This Harrowing Story Proves San Francisco Isn’t Kind To Its Teachers

How did a teacher with a full-time job find herself homeless? Blame San Francisco's sheer unaffordability.

Etoria Cheeks was a math teacher at the Academy-San Francisco at McAteer, a public school in California, where she taught algebra and stats and coached badminton.

Little did she know her circumstances would lead her to a homeless shelter.

Cheeks was left desperate, searching for shelter after being turned out from a house where she was renting a room in Daly City. She learned later that the house was foreclosed upon. Cheeks, who moved from Georgia to San Francisco in 2015, had no place to go. With very little friends and no relatives in the extremely expensive city, the school teacher was left helpless.

She had to store all her belongings and pay $30 to $50 a night for dorm beds in downtown hostels. The badminton coach also had to move around because it was prohibited to stay there for more than 14 days.

When she looked for a place to stay at the below-market rental lotteries run by the Mayor’s Office of Housing, she was over-qualified. When she applied for apartments on Craigslist and other sites, everything was unaffordable.

Feeling utterly helpless, the 35-year-old was forced to sleep in a South of Market emergency homeless shelter called A Woman’s Place after all her money ran out.

“I was there for a night, and I was so freaked out,” she said. “I finally went to sleep and woke up the next day and went to work. I didn’t let anyone at the school know.”

She then bough the matter to the teachers’ union seeking help and has since been staying with a retired member in West Portal until she finds permanent housing.

“Technically, I’m still homeless until I have my own lease. San Francisco isn’t geared for me; it’s not built for someone like me,” Cheeks lamented.

San Francisco is among the most expensive cities of the world. But the teacher housing situation in the city is disappointing. According to a report, a San Francisco teacher would need to commute to San Pablo or Pittsburg in order to find an apartment where they would be paying 30 percent or less of their income every month.

So if you make a little over $42K, which is the 60 percent of area median income limit for an individual as of 2015, and have a job alongside like Cheeks, it doesn’t really mean much. Living all alone in a one-bedroom San Francisco apartment will use up 69 percent of the teacher’s income. 

Educators of this city have to pay more of their income for housing than anywhere else in the country, regardless of their level of experience.

San Francisco district officials say salaries of teachers are low because California’s funding for education isn’t keeping pace with the rest of the country, and the district prioritizes spending the money it does get on keeping class sizes small.

Cheeks submitted her resignation after going through this detrimental ordeal and doesn’t know where she will move next. 

 Thumbnail/Banner Credit: Reuters, Reuters


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