A FEATURE DOCUMENTARY about Trauma Informed Community Building
A FEATURE DOCUMENTARY about Trauma Informed Community Building
A modern day story that confronts poverty and segregation in San Francisco. What happens when a child has been exposed to trauma? Starting with this question our film will unveil the transformative journey as residents from Potrero Hill public housing work to build a better future for their children, their families and their community. While their neighborhood is undergoing a long and stressful rebuild, they are supported by community leaders who model new behavior and provide the tools and services to help families cope with adversity and build resilience. This is the story of a well informed and strategic attempt to end three generations of poverty; an initiative to confront racism and heal by working together to co-create an empowered, compassionate and supportive community.
This is the story of specific residents living in Potrero Hill Public Housing. The documentary will use the lens of Trauma Informed Community Building, an innovative idea that empowers people to respond to a cycle of poverty, racial injustice and institutional racism. The film will give voice to specific, carefully curated public housing residents experiencing the remaking of their community as they undergo the process of redevelopment.
Our production team has spent nearly a year building trust, access and relationships in the community. We have a deep understanding of a variety of stories that will paint a rich and colorful picture of what is happening in the community. We are documenting the challenges and process of overcoming them as they experience the rebuilding of their community. We film regularly with various residents and have begun capturing a first hand look at the Trauma Informed Community Building model. There is great conflict in the community but we have focused on capturing a hopeful perspective of the journey of empowerment as residents work to break their community’s generational cycle of poverty.
Much like the process of redeveloping a community, this film will be a longitudinal story. Generational poverty doesn’t end with the flip of a switch; it takes just as long to restore equity as it does to dismantle it. The film will seek to understand the sentiment and challenges the community feel and face by telling the story of existing residents, the players managing the rebuild project and those who seeks to restore equity. We will be releasing short films along the way that will ultimately culminate in a feature documentary. We are currently seeking funding for production and post-production. We have already aggregated eight months of footage that we have edited into a preliminary eight minute proof of concept film. Please consider supporting this project so we can continue to tell this story.
The Potrero Hill public housing community is comprised of the Terrace and Annex, both marginalized, underserved and predominantly minority San Francisco communities. Residents have been promised a new era for their families living in Terrace and Annex, one of the oldest, low income, African American communities in San Francisco. During the next 10 years this neighborhood will be transformed into a mixed income community.
Potrero Terrace and Annex (PTA) is one of San Francisco’s oldest public housing sites. PTA’s families and children experience high levels of stress due to poverty, crime, violence and health disparities. The community, marginalized and underserved has experienced segregation for decades.
The housing was built shortly after the second world war and is in complete disrepair. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can no longer afford to maintain the property. It is now under the control of Hope SF and Bridge Housing. The community now faces a complete rebuild of their community. Planning began in 2011 and the reconstruction started in 2018. After years of meetings and planning the first building, Block X, is about to be finished.
Approximately 1,300 residents live in 606 apartments on 38 acres of land that is physically isolated from the rest of the Potrero Hill neighborhood and the city of San Francisco. The residents are socially and economically isolated, and live below the poverty line with an average annual income of $16,557. In great contrast with the rest of the neighborhood and the city of San Francisco where the annual average income is respectively of $152,431 and $125,474.
Everyone living in the community has been promised a new unit by the time the project is complete but the rules for qualifying have not been made transparent and many residents have expressed they would difficult to meet. This has created considerable stress and anxiety within the community.
The vision for the new community is racial diversity and mixed income with the market rate units helping to subsidize the cost of the affordable housing. Many of the existing residents are tired of the crime and poverty of their community and are excited for the rebuild; others have expressed fear and even doubt they will receive the unit they are being promised. What is clear is that between now and 2028, everyone in this community will undergo a complete redevelopment of the place they live. This film will capture stories that document experiences throughout this journey.
Over the past eight months we’ve met an incredible ensemble of individuals from the Potrero Hill Housing Community. Most are residents who are prospering despite all odds. They have been incredibly gracious with their time enabling us to capture their stories. Others include change makers working at the ground level to implement the Trauma Informed Community Building Process. Meet a few of them below.
Eddie & Brenda Kittrel. Eddie and his wife Brenda are among the old leaders in the community. They have lived here for decades; since they had their first daughter 30 years ago. Despite the poverty, they consider this place home. Like other residents in the neighborhood they want outsiders to see them for who they are; smart, loving, active residents of San Francisco. Eddie is a veteran. After serving his country he struggled to rebuild his life, and found himself a product of an unsupportive, discriminatory social system; he and his wife Brenda were homeless in San Francisco and using drugs. With some help they had the chance at an apartment in Potrero Hill where they raised their children and continue caring for their grandchildren.
