Super Bowl City’s a thing of the past, but San Francisco has been clearing streets of homeless encampments since the week-long event began. Yet, despite the city’s continuous efforts to push the homeless out of sight, they’re still there.
While local officials have their own ways of dealing it, San Francisco artist Annice Jacoby aimed to address the city’s homeless issue through her project Undercover, which started during February’s Super Bowl festivities. Jacoby and her team provided those living on the streets with blankets, seeking not only to provide warmth to those who needed it, but also to incite conversation and create visibility for a community that’s otherwise neglected.
“Our goal is to use creativity to unite,” Jacoby says. “We’re making a visual statement, making a ceremony of care; it’s a mechanism to address this problem.”
Families, friends and other community members came together at knitting circles held in two Mission stores, Praxis and Alley Cat Books. Those who came out would put together blankets that doubled as ponchos and distribute them in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
The project’s efforts gained national attention, with inquiries and notes of appreciation coming in from other states, according to Undercover’s Facebook page, which also provides patterns for people hoping to make and distribute blankets themselves.
“The whole idea was for people to feel like they’re making a difference through making garments and connecting with people when they distribute them,” says Ivan Vera, program manager at Hospitality House, which helped print the Undercover blankets. “The goal is to get in touch with those who are homeless and share their humanity – they’re not invisible people; they’re just less fortunate.”
Jacoby has since gone on to speak about Undercover to different high schools along the Peninsula, hoping to engage students with the project, according to Txutxo Perez, one of the artists involved with the project.
“Some kids helped distribute during the first part of the project and got really into it and wanted to bring the experience back to their schools,” Perez says.
He says he believes bringing such experiences and information to the younger generation is a start, as they’ll be the ones making significant changes in the future.
While the larger blanket project was mostly focused on the Super Bowl, Undercover has served as inspiration for smaller efforts: Praxis distributed Undercover hats back in March, and Perez says an artist friend of his in Greece started her own project that focuses on recycling lifesaver vests from people displaced by war into backpacks for them to use on further travels.
Ultimately the goal of the project was to connect people — disenfranchised and not — and share each other’s humanity, and Vera says he believes Undercover did just that.
“I hope the project has taught others to listen to people, have compassion, start understanding how one becomes homeless – we don’t want to lose that part of ourselves that make us human.”
Watch our report on the Undercover project during the Super Bowl: