San Francisco residents with limited English language skills can now look forward to more accessibility to city resources. After a campaign backed by residents and community groups, the Board of Supervisors has recommended a $500,000 allocation of its 2012-2013 budget towards initiatives that would provide greater language support within basic city services like emergency response, public safety, and even libraries. Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign it into the budget by the end of July.
As one of the nation’s most desirable cities to live in, San Francisco boasts a large population of foreign immigrants. So large, in fact, that nearly half of San Francisco’s residents speak a language other than English at home. Many of them get by with only basic English language skills—perhaps enough to navigate the supermarket but not enough to truly utilize the services and rights afforded to them as residents. They struggle to do critical things like report crimes or even understand their rights as employees.
Despite their size and vulnerability, the City of San Francisco typically allocates less than .001% of its annual budget to language access. While numerous community groups attempt to fill this gap through language training programs, there has still been a clear need for the city to increase its role. This initiative will expand collaboration between those community organizations and city departments to ensure greater accessibility of multi-lingual resources where they are most needed.