San Francisco

Inside San Francisco's Cameron House, celebrating 150 years in community

A look at its rich history, dark past and what’s next in the future

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It’s a big milestone year for San Francisco Chinatown’s Cameron House. The nonprofit organization has served low income residents and families since 1874.

Founded by the Presbyterian Church, the home’s history started with Donaldina Cameron and a group of white church ladies who risked their lives all to save young women and girls from sex trafficking. This was a time when the Chinese were not welcomed into the United States because of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

History says those women were hidden in a tunnel.

In the first of our two-part series, we go inside that tunnel and see some of the writings of Donaldina Cameron that date back more than 100 years ago.

Rev. Norman Fong, a Chinatown kid, started going to Cameron House as a first grader. Later, he would become a young pastor and minister. He says, “That’s a courageous history. First Asian women’s shelter and kids shelter for those being trafficked."

With that history also comes a dark past. Sexual assault accusations rocked the organization in the mid-to-late 1900s. In the second part of our two-part series, we explore how Cameron House dealt with that troubling period, the healing and a look into its future as the home continues to try to meet the needs of the community.

Cameron House is hosting several events to celebrate it’s 150th anniversary, starting with a panel discussion on the history. People can get a building tour, including a look inside the escape tunnels. You can find that information at

In the second part of our two-part series, Gia Vang tells us how Cameron House dealt with its dark period and the healing as it looks to continue its work in the community.
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