Dorothy and her two children smiling towards the camera, sitting outside on a sunny day.

United We Stand: Meet Dorothy, a Proud Sunnydale Resident

Opened in 2019, Casala was the first of Mercy Housing California’s new affordable residences at Sunnydale HOPE SF. While its sky blue façade and sunlit courtyard make it an attractive building, it’s the 55 families who call it home who make Casala a community.

One of those families is Dorothy’s. A business consultant, community organizer, and lifelong San Franciscan, Dorothy moved with her husband and two of their three children into Casala in 2019. “My kids love it!” said Dorothy. “Before we moved, we’d go by the building and my daughter would say, ‘There it is! There’s my new house!’”

Though she didn’t grow up in Sunnydale, Dorothy is no stranger to the neighborhood. Over the years, she’d regularly visit her grandmother and other relatives who lived in the barracks style housing, which she recalls as often being impacted by mold, cockroaches, and other unhealthy conditions.

Dorothy also attends church across the street from Casala. After hearing about the City’s action plan to revitalize the neighborhood, her pastor encouraged her to attend the planning meetings on the church’s behalf, citing her background in community organizing. She began to attend meetings alongside her grandmother.

The more she learned, the more Dorothy liked the sound of what was going on at Sunnydale. She and her husband were also on the hunt for a new home: their current apartment in San Francisco’s Bayview district was managed by a hostile landlord, and the whole family was continually getting sick. “My son has asthma, and several times we had to go to the doctor,” said Dorothy. “I was pregnant, and after I had my daughter, she kept getting sick, I kept getting sick… I knew we had to get out of that toxic environment.”

While 41 of the homes in Casala were already reserved for current Sunnydale residents, Dorothy’s family applied to move into one of the 14 affordable homes earmarked for newcomers to the neighborhood. Her husband had been displaced from San Francisco’s Hunters Point public housing community when young, which gave their application an edge in the City of San Francisco’s equity-focused prioritization system, and they soon found out it had been approved.

Two years in, Dorothy’s family is thriving at Casala. The children have stayed healthy and have grown close to their neighbors, many of whom attend the same school. “We’re all talking now, we’re all sharing, and someone even asked me to lead a Bible study here,” Dorothy shared. Drawing on her deep experience bringing communities together, Dorothy has played an active role in building close connections with and amongst her neighbors. She’s pleased to see how far Sunnydale has come and looks forward to even brighter days ahead.

“I want to see this community really progress and thrive, and become a light behind the darkness,” said Dorothy. “When I was growing up, we didn’t even want to get off the bus at Sunnydale. To come from that and to see it now — it shows that people really have talent, they just got to get out there and get it shown. They’ve got togetherness, they just need to break down those barriers. I say united we stand, divided we fall.”