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In the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, the 300 block of Ellis Street was buzzing with action. Teams of GLIDE staff and volunteers were laying out decorations, carving turkeys and packaging seemingly endless rows of food containers. Hundreds of feet of white festival tents were adorned with fairy lights, and the musical score for Charlie Brown Christmas played out softly from a makeshift DJ booth. For those who were attending GLIDE’s Thanksgiving lunch for the first time, they would never have guessed that the festive ‘al fresco’ popup was a new style for GLIDE, born out of the safety needs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the past 18+ months of uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, GLIDE has been on the frontlines, helping those in need, innovating services, and expanding our reach and impact to meet rising demand. This Thanksgiving, we celebrated the resiliency of GLIDE and our community by serving 2,400 delicious holiday meals, and welcoming all with unconditional love. “GLIDE has become my family,” said Sandra, a formerly unhoused woman who came to enjoy GLIDE’s Thanksgiving lunch. “Once you become homeless, you become forgotten, like you don’t exist. GLIDE is family for homeless people whose own family gave up on them.”

With vaccination rates continuing to climb, this year’s Thanksgiving showed glimpses of GLIDE hallmarks from pre-pandemic days. For the first time in 18+ months, Glide Memorial Church opened its doors to a small group of vaccinated congregants, kindling the well-known celebration that is core to GLIDE’s identity.

GLIDE also welcomed back ninety volunteers at this year’s Thanksgiving, including the familiar faces of Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Matt Haney, San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson and Assessor Recorder Joaquin Torres. Though the volunteer force is still much smaller than before, the small but mighty team prepared and served more than 2400 turkey meals with all the fixings. “I’m thankful for being able to give back,” says Josh, member of the Kings of Cali motorcycle club. “I’ve been volunteering for 16 years with Kings of Cali. It’s a tradition at this point and it just warms my heart to be able to do this every year.”

While most of the Thanksgiving meals were served in the festive fanfare on Ellis Street, many of those in our unhoused community are not able to leave their encampments. For those who could not make it, GLIDE’s Harm Reduction staff met them where they are. In addition to 225 packaged Thanksgiving meals, the team provided mobile harm reduction services, such as supplies of Narcan (a powerful opioid overdose reversal medicine), clean syringes and hygiene supplies.

Another unique fixture to this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations was the Roving Vax outreach units, who made the rounds through the festival tents to provide COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots to diners. The Roving Vax initiative has been critical in bridging the vaccine equity gap in the Tenderloin community, meeting people where they are to boost confidence and vaccine uptake in a neighborhood that has been hardest hit by the pandemic. The Roving Vax outreach has been a major success since its inception in the spring of 2021, accounting for 80% of all the vaccines administered by GLIDE.

The holidays at GLIDE are always joyful and soulful, but this year is special as we celebrate the resiliency of our community. In our celebration, we also honor the spirit of Janice Mirikitani, who passed away recently. Janice was the co-founder of GLIDE and a tireless champion of racial and social justice. As Mayor London Breed wrapped up her volunteer shift at GLIDE, she remembered Janice’s profound impact: “GLIDE is so important and we’ve got to continue this tradition, especially after losing one of our fearless leaders, Janice Mirikitani,” Mayor Breed reflects. “I feel her spirit, I feel her love – even today as we do the work – and I know that GLIDE is in good hands. I know she’s going to be watching us to make sure that we take care of this extraordinary place that continuously does what Jan always says: ‘We’ve got to feed the people.’”

Join us this holiday season as GLIDE continues to do what it does best – bring people together to support and serve our most vulnerable neighbors.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, Toby Simon sets up her tent and art supplies on the Tenderloin Hub, providing a class to the community that is aptly named, “A Space to Draw.” At surface level, the art class explores different forms of drawing and technique, allowing students to build upon their skills. But for many of the participants, A Space to Draw dually provides a space for healing, self-discovery, and reflection.  

The idea for A Space to Draw came about when Toby attended a volunteering event with The Kitchen SF, at GLIDE. Toby was struck by GLIDE’s mission of radical inclusivity and the breadth of services offered to the community. She then posed the idea of incorporating a space to make art at GLIDE and create a classroom where one did not exist before. She was soon popping up her tent in GLIDE’s parking lot, with clay, canvasses, and paints. The art class quickly became the highlight of the week for her students. 

A Space to Draw set up and ready for students   
  

“As an art educator, I think the greatest impact I can make is imparting a sense of growth mindset on the community,” Toby says.  “I think that a lot of the community members have experienced years of abuse, neglect, and bad luck, and years of this trauma can really be detrimental to self-worth and mental health. Students come in and realize that they have a voice, and they can share their ideas.” For Toby, learning new skills, such as art, is an important mechanism for building self-confidence, which in turn permeates into all aspects of a students’ life.  

Art teacher Toby Simon

In vulnerable communities, arts and culture can be powerful tools for community development, shaping infrastructure, transportation, access to healthy food, and other core amenities. In communities of color that have been systematically stripped of agency, art is an avenue for strengthening cultural identity, healing trauma, and fostering a shared vision for community.  

A Space to Draw consists of two classes, “Drawing From Life” and “Rhythmic Drawing.” Rhythmic drawing teaches mindful and meditative techniques such as pattern making, doodling mandalas, and coloring pages, all of which are simple, meditative forms of drawing and painting where students can get into a creative flow. Drawing From Life teaches techniques on how to draw realistic form, shading techniques, and figure drawing.  The class allows students to tap into their inner resources to have moments of self-discovery while creating pieces of art.   

“Make something out of nothing” a lesson on drawing Mandalas  

“Art serves as a form of communication,” Toby says. “People are constantly opening up, thinking about the significance of what they made.” Toby recalls a time when one student made a drawing that portrayed her desire to pursue an education. The student had made a shape on one side of the page, which represented her regret of not graduating 8th grade. On the other side, the student illustrated her ambition of returning to school and graduating.   

“A benefit of a drawing class is that it empowers people, women especially, who feel like they’ve lost their voice,” says Toby. “Experiencing trauma or constant marginalization severely impacts a person’s sense of self-worth. Our students have so much to contribute, and I simply offer them new methods of expressing themselves and a space to share their stories.”

  

One in three women and one in four men have experienced domestic violence, but homeless women in San Francisco fare much worse, with 44% reporting that they have experienced abuse. While the United States dedicates the month of October to Domestic Violence Awareness, it is safe to say that one month does not do justice to the severity of this epidemic. At GLIDE, our staff approach their year-round domestic violence work with a keen understanding and lived experience of the unique barriers and threats that women in the Tenderloin face on the streets.

“It’s tough in the Tenderloin when you’re a homeless woman. I’ve experienced it,” says Shannon Wise, program manager of GLIDE’s Women’s Center. “Women walking around the streets of the Tenderloin, they’re subjected to another layer of abuse when it comes to men.” In many cases, women will gravitate towards a man who she believes can offer her protection on the streets, but this can come at a cost. “Then, you’re subjected to his own abuse, because he can protect you from everything else,” Shannon recounts.

Before the pandemic, GLIDE was a place where women could come and find physical and emotional reprieve from the outside traumas and abuse that they experienced. Over the last year and a half, GLIDE has flipped its service model to meet women where they’re at during the COVID-19 pandemic: at shelter-in-place hotels and centers.

Since the early days of the pandemic, GLIDE case managers have visited women at shelter-in-place hotels and centers, such as this shelter-in-place RV park in San Francisco

Shortly after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, GLIDE was contracted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health to support residents of the shelter-in-place hotels. GLIDE case managers support women residents by offering critical low-threshold services, while building trust and confidence through sharing their own lived experiences.

For battered women, access to trauma-informed mental health and substance use services is crucial to recovery and resiliency. In remembering her own experiences, Shannon explains, “It’s another layer of trauma that somebody has to heal from. Sometimes women don’t heal from it. Sometimes they do. Some of the barriers to the women we serve is not enough mental health treatment and not enough substance abuse services.”

Shannon Wise, program manager at GLIDE’s Women’s Center, brings care packages to residents at a shelter-in-place hotel

Julia Williams is one of GLIDE’s case managers who visits the shelter-in-place hotels. She was drawn to GLIDE with a desire to close the gap between homeless women and the services that they need. “I’m a survivor of domestic violence and I’m also the daughter of a single mother; so, the unique needs of women are really close to my heart,” Julia says. “Women need a lot of services that are overlooked, even though 47% of the homeless population in San Francisco are women. I want to step in and provide that care for them.”


Julia is often the first connection a hotel resident has with social service providers. This initial contact with residents allows case managers to open conversations and gateways to comprehensive help. Case managers like Julia will work one-on-one with their clients to understand their needs and then connect them with resources, escort them to doctor’s appointments, help them apply for jobs or SSI, and much more.

GLIDE Case Manager, Julia Williams, conducting community outreach on the Tenderloin Hub

For women who have experienced domestic violence, GLIDE’s case managers connect survivors with the resources they need to leave their relationship, access mental health treatment, and help to build confidence that she can overcome her situation.


“What I try to do is provide help and support and also share my story because I think that can be really impactful,” says Julia. “If I can make it out, I feel like that gives them courage that they can too.”

The city of San Francisco generates about half a million tons of material in landfill each year, a number that has grown significantly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. At GLIDE, the waste didn’t go unnoticed. Members of GLIDE’s Family Resource Center (FRC) and Daily Free Meals Program observed how much plastic was being used to supply food to the community. “Everything was wrapped in plastic, including vegetables,” says Joselyn Barrera, Daily Meals Program Manager. “We wanted to take a different approach to address food insecurity and sustainability at the same time.” That’s why, this past summer, the two programs formed a partnership to introduce a Zero Waste Food Pantry, providing nourishing food in reusable and compostable containers. 

Grains packaged up in compostable containers

An extension of the existing food pantry administered by FRC and Daily Meals, the sustainability-focused initiative serves an average of 40 families per week, including families who were not able to participate in the pantry’s normal Thursday and Friday distributions. Through targeted outreach, the FRC was able to identify gaps in families who were not being served by the pantry, while also recognizing an opportunity to introduce zero waste practices in the FRC’s food distribution.

Bags of pantry items prepared and ready to be distributed to families

Each week, families receive menus featuring a list of nutritious food items they can select. The pantry team then packs the food items into reusable containers and distributes them to families, while collecting containers from the previous week to be used once again. Food items are mindfully sourced through local Bay Area vendors that reflect the food cultures of participating families. One of the primary vendors, Arcadio’s Produce, is the only Latinx-owned produce company here in San Francisco.

Bags with menus attached await pickup at the Zero Waste Food Pantry

GLIDE’s sustainability efforts started three years ago when the organization became a certified green business and started sorting waste seven days a week. These initial actions were initiated to align with the City’s Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance, which requires everyone in San Francisco to keep recyclables and trash separated. Through waste sorting, members of the Meals team quickly began to see environmental and financial benefits as well as a learning opportunity to distinguish how GLIDE’s food security programs could be more mindful and take a more sustainable approach to serving the community.

Communities that are affected by racial injustice are the same communities that are most impacted by environmental injustice. Integrating sustainable practices within GLIDE not only lightens our environmental footprint, it provides an important avenue for opening a conversation around sustainable practices within the communities that GLIDE serves.

“I think this partnership with FRC is critical because we’re educating children and parents. It’s a multi-generational approach at teaching sustainability to the youngest and the oldest, who have different views about sustainability. In our community, it’s not something that we really talk about as minorities and people of color,” Joselyn reflects. “We just don’t talk about sustainability as much as we should. And I think that this is a perfect example of how you can impact both generations and I think it’s a great approach.”

GLIDE President and CEO Karen Hanrahan and Center for Social Justice Senior Director Miguel Bustos participated in the “What We’ve Learned” public lecture series at Manny’s Community Space located in San Francisco’s Mission District on September 29, 2021. The notable series invites leaders from all aspects of civic life to examine what we’ve learned so far during the pandemic.