They have seen this place change significantly over the years, becoming poor and unsafe, where drug dealers, shootings and crimes have become part of the narrative of their neighborhood. Like many other residents, they have mixed feelings about the rebuild, many promises have been broken and they feel they have lost their agency in the process of remaking their community. They fear the risk of displacement. Brenda and Eddie are guardians for some of their grandchildren; they can’t afford market rate rent but don’t want to lose their long standing community. They are determined to fight to stay in Potrero, to help their family and their community through these adversities. “Holding on to what they have is extremely important here for people, and this is their home” - Jennifer Dhillon (ED, Healthy Generations Project).
Jennifer Dhillon. Jennifer is the executive director of Healthy Generations Project. She started the program in the community to support people like Eddie and Brenda who have committed to change the narrative as “community healthy leaders”. Jennifer’s program is based on the Trauma Informed Care model, which acknowledges the importance of healing trauma as the center of building a healthy community. Much of the trauma is a product of the systemic, historic legacy of institutional racism, but part is also due to the anxiety and stress created by the rebuild.
“The trauma is entrenched in the brain, that’s why this is difficult, so what helps is offering people a safe place for them and for their children, cooking and serving meals together, offering the kids school tutoring, reading time, care and support, walking them to school, celebrating achievements, training the parents to cope with trauma and adversity and simply letting them know that they are loved,” Jennifer says. “Why don’t we look at Potrero as a resilient community?” Building resilience is necessary in order to overcome adversity and have trust in the future, to be able to bounce back.
Jennifer has set the goal for the next challenge: they want to give their children a higher level of education and are helping parents to enroll them in the language immersion programs in two of the mixed income public school in the neighborhood. One of the pillars of Jennifer’s program is education as a way to break the cycle of poverty and segregation for the next generations.
Monica Bahgwan. Monica works with residents every week in her kitchen. On the surface she’s teaching them to cook nutritional food, using organic products and discovering local creatively prepared dishes. As you dig deeper you learn that her model in the kitchen supports healing by bringing people closer and allowing them to have an open and constructive conversation about what is happening in their lives. “It’s not easy, people are struggling with all kind of problems here. Many of the residents suffer from mental illness, had or still have drugs or alcohol addiction, have experienced domestic violence, have been incarcerated, or are single moms with no income,” Monica says.
Steve Pulliam. Steve is the manager of the Texas Street Farm, a community tended garden. Over the years he has seen how people have changed. “When they come to the garden they get to know each other, they talk, support each other, they are part of something bigger. They have learned how to grow and harvest organic nutritional food. This has improved their lives on multiple levels.” The goal of the program is to establish a foundation for the next generation by establishing roots to grow as healthy, vibrant San Franciscans.
Mama religiously attends the community walking club which builds community by engaging with residents during a bi-weekly walking club.
Niesha participates in a cooking class. She loves inventing new recipes and prepares food regularly for other residents attending the community building workshops.
We have specific goals that have been developed through listening to and collaborating with residents living in the community.
The residents are leading and directing how this story is told. Our project gives residents agency to voice, guide, direct and oversee how their community develops. The residents from the public housing community are empowered to create the change they want to see in their community.
We are working to bridge two distinct segments of the Potrero Hill community, the have’s and the have-nots. We’re working with existing programs and developing new ones to create a natural, healthy integrated community in Potrero Hill.
We’re seeking to end policy that perpetuates segregation, discrimination, institutional racism and poverty.
Our advisor teams will be crucial for the success of this project. We are currently assemble to teams of advisors. The first is focused on residents from the community who will play an active role in how the film is shaped and how their story is told. We believe this approach empowers residents to have agency as their story is told, which breaks from the a narrative that often exploits individuals experiencing poverty. Our second team of advisors will be comprised of experts in the fields of urban development, trauma informed community building, racial and economic justice and film production.
Emily is the founder of Emily Weinstein Consulting. She is an experienced Housing and Community Development Strategist with a demonstrated history of working in the affordable housing and real estate industry. She has a strong background in large scale neighborhood revitalization projects, complex public-private partnerships, public engagement, community building and social impact evaluation.
Donald runs CARE which focuses on providing resources for youth in the community. He has been a resident since 2001 and has lived in San Francisco public housing his entire life.
Sara lives in Potrero and sits on the Board of Prefund, an organization with a mission to ensure that families with a diverse range of income can live in and raise their children in Potrero Hill.
Ken is the founder and creative director of Truth Be Told, a social impact documentary film production company based in San Francisco. He's an Emmy nominated filmmaker on a mission to create positive social transformation. Ken has more than 10 years directing, shooting, producing and editing social justice documentary films.
Mariangela is a journalist and a filmmaker passionate about the intersection between storytelling and social justice. In her 15+ years of experience, Mariangela has researched, written, and produced stories for a variety of print, online and radio news outlets including Avvenire, Grazia, De Agostini, Velvet, D la Repubblica, DLui, RadioInblu. She currently writes for the Italian media group La Repubblica and the Italian newspaper Avvenire, and resides in the Portrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco.