Aireez Taylor was talking with friends near her Bayview home Dec. 29 when two men armed with guns hopped out of a parked car, her mother recalled. One of the girl’s friends, a 17-year-old boy who lived at the house, saw the men coming and ran for the door, taking a bullet in the foot. Fifteen-year-old Taylor fled after him and was shot seven times.
Taylor wasn’t the intended target of the shooting, her father said. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. That place was the Alice Griffith housing project.
Her parents, Marissa Taylor and Roger Blalark, immediately applied for emergency relocation with the San Francisco Housing Authority. Relocation is an important part of protecting the victims of violent crimes, Bayview Police Station Capt. Robert O’Sullivan said.
But such relocations fall to the Housing Authority, a troubled agency recently given a failing grade by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And two months later, Taylor and her family are still waiting for the authority to provide them a unit elsewhere.
In the meantime, the girl’s parents fear for her life. Although an investigation into the shooting is under way, police Officer Gordon Shyy said no arrests have been made and police have no suspects.
“What if they find the guy and ask her to testify?” Blalark asked.
Taylor, who reportedly didn’t see the shooters, has steadily recovered from her wounds. But the trauma hasn’t healed as easily. During her three weeks at San Francisco General Hospital, an unknown intruder tried to snap a photo of her in her hospital bed, Blalark said. Later, a man claiming to be her father inquired about her while Blalark himself was at her bedside.
Taylor’s parents applied for an emergency transfer Jan. 2. Since the majority of Housing Authority units are studios or one- to two-bedroom apartments, the agency had to search for a vacancy that could accommodate a family of their size. Such a unit was finally located by the third week of January, and Marissa Taylor was told it would be ready in two weeks. But two weeks became six, and she still doesn’t know the unit’s status.
Housing Authority spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis said her agency tries to accommodate all requests for relocation, prioritizing tenants who are victims of a violent crime. But victim relocation is often hindered by factors such as the agency’s ability to quickly fix a vacant unit. Once a suitable place has been found, teams of custodians and craftsmen must clear, clean and repair the unit. Preparing a unit for move-in costs $12,000 on average, Dennis said.
It’s not that there aren’t empty units. The Housing Authority’s current occupancy rate is 96.3 percent. Since it manages 6,476 units at 45 projects, that suggests that about 240 units now lie empty. Dennis said some units are intentionally kept vacant, while others are only made available as the agency finishes the repairs and renovations necessary to make them comply with federal standards.
Blalark knows that relocation won’t necessarily solve his family’s problems. He worries about the presence of gang members at the new housing development, and about the fact that he will be trying to protect his family in a community he is much less familiar with.
But for Taylor, the journey from the hospital to her current home was a return to a community where the shooters presumably were still at large.
“She gets shakes, every time she comes home,” Blalark said. “She has to come by the corner where she got shot.”