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Hastings Alumni Mag-Spring 2013

{ Then and now } UC HASTINGS 53 Imagine living in a country as it is torn apart by a prolonged and destructive war. After years of bloodshed, you flee, becoming a refugee in a new country. You settle in one of this new country’s most famous and beautiful cities, but you have no job, no possessions, no understanding of the language or culture. And the only place you can afford to live is in the center of the city’s notoriously seedy underbelly. This was the experience of many Southeast Asians when they fled Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the years after the Vietnam War. Many of them came to San Francisco—the estimates of the current Southeast Asian population in the city range from 15,000 to 20,000—specifically to the Tenderloin, a neighborhood of SROs and flophouses known for drugs, prostitution, and violence. “It was the most affordable place, though not the most desirable,” says Judy Young, executive director of the Vietnamese Youth Development Center (VYDC). Young’s family left Laos in 1975 and arrived in San Francisco in 1981, when she was eight years old. “We lived on Turk and Leavenworth, right in the middle of things. It was pretty bad. There were parts of the street you couldn’t walk on.” Organizations popped up to help the nascent community take root in the United States, among them the VYDC, which Young began attending as a teenager, and the Southeast Asian Community Center Community Center “We hope that Little Saigon can do the same thing as Chinatown and Japantown—bring in tourists and benefit the community and the city.” — Philip Nguyen, Executive Director, Southeast Asian


Hastings Alumni Mag-Spring 2013
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