Saving People


River Sims.  Photo by Gabriela Hasbun.

River Sims, street priest and outreach worker

“The sense is, it’s really hard to be who you are on Polk Street now. At night the clubs are mostly young, straight kids…[and] you get a lot of homophobic stuff now. And the merchants, certainly, I don’t care what they say, they’re homophobic. And they’re acting that way. And I don’t feel safe out there…and the boys I work with don’t feel safe….There was a sense among the service providers of ‘community,’ and now there’s not. It’s this constant dog-eat-dog world.”


Bill Campbell. Photo by Gabriela Hasbun

Bill Campbell, co-founder of Larkin Street Youth

“I think the neighborhood has improved quite a bit….I don’t see the kids soliciting on the street. I think that Larkin Street has made a very positive contribution to the community in that respect. We’re helping kids to get off the street for good. For their own good, for their own benefit, but also for the good of their community. And I think it’s a win-win solution.”


Megan Rohrer. Photo by Gabriela Hasbun

Megan Rohrer, minister and Executive Director of nonprofit serving the homeless

“It feels like having the argument of homeless people here or not completely misses the point of what’s going on. I think all people need to recognize how they’re contributing to the economy on Polk Street. Homeless people have something to give, and merchants are contributing to the poverty of others by contributing to unhealthy dynamics.”


Donna Saffiati. Photo by Gabriela Hasbun

Donna Saffiati, needle exchange outreach worker.

“It’s unjust, a lot of times, things that happen in the name of gentrification….Because where are the kids…? When they’re trying to get down on crime, where is it going? People are either getting locked up and getting extended sentences, or they’re getting pushed into other areas. They’re just pushing the problem somewhere else…[and] a lot of times [kids] end up in an area where it’s going to be worse.”