals to build the confidence needed in order to begin a new chapter within their lives.
“Every person that has ever gone through that program over the years has found housing because of their commitment not only to that program but to themselves,” said Fairchild of the Street Beautification’s participants.
In order to help individuals become independent, North Beach Citizens provides services indefinitely until clients no longer need them. The organization’s community based approach allows all individuals, regardless of their age, to benefit from their programs as staff often conduct outreach to ensure that those who are living on the streets have their basic needs met.
While the services change the lives of hundreds each year, North Beach Citizens continues to locate affordable housing within the ever-growing and gentrifying city of San Francisco. The organization aligns with other nonprofits that focus solely on providing affordable housing. With initiatives started by San Francisco’s new mayor London Breed, North Beach Citizens plans to increase its role within District 3 by becoming “a serious change and a model” for other organizations, stated Fairchild.
Fairchild, who was originally recruited as the nonprofit’s executive director in 2003, has helped to revolutionize North Beach Citizens by creating an organization were all services can be provided to participants in one centralized location. She was initially recruited by Coppola who viewed Fairchild’s arts background as an asset in order to creatively end San Francisco’s homeless crisis. Observing how homeless individuals often had to wait 4-5 hours each day to receive food and other basic services, Fairchild aimed to reinstate a sense of trust for those who were failed by government systems and to “ensure that the community is being taken care of.”
Today, North Beach Citizens is continuing Coppola’s mission in alleviating homelessness throughout San Francisco. As the homeless population continues to surge due to a lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area, Fairchild remains determined to provide quality services and welcome “all community, all people.”