I grew up in San Francisco and recently moved back. Having seen public housing all over the world, some of it from a professional standpoint, I cannot agree more with the earlier poster. If fact, let me reiterate and restate the earlier poster's comment. Do not live in San Francisco public housing. Seriously.
Also I really don't see why you think you need to live in "the projects" if you're doing public interest work. At all. There are plenty of people doing public interest in this city, and none that I know live in public housing. Many share bedrooms or space with like-minded individuals in the Mission, Outer Mission, Dogpatch, or Potrero Hill, all of which have some reasonably priced share-options and are much less uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
Thank you. I appreciate the input. However, can you tell me why it's worse? Is the housing in really poor quality (i.e. cockroaches, rats, walls falling apart)? Is there a relatively high chance of getting mugged or harmed?
I'm interested in living in public housing because: 1) I should qualify for subsidized rent; and, 2) being in the shoes of the people you represent is different from being around "like minded" people.
Any help is appreciated. Thank You.
P.S. I plan on living in public housing during law school. After law school I have NO
intent on living in public housing.
In all fairness, there is/has been a huge move to improve and rebuild them. The set of buildings on between Valencia and Guerrero at 14th Street is a good example of this. However, it is slow going, and in some cases even the replacement housing has quickly become pretty shady (some of the Cesar Chavez buildings for example).
The actual buildings of a majority of the projects are very old -- new construction is the exception rather than the rule. Many of the buildings date to the 1970's, have dubious handicapped access, limited ventilation, and a host of structural issues (keep in mind that this is after all earthquake country, so that's really something to worry about). For an example, look at the projects in the Western Addition.
There's a pretty high rate of crime in many of the projects in the city. Break-ins are common. As are drug use and, though to a lesser obvious degree these days, prostitution. I walked by the Valencia projects the other day at about 6pm (which are miles and miles better than many of the projects as they were recently rebuilt) and found myself in front of a very large, very high woman dressed in a pink tank top and a purple thong. And that was it. No shoes. No pants. A couple of hours later I walked by again and she was still wandering up and down the sidewalk, threatening passersby. The Mission as a whole has had an uptick in gang violence recently, particularly around the projects -- I've heard from people working in the at-risk industry that gentrification has made "territories" more compact and hotly disputed than before.
I completely agree with you that it's important to understand the populace that you're serving. However, I think it's very possible to do that without putting yourself in harms way. I love this city, and have lived/would live in the Mission/Outer Mission or the Western Addition, where you will absolutely encounter (and can easily work with) the populations that you will be serving.
Living directly in the heart of chaos just doesn't strike me as the most conducive living situation for succeeding in law school, particularly your first year.
Edit: I feel I should qualify my analysis here by saying that there are some very decent public housing projects in San Francisco, and I don't think that public housing is awful, just that it desperately needs to be reformed. Those buildings are
limited, and typically have special criteria for qualification.
If you qualify for Section 8 vouchers, that may be a route to take to defray some of your housing costs. You would then likely live in a building with people requiring some public assistance (landlords that will take Section 8 tend to have several renters using them) and it would probably be a much less stressful option.
Good luck, and welcome to San Francisco