The unforgettable account of Del Seymour, who overcame 18 years of homelessness and addiction to become one of the most respected advocates in San Francisco

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Product Code: 9416
ISBN: 9780807020579
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 272
Published Date: 09/10/2024
Availability: Not currently available.
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Price: $28.95

In Mayor of the Tenderloin, journalist Alison Owings slips behind the cold statistics and sensationalism surrounding San Francisco’s Tenderloin to reveal a harrowing and life-affirming account of Del Seymour—whose addiction led him into eighteen years of homelessness, pimping, and drug dealing. Once sober, he started Tenderloin Walking Tours and later Code Tenderloin, the remarkable organization teaching homeless, recovering addicts, sex workers, dealers, ex-felons, and other marginalized people how to get and keep a job.

Owings traces Del’s story and those in his orbit: from his daughters, sobriety buddy, and ex-girlfriend, to a police captain and a psychiatric social worker, housing activists and corporate philanthropists, and Del’s Code Tenderloin students. In the Tenderloin, in a city known for its beauty and currently infamous for its divide between haves and have-nots, Owings highlights how Del gives back to people struggling with the same daunting setbacks—including a criminal record—he once faced.

Honest and compelling, Mayor of the Tenderloin follows homelessness in one of America’s toughest neighborhoods as it was lived—in the words of someone who lived it and is now fighting to solve it.


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Contents

Preface

CHAPTER 1
The Approaching Fall

CHAPTER 2
The Tenderloin and a Good Night’s Sleep: A Contradiction

CHAPTER 3
The Birth of Code Tenderloin

CHAPTER 4
Successes and Setbacks

CHAPTER 5
The Offer

CHAPTER 6
Graduation Day

CHAPTER 7
The Reluctant Draftee

CHAPTER 8
First Steps

CHAPTER 9
“I’m Your Uncle”

CHAPTER 10
Welcome (Not) to the LAFD

CHAPTER 11
Tweeting High

CHAPTER 12
A Double End

CHAPTER 13
Bad News

CHAPTER 14
Pimping

CHAPTER 15
The Daughters and the Aunt

CHAPTER 16
Prospects of Murder

CHAPTER 17
An Admirer

CHAPTER 18
Gambling Man

CHAPTER 19
A Detox Detour

CHAPTER 20
Hustling

CHAPTER 21
The Sump Pump Connection

CHAPTER 22
Adventures in Criminal Justice

CHAPTER 23
Differences of Opinion

CHAPTER 24
Inventions

CHAPTER 25
A Business Address

CHAPTER 26
An Ally at the Hilton

CHAPTER 27
Confrontation

CHAPTER 28
An Eviction and a Stabbing

CHAPTER 29
The Search

CHAPTER 30
Quitting: A Two-Sided Tale About a Dealer

CHAPTER 31
Beware the Spark, Avoid the Snake

CHAPTER 32
A Free Suit, a Free Room

CHAPTER 33
How to Stop Homelessness

CHAPTER 34
A Psychiatric Evaluation

CHAPTER 35
Pam’s Song

CHAPTER 36
A Different Direction

CHAPTER 37
Filling Needs, and More Needs

CHAPTER 38
A Recruit, Recruiting

CHAPTER 39
Top Ramen

Acknowledgments
Notes

“Alison Owings is a master of oral history. She is a great storyteller, and in Mayor of the Tenderloin, she has a great story to tell.” —Dan Rather, author of What Unites Us

Mayor of the Tenderloin is a charming, sometimes heartbreaking, tender, and inspiring story, important and beautifully written.” —Anne Lamott, author of Almost Everything

“With her pen at the ready and one eyebrow cocked, Alison Owings brings us deep into the prismatic life of the unforgettable Del Seymour. This book is as funny at times as it is harrowing, and as dedicated to Seymour’s unique journey as the multitudinous systemic failures that led to his addiction, sex trafficking, fractured relationships, and, of course, homelessness. Owings has unsentimentally written a story of both struggle and hope in the absence of real structural humanity, one that winds from the Vietnam War through the crack epidemic to the gleaming facades of the Bay Area’s boom, with Seymour squarely inventing his own path through it all. You won’t forget it.” —Lauren Sandler, author of This Is All I Got: A New Mother’s Search for Home

“There are very few complex social dilemmas facing this country more front-burner than homelessness. Mayor of the Tenderloin provides a window as never before to this issue. These pages are filled with a reverence for complexity and the courage of tenderness. Alison Owings and her remarkable prose point to the passion and humanity of Del Seymour, and we see things anew. From addiction to eviction, from mental anguish to racial inequity, we are shown the contours of a social problem we thought we knew. No one becomes homeless because they run out of money. They become homeless because they run out of relationships.” —Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart

“With every page, Mayor of the Tenderloin offers society a sobering sight that let Seymour and the Tenderloin speak for themselves while also presenting readers with tangible possibilities for how we might find a way out of a continuing social nightmare and restore the Tenderloin to its rightful and humane place within San Francisco’s colorful fabric. A work produced out of radical listening, compassionate questioning, deft writing, and a genuine desire to give agency, space, and recognition to one of the Tenderloin’s fiercest survivors, advocates, and protectors.” —Nigel De Juan Hatton, PhD, associate professor of literature and philosophy at the University of California, Merced

Mayor of the Tenderloin looks unflinchingly at the realities of a huge and expanding population left out and left behind by even our most progressive and enlightened social change movements—the institutional refugees commonly referred to as the homeless. Through examination of the life and redemptive struggles of a single individual, Del Seymour, Owings brilliantly highlights the strategic imperative of not only inclusion but also the acquisition of agency by the homeless in resolving the issues and thereby diminishing the myriad costs so critically burdening both them and society.” —Harry Edwards, PhD, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley

“When I met Del years ago, I had no idea of his incredible life journey but was struck by his compassion, humor, and grace. Today, San Francisco is in awe of the Mayor of the Tenderloin. His story—which could have been any of ours—gives hope that deep community divides can be bridged, and addiction and homelessness can be overcome.” —San Francisco city attorney David Chiu

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