Speaking to a crowd of in-person attendees and scores of others who watched the event via Zoom and on Facebook, their discussion “Keeping the Flame Alive: Finding Light in Dark Times,” addressed finding hope and inspiration after 18 months of the pandemic and how GLIDE has continued throughout the health crisis to serve those in need.

Hello GLIDE Community,

We are delighted to be part of the Latinx community during these 30 days acknowledging and celebrating National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month and the cultural and historical contributions of those among us whose family heritages include Mexico, the Caribbean, Central, and South America, and Spain.

Every day, we support, lift up and celebrate the people, voices, and issues of the Latinx community through acts of social justice and service. Our Latinx family extends from our innovative staff and bold leaders to our righteous community partners, generous donors, and resilient clients. We act and advocate in solidarity with coalitions that advance equity for Latinx communities throughout the city. We continue to walk in the footsteps of social justice warriors like Delores Huerta and Cesar Chavez. We draw inspiration today from activists such as Sister Norma Pimentel, honored for her unwavering support of migrants, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and the many other Latinx leaders who are pursuing justice for all in our society.

This month, we mark Latinx Heritage as American Heritage, with a legacy of cultural and historical achievements in the sciences, arts, literature, law, technology, economics, and government. There are more than 6,800 elected Latinx officials nationwide, and Congress is now, thankfully, more diverse, with six Latinx Senators in the U.S. Senate and 46 Representatives in the House. The fastest-growing population in the U.S., the Latinx community is also an economic driver. In 2019, the economic output of the Latinx community was $2.7 trillion, a nearly 60 percent increase over 2010. Eighteen percent of America’s middle class is now Latinx, roughly four times higher than in 1980 when it was predominantly white.

While we honor this heritage month, we also recognize the stark inequities facing many in the Latinx community. The criminalization of migrants and the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is abhorrent. This summer, there were nearly 200,000 migrant apprehensions and expulsions — the highest total in more than two decades. Additionally, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on Latinx health, jobs, and families. Latinx people are diagnosed with COVID-19 at rates nearly twice that of whites, are hospitalized 2.8 times higher, and dying at a rate 2.3 times higher. The economic toll of the health crisis has been severe. The Latinx community accounted for 23 percent of initial pandemic job losses. Latinas continue to bear the brunt of this job loss, experiencing disproportionately high unemployment and dropping out of the workforce at higher rates than any other demographic group.

At GLIDE, we see the impact of systemic inequity on the Latinx community up close:
• 20% of our clients are Latinx.
• 75% of our Family Youth and Childcare Center families are Latinx — all are low-income.
• 93 % of FYCC families surveyed reported income losses due to the pandemic.
• 71 % of FYCC women surveyed said GLIDE helped them avoid hunger.

Every day, GLIDE is taking steps to overcome these challenges within our Latinx communities across San Francisco. We prevent homelessness, alleviate hunger, support women in the workforce, and intentionally address the systemic inequities that drive more Latinx people into our service lines. We are doing that through our transformative programs and expanded services across the city. In particular, our investments in Latinx women and families are stabilizing families and advancing the financial independence necessary to combat these economic inequities.

GLIDE is proudly part of the Latinx community. As we celebrate this month-long tribute to the community’s diversity, rich culture, and extraordinary contributions, we do so with gratitude for all the progress that has been realized and hope for all that is still to come.

In solidarity,

Karen Hanrahan
President & CEO, GLIDE

(@KarenJHanrahan) · Twitter

GLIDE Voices is honoring Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we asked Julia M. Williams, Case Manager for Women’s Center what GLIDE Value resonates with you most this month and why?  

“The GLIDE value that most resonates with me is Celebration. My mom has been in remission from breast cancer for five years now and we celebrate every day together. Her surviving cancer has taught us to never take our time together for granted and to cherish every moment. 

I’m a certified domestic violence counselor and what I try to do is provide help and support and share my story, because I think that can be really impactful. If I can make it out, I feel like that gives them courage that they can too. I generally like my clients to feel comfortable enough to share those things with me. I don’t really like to pry. So sometimes, it doesn’t come up unless I’m doing their needs assessment. But a lot of clients experience domestic violence, especially those who are experiencing homelessness as well.  

