A Story of Resilience and Restoration in San Francisco’s Boeddeker Park

Photo courtesy of Henrik Lam

Photo courtesy of Henrik Lam

The Tenderloin, located in downtown San Francisco, is a neighborhood spanning 40 blocks. It is home to nearly 35,000 residents, many of whom are low-income immigrants. 

Giving her neighbors a voice

Born in the Philippines, Listana moved to the Tenderloin when she was eight years old. More than a decade later in the summer of 2017, Listana was going into her Junior year at UC Berkeley and interning for the Saint Francis Foundation. As data storytelling intern, Listana showcased the Tenderloin's resiliency. Listana felt the challenges and obstacles she faced growing up in the Tenderloin as a low-income immigrant were a reflection of her community’s culture of “resilience in the struggle.” 

In addition, she wanted to challenge perceptions of the Tenderloin focused solely on high rates of drug and crime activity. “I want to paint a picture that these snap judgements are not a representation of the residents who live in this community," Listana says.

While the neighborhood has historically been defined by its high rates of drug and crime activity, Listana did not feel this was accurate. “I want to paint a picture that these snap judgements are not a representation of the residents who live in this community.”

Using LiveStories Listana retold the story.

Repainting the story using LiveStories

In her LiveStory Listana describes the renovation of Boeddeker Park. This was a project led by the Saint Francis Foundation's Tenderloin Health Improvement Project which is dedicated to addressing health equity and improving health outcomes in the Tenderloin. Her story features a map of service organizations, an informational video, and numerous charts which visualize the impact the project has had on the community. Listana describes her experience with LiveStories saying, “I loved the user-friendliness of it.” 

The renovation of Boeddeker Park was the perfect investment as it met all three of TLHIP’s priorities: ensuring safety, increasing opportunities for physical activity, and building community connections to support health and well-being. “It had the right balance of promise and change,” said Director of Saint Francis Foundation Jennifer Kiss.

Transforming Boeddeker

Listana recalled how growing up Boeddeker Park was known as the most dangerous part of the Tenderloin. Activity in the park became so dangerous at one point that the parks department decided to close the gates for good.

Because of the park’s dark history, many community members advocated for the park's  rehabilitation. “ They wanted to have an active park where a neighborhood that has such a dense population of children can actually feel safe and have their own fitness activities,” said Listana.

Currently, The Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco is the “master tenant” of Boeddeker Park. As the master tenant, they partner with organizations like the YMCA to run park activities and programs year-round including a cup of coffee in the mornings and a prepared dinner for all youth who attend after-school activities at the YMCA. In addition to nutrition and exercise, safety is a high priority. TLHIP received a safety grant which went towards stationing a police officer in the park. "When you’re inside the park, you’re going to be safe, and you’re going to be engaged," Kiss says.

The data doesn't lie. A survey conducted by TLHIP and the Boys & Girls Club show after the renovation 95 percent of people perceive Boeddeker Park is safe. 

Following the renovation of Boeddeker Park, in 2015 the Tenderloin Health Improvement Project (TLHIP) was one of 24 organizations to receive funding from the International Healthcare Institution (IHI), as a part of IHI’s initiative 100 Million Healthier Lives. A LiveStories customer, 100 Million Healthier Lives is a collaboration of change agents with the goal of  making 100 million people healthier by the year 2020. As one of the core values of 100 MHL’s SCALE (Spreading Community Accelerators through Learning and Evaluation) initiative is using data and stories to drive improvement and monitor impact, and the LiveStories platform was the perfect fit for many of the awardees. 

While Listana wishes she had had a safe park to play in growing up, she is glad it exists now.