Writers Lisa Gray-Garcia and Tony Robles collaborated with the Central City SRO Collaborative of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and residents of San Francisco single room occupancy hotels (SROs) to create Hotel Voices, a 55-minute literary and performance work featuring the voices, stories, and performances of people struggling with poverty.
Hotel Voices addressed the isolation, fear and depression often felt by Bay Area SRO residents and explored the root causes of poverty, homelessness, underemployment, gentrification, mental health, substance use, and disability that are at the core of most SRO residents’ experiences. Gray-Garcia and Robles worked closely with the SRO residents, involving them as cultural historians, writers, and set-designers for the production. The completed play was performed in SRO hotels and small theaters.
Lisa Gray-Garcia is the author of Criminal of Poverty: Growing up Homeless in America and founder of POOR Magazine. She received an Utne Reader Visionary Award in 2009. Tony Robles is a Bay Area artist, poet, and children’s book author who has published work in over 30 publications and anthologies.
The Central City SRO Collaborative has been providing outreach, tenant counseling, and tenant organizing services to San Francisco SRO residents for since the late 1990s. Through its Tenant Representative program SRO residents act as community representatives–organizing regular meetings to address concerns and respond to community issues. The Collaborative provides services for SRO residents that include Code of Enforcement Campaigns, Organizing Skills Trainings, and a Tenant Congress. Through each of these projects, SRO residents are given the opportunity to voice their concerns and ideas. With the Tenant Voices project, the collaborative expanded its programming to include an outlet for clients’ creative expression.