Domestic violence can look like a lot of things. In general, it’s really debilitating, and it’s not always physical. I think a lot of people look at domestic violence and think ‘Oh the person has to be physically assaulted for it to be considered domestic violence,’ but it can be emotional, it can be sexual, it can be financial. Even technological, like hacking onto someone’s social media, or tracking them through GPS. And it can result in a lot of physical and emotional issues. Things that come to mind would be chronic pain, PTSD, depression, substance use. It’s this all-encompassing issue that can have a lot of different faces. I think it’s really important for people to realize that it’s not always physical, it can be a lot of different things that are equally as traumatizing as physical violence. And it has no limits and no boundaries, it can be a lot to deal with. 

I’m a survivor of domestic violence and I’m also the daughter of a single mother. So, the unique needs of women are really close to my heart. I feel like women need a lot of services that are overlooked, even though 47% of the homeless population in San Francisco are women. So, I want to step in and provide that care for them.” 

Julia M. Williams, Women’s Center Case Manager

August included Overdose Awareness Day and GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice and Harm Reduction Services marked the observance with an inspiring panel discussion that clarified what harm reduction is and is not and focused on policies that help or continue to harm. Harm Reduction As Justice was moderated by Director of Harm Reduction Services Juliana DePietro, and included panel members CSJ Policy Manager Wesley Saver, Harm Reduction Services Program Manager John Negrete, and Code Tenderloin Founder and unofficial Mayor of the Tenderloin Del Seymour. 

It is a Thursday afternoon in mid-July, and preparations for the Tenderloin Resource Hub’s weekly COVID-19 vaccine site are well underway. Everything happens outside of GLIDE at 330 Ellis Street.

The day starts with a thorough pavement washdown. Canopy tents expand. Tables and chairs are set up. Two-way radios, iPads, mobile hotspots, and laptops are readied for use. Medical supplies are laid out, vaccines pre-drawn, cartons of safety vests, and stationery are unpacked, and shift volunteers are trained depending on their roles.

The COVID vaccine collaborative at GLIDE’s Tenderloin Hub is a true citywide partnership. The collective includes clinical staff from San Francisco’s Department of Public Health (SFDPH), University of California, San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF), and the San Francisco Community Health Center (SFCHC), which serves as the clinical supervisor. Along with non-clinical staff from SFCHC, GLIDE, and community partner Code Tenderloin, teams gather every Thursday to coordinate the many moving parts for the weekly pop-up vaccination site. Their latest strategic effort is the deployment of “Roving Vax” teams.

Roving Vax 2 team members from GLIDE’s TL Hub COVID Vaccine Clinic.

Months earlier, it was recognized that vaccine equity initiatives were needed in low-income and communities of color in San Francisco. The Tenderloin trailed the city’s vaccination rate by seven percent. To address the disparity, GLIDE joined an innovative collaboration between UCSF’s Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI), Life Sciences Cares-Bay Area, SFCHC, and SFDPH.

“GLIDE is tremendously proud of our partnership. Together we are reducing barriers to vaccine access and serving some of the most marginalized people”
— GLIDE President & CEO Karen Hanrahan

“There are significant challenges in providing access to COVID vaccinations to the housed and unhoused residents of the Tenderloin,” said GLIDE President and CEO Karen Hanrahan at the launch of the TL vaccination site. “GLIDE is tremendously proud of our partnership. Together, we are reducing barriers to vaccine access and serving some of the most marginalized people. Bringing a weekly neighborhood vaccination clinic to the Tenderloin is an absolute accomplishment.”

Since a successful “proof of concept” pilot in late March, the Tenderloin Hub vaccine site has made a significant impact. As of August 19, the pop-up clinic administered 2,509 vaccine doses. Fifty percent of those jabs were Johnson & Johnson/Janssen single dose COVID-19 vaccines, with first and seconds doses of Moderna vaccines making up 45% and Pfizer injections coming in at 5%. At its operational height, the GLIDE vaccination site stretched halfway down Ellis Street with dedicated areas for line management, registration, and tents for vaccine preparation, administration, and patient observation.

