San Francisco’s Tenderloin is a study in contrasts. It is both a state-recognized historic district with a grade school, parks, and great housing and a designated high crime area, home to a melting-pot mix of people from all walks of life. Everyday joys such as the Christmas holidays can get lost in the shuffle, but a Veritas resident manager there had a ‘gift idea’ that’s indicative of his care and concern for people, not just buildings.
Shelby Asbury manages 57 Taylor, a 112-unit building that’s not immune from those neighborhood issues, which are compounded by the fact that Taylor is a large, older property. “It was a challenge,” says Lisa Flores, a regional property manager with Veritas, which took over management a year and a half ago. In the time since, Veritas has set about making improvements and giving it the “TLC and 24/7 attention” neglected by previous management.
“Resident managers are like a quarterback, and Shelby’s one of the best,” explains Flores. “They take all the different tools and make things happen. Unless you are 100 percent in, you aren’t going to get 100 percent back.”
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Shelby had a passing familiarity with the Tenderloin before moving into 57 Taylor with his wife, Milani, and their puppy, Sadie.
As Shelby knocked on doors to introduce himself to residents, he listened intently about challenges people faced. But true to the Tenderloin’s nature, he also heard about something special at 57 Taylor: a connected, thriving community. “It’s a family-oriented building,” he explains. “I have one tenant who has been here 40-plus years. We have several families that live in the building on multiple floors…brothers, sisters, cousins. People rely on each other [here].”
That sense of community is something Shelby, Lisa and the Veritas team have tried to deepen since taking over the building, and not just to those paying rent. Numerous residents have children – Shelby estimates that 20-to-30 live on site. For someone with a career background in child enrichment and development, their needs struck a special nerve.
“I worry about [the kids], but also their parents…paying rent, making sure there’s food on the table, working hard every day,” he says. “It’s not necessarily that they can’t provide for their children, but sometimes time doesn’t allow doing everything you want to do.”
With the holidays fast approaching, he thought back to his own childhood spent volunteering in Vallejo, an area with struggles “very similar to what we are dealing with in the Tenderloin,” he says. Some of his family members had worked for the Greater Vallejo Recreation District, organizing activities for community members. One event, a free breakfast for underprivileged kids with Santa and his elves, was a perennial favorite.
A lightbulb went on – ‘Why not do the same at 57 Taylor?’ he thought.
I have always been someone who has tried to serve others, serve the community. The way I look at it, you don’t just treat others as you want to be treated, you try to treat others as they want to be treated.
The rationale was simple: “Let’s be real – kids love toys!” he laughed. But a toy drive also presented an opportunity to give, and give back, to the entire community at 57 Taylor. “Kids have such a light in them,” Shelby explains. “And feeding into that light and saying, ‘I care enough about you to give you something, and provide for your happiness…and you don’t have to give me anything in return to make me want to help you out,’…even if their parents can provide that, why not add another gift? Why not say, ‘Hey, we see your kids, we see you, we appreciate you’?”
With that foundation in place, Shelby got to work notifying residents and solidifying some vital details: a December 21 date (Santa is available and will be in attendance to give out gifts), someone to take pictures, and with the whole building invited, purchasing plenty of milk, cookies, and other refreshments. And if Shelby has his way, one gift will trump them all – the shared warmth that comes with being a part of a community.
“[It] is the most important part,” enthuses Shelby. “I have always been someone who has tried to serve others, serve the community. The way I look at it, you don’t just treat others as you want to be treated, you try to treat others as they want to be treated. That’s the biggest thing. Not everyone wants to be treated the same. So listen, be attentive, be respectful. And do as much as you can to facilitate everybody’s growth, everybody’s nourishment, as a human being. Period. That’s my philosophy of life, and it’s important having these types of relationships and knowing that our residents know that we care.”