A New Beginning

Women's Building in San Francisco provide resources for struggling women

July 7, 2017


soaked, sidewalk sized garage is home, sweet home, to a family of six in the Mission District of San Francisco. The baby and the seven-year-old cram into the crib, the mother and two children fill the bottom of the bunk bed, and the father takes the top. As the leaking water heater immerses the floor with liquid, the damp condition infects the kids with rashes. The fear of their neighbors seeing them keeps them from rolling up their garage and airing their home out. They are afraid to be correctly identified as undocumented immigrants.

This family is supported by the Women’s Building, and in association with the Mission Economic Development Association (META), the Building provided eight women in the mission with cameras so they could document their living situations. These women along with 25,000 more use the ten plus non-profits that the Women’s Building provide.

Tatjana Loh’s job is to raise money so the Women’s Building can offer free social services. In non-profit work, groups of people receive the free assistance but the money has to come from others who are not necessarily using the support they are praying for.


The Women’s Building Developmental Director, Tatjana Loh, provides an insider perspective on what this organization does for the women of San Francisco.

She explains that not everyone understands why the Women’s Building is still needed, but strongly answers that in the Bay Area, “there’s unequal pay for equal work, there’s still sexual violence just because you’re female, there’s still burden of child care on women versus men, and there’s still reproductive rights issues just because you’re female.” She says this then, “expands into LGBT and trans so [she thinks] right now it’s all that intersectionality that’s being dealt with.” Because of all this discrimination, there is still a need to champion the causes for women, according to Loh.


The building was founded in 1971 to support women in need. Now it provides free computer labs, weekly food pantries, job search programs, anti-rape support centers, restraining order clinics, and tech tutoring. Their immigration help service, however, is a prevalent center of attention. Children who cross from Central and South America into our southern border use the immigrant services that the Women’s Building put into place seven years ago. In partnership with Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services, the Women’s Building helps these immigrants with getting fingerprinting and documentation processes done. They also help immigrants get out of custody when needed. If caught by border patrol, these refugees are detained. However, if they have a family member in the United States, the Women’s Building allows the member to sponsor the immigrant and get them out of detention.


The Women’s Building also has a membership organization specifically aimed to teach Latina immigrants about their rights. Many of these women work for people, cleaning their clothes or taking care of their families. They are often underpaid, receive no sick leave, and work in bad conditions. This program does a lot of advocacy to have better workplace protection for these ladies.


According to Loh, these immigration organizations have seen their downfall since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The services started with around 50 to 80 fingerprinting applications and grew last December to the mid 100s. In January, there were over 200 appointments, but after the inauguration there were about 100. In April, there were approximately 20.  The numbers dropped significantly because people are scared to come forward.


“That’s a visible impact of the election,” according to Loh.


The Women’s Building provides the services struggling women need to feel strongly supported. From free computer training to anti-rape and immigrant services, this organization changes the lives of women in the Mission District of San Francisco and all over the world. Without the Women’s Building and associations supporting harassed individuals, these women would not receive the justice they deserve as fellow human beings.


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