GLIDE's COVID Vaccine Site at the Tenderloin Hub in June 2021
GLIDE’s COVID Vaccine Site at the Tenderloin Hub in June 2021

“At the start of the vaccination site, we saw large numbers of Tenderloin residents and workers eager and ready to receive the vaccine,” said Senior Director of Programs Lillian Mark. “Those who may have been unsure or slightly hesitant were also successfully brought to the finish line through sustained outreach in the community.” Several weeks later, though, the TL Hub began to see vaccine demand diminish. Mark observed that the decline was most likely due to vaccine-hesitant residents who were unlikely to travel to Ellis Street. Around the same time, an effort to prevent open vaccine vials from going to waste yielded an unexpected discovery. “The clinical team at SFCHC decided to venture out on their own. So, after the site closed, they went out onto busy TL street corners and visited family restaurants, with the mission of getting those vaccines into arms. And they were incredibly successful,” said Mark.

The impromptu street outreach led to the establishment of Roving Vax teams. Modeled after the successful mobile outreach efforts of SFCHC’s Street Medicine initiative, two sets of roving teams are outfitted with two-way radios, and backpacks, and rolling carts carrying vaccines, iPads, hotspots, and incentives like $25 gift cards to facilitate on-the-spot vaccinations throughout the Tenderloin.

“What’s also unique about the Roving Vax teams is they’re comprised of medical professionals and outreach staff from GLIDE’s community partners in the TL, “said Mark. The team’s make-up is critical to the success of the effort. “When they encounter someone who has mistrust towards healthcare, the teams can rely on the TL outreach staff to reassure them,” she adds. “If they want to know more and want to speak with a nurse or a doctor, a healthcare professional is readily available in the moment. This range gives any person a range of opportunity to ask about any of the misgivings or doubts they may have about the vaccine.”

The established success of GLIDE’s Harm Reduction Services is an additional asset to the street vaccination effort. In addition to providing Opt-In harm reduction mobile services to unhoused and housed residents, a GLIDE mobile services van is part of a plan to deploy Roving Vax team members to neighborhood locations far from the TL Hub, allowing a team in the area to resupply quickly instead of losing time returning to the Hub.

In an interview with her organization’s communications office, SFCHC Nurse Practitioner Shannon Heuklom, who helped design the roving vax team model, noted the goal was to lower vaccine barriers as far as possible. “We did a substantial amount of vaccines by these roving teams. And I think we vaccinated the hardest to vaccinate folks,” said Heuklom. “People who aren’t going to go elsewhere. People who have a little bit of mistrust built in. I think we showed if we come to people where they’re at and give good education, and connect, so many good things come out of that.”

In the last three weeks of July, the majority of the vaccines provided through GLIDE’s Tenderloin Hub — more than 80 percent — were a result of the efforts of the Roving Vax teams. In addition to street vaccination teams serving the unhoused in the TL, they’ve also vaccinated housed residents, workers, and small business owners who don’t have the flexibility to come to the TL Hub. Along with the expansion of roving teams, GLIDE has also shifted the hours of the vaccination site to 3 to 7 p.m. to accommodate residents who can’t visit the Hub during standard business hours, helping to meet the needs of more people in the community. GLIDE currently offers the only weekday-evening-hours COVID-19 vaccination site in the TL.

“Our shared commitment to achieving vaccine access and equity for the Tenderloin has been at the heart of all that we have done,” said Mark. “Since the start of April, this group has met, planned, executed, evaluated, and pivoted every week to continuously ensure Tenderloin residents and workers are aware of their vaccine options, lower threshold for services, augment outreach and education, and redesign service delivery methods to meet the diverse needs of the community.”

When the vaccination site began in the spring, the neighborhood lagged behind the city’s overall vaccination rate of individuals receiving at least one COVID vaccine dose by 7 percent. Current numbers tell a different story. According to the city’s COVID-19 Vaccinations By Neighborhood Map, as of August 28, the Tenderloin has an average vaccination rate of 80 percent, while the city average is 78 percent.

With the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the Hub’s Roving Vax teams plan to continue their efforts throughout the summer to support the city’s goal to vaccinate all San Franciscans.