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Two San Franciscos
Michelle Kaye's social services agency shares a building with Twitter. But they're worlds apart.
By Michelle Kaye
My husband and I work in the Twitter building. Not for Twitter. We're social workers at Golden Gate Regional Center, a public agency serving every developmentally delayed person in three counties. When clients come to our mid-Market location, they squeeze their wheelchairs through the semi- accessible entrance. Even toddlers must wear a name badge.
Meanwhile, the sleek cafeteria on the 9th floor serves Twitter employees healthy food for free. There's a yoga room, a meditation room, a gym, an arcade. Twitter employees bring their dogs and their fancy bikes to work, or are shuttled to work in buses with tinted windows. Three years ago, Twitter moved into this seedy neighborhood. In return, they don't pay payroll taxes.
We pay payroll taxes, along with 20 other regional centers serving California's most vulnerable: people with intellectual disabilities. Forty-four million dollars have been cut from our budget and the average caseload is now 90 people, 30 above the legal limit. Last year, my request for a bottle of white-out was denied because our operations budget was exhausted. We get free coffee, but bring our own cream and sugar.
Mid-market has changed but not that much. Every morning the mentally ill and substance abusers gather in front of our building. I heard a Twitter employee joke that he thanks Twitter every time he doesn't smell urine on his walk to work. In his mind, Twitter was making things better.
I work with infants with lead poisoning from poor housing, moms who can't get time off work to get their children assessed. Caring for family members who can't care for themselves exhausts families. They share what little they have, but many face eviction.
One day there were protests outside our building. "People protest just to protest," a Twitter employee said.
I try not to resent this. I love my work and the difference I make. But with a Master's and years of experience my husband and I make the same as an administrative worker upstairs. We're barely able to live in the city we love.
I can't imagine telling my children what my parents told me, to choose a career that will make me happy. They envisioned a future for me -- college and graduate school, start a career, buy a house, start a family. But we don't see that for our children. Because we can't even see it for ourselves.
With a Perspective, I'm Michelle Kaye.
Michelle Kaye works with infants and toddlers with developmental delays. She and her husband are expecting their first child in October.