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Lisa Pelletier-Ross is a beloved staff member at GLIDE, serving as a trusted Community Safety Team Shift Lead. She, along with several other members of Community Safety and the Meals Program, have been collaborating with our Adult Education Specialist Stephanie McNally to record and share their experiences on the front lines of GLIDE’s work in the community. We are grateful to Lisa for providing the first post of Women’s History Month, and demonstrating the strength, patience and compassion required from the staff at GLIDE who work directly with our program participants.

Lisa (far right) with her colleagues Tanya, Ray and Iris.

Working at Glide has given me the opportunity to meet and befriend lots of people. Being homeless once myself, this is what I know and have learned: Homeless people are people too, but most of the time they are treated as not. They get treated badly all day long. Most of them just want to be treated like a normal human being, for someone to just lend an ear and listen to them. They just want to be heard, but most people don’t have the time or patience to do so.

I witness this desire to be heard with the clients we serve every day at GLIDE. When a client comes to me, whether they want to complain about something or  just say hello and have a friendly conversation, I lend them my ear.

Lisa with her Community Safety Team colleague, Dereik.

One Sunday, a senior citizen came in and told me he didn’t want to live anymore. He was tired. I knew what he meant about being tired, living in the vicious circle.  So I took him into Freedom Hall and asked if he wanted to talk about it. I just let him speak. He told me he wanted to end his life by throwing himself in front of a bus. I sat there with him for a while, and even had someone go and get a pastor for me so I had some support in this situation. I let the man know that we love him and that we would be sad if we didn’t see him around here anymore. The man cried and was still feeling down. I sat there with him for a while and listened to him share how he felt. When they came to take him to the hospital, the man gave me a hug and told me, “Thank you. I love you for listening to me.” That made me feel very grateful and thankful that I was able to change that man’s decision of wanting to take his life.

GLIDE staff celebrating a successful 2018 Grocery Bag Giveaway in December.

Most people just want someone to listen, and if I can do that for them and it makes them happy, then that makes me feel good inside, to give an act of kindness. If I can make another person happy or make their day, then I feel good about myself for doing so. If you lend an ear, that means more to the person you are listening to than, let’s say, buying them a hamburger. They will remember it because listening is a heartfelt act of caring. So if you can find it in your heart, give an act of kindness, show some love, and give an ear.

GLIDE’s blend of meals, celebration and social justice adds up to a delicious holiday feast for the community

When Rabbi Michael Lezak joined GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice last year, one of his main goals was to connect broader Bay Area Jewish communities to GLIDE’s dynamic work. And what a year it’s been! Michael has brought in hundreds of community members from local synagogues and schools to serve meals, engage in proximate justice training courses, and, with the help of a steady volunteer group and our Daily Free Meals team, bake challah to give out to GLIDE staff every Friday morning on the principle that “you need to feed the people who feed the people.”

Continue reading “Challah for Christmas!”

Eric Tatum is a beloved long-time staff and community member at GLIDE. He has seen many changes over the decades, and has recently been collaborating with our Adult Education Specialist Stephanie McNally to record and archive his invaluable memories. We are grateful to Eric for recognizing the historical significance of his perspectives and experiences, and for sharing his personal truth with our community.

How did you end up knowing so many people?

Cecil gave me a job the first day he met me. Cecil asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I told him I don’t know. He told me there was a position open at GLIDE because someone was leaving the stockroom. I worked in the stockroom until December. There was many events coming up and Cecil asked me if I wanted to participate in the company events that were coming up.

So I went with him as a security guard and bodyguard. He liked how I worked and I became his bodyguard and security guard for 10 years. So everybody who he knew I met; anybody who met Cecil, I met, you know, being his top security guard.

Eric, Ricky and Ivan with Rev. Cecil Williams.

So that’s how I ended up meeting everybody—going to the games, going different places, going to the state capitol, going to the White House. I was right there with him. President Clinton came. I got to meet him, Hillary and their daughter. I went to the inauguration. I went to Washington for the first day that Clinton got in office.

What did it mean to you, that Cecil asked you to play this role in his work?

It changed my life dramatically because I had just got out of the penitentiary. I had never heard of GLIDE. The only place I heard of Cecil was on the news—the man with the Afro, the man who married gay couples. That’s all I knew of him. I’d never seen GLIDE.

Some homeless people told me about GLIDE, told me to come here on a Sunday for the pork chops—and that’s what I really came for, to eat the pork chops!

I didn’t know nothing about the volunteering. I didn’t know nothing about the activities here, you know. Only thing I knew about San Francisco was Powell Street. And the beach, because they had the museum back then.

That was the only thing I knew about San Francisco. I came here and started volunteering and everything started growing on me, you know. All the events, all the people started growing on me.

And people start treating me differently because I was with Cecil. People thought I was a big-time person now when I wasn’t. I was homeless at the time.

It was a big step for me because I learned a lot about diversity. I actually got in a lot of trouble back then because the gay guys would call me heterosexual. And I didn’t know what heterosexual meant and I would get mad at them and tell them, ‘Don’t call me that because I’m not gay!’

So one of the heterosexual guys pulled me to the side and told me what heterosexual meant, that you straight, and that’s what they were saying, that I was straight.

Eric Tatum at Grocery Bag Giveaway 2017.

I wasn’t into the gay population until Cecil put me in ‘Man Alive’. It was called ‘Man in Motion’ back then. I went to the ‘Man in Motion’ and learned the diversity of gay people and straight people. That taught me how to love and accept everybody. I learned that diversity.

Do you think in learning to love and accept everyone you also found more love for yourself?

Yes, I found a lot of love for myself because I seen a lot of people loving me. I didn’t love myself back then because I was on a lot of drugs back then, I was out of the penitentiary – and this was all stuff that was new to me, being on drugs and I had never been to the penitentiary a day in my life. They told me they were going to make an example out of me because I was a college student. They gave me 10 years, but I did five.

Coming to GLIDE really changed my life. Like I said, it gave me stability. It taught me who I was and it taught me how to love and accept other people, you know. It taught me that I’m powerless over people, places and things, so it brought me out of a dark closet.

So now I have light.

The book No Hiding Place really taught me, you know, because you can’t hide from yourself.

Back then, Cecil’s motto was, “Take your mask off.” You can walk around without a mask at GLIDE. You don’t need to wear a mask at GLIDE. You could be yourself, you know. People can accept you or reject you. I just learned how to have exceptions and those who didn’t want me I just learned how to deal with that. Basically that’s how I learned to have exceptions for myself, you know.

How to love and treat people as they are.

Building social justice mindsets in law enforcement communities

With the arrival of Rabbi Michael Lezak last year, GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice (CSJ) has been able to expand and deepen the ways we emphasize truth and reconciliation in our efforts around advocacy, staff development, and community building. In April, CSJ welcomed police departments and district attorneys’ offices from around the western United States for our first “An Officer and a Mensch” training. This curriculum seeks to instill greater understanding and care between law enforcement and the people of historically oppressed communities like the Tenderloin.

Rabbi Michael leads the initiative in partnership with Chief Matt Carmichael from the University of Oregon Police Department, and Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig.

“I look at GLIDE as a lifeboat in a sea of need,” says Matt. “It’s a simple idea, to come where the need is and teach our criminal justice professionals that to be a good leader you have to know your community and who you serve. What better way to learn who you serve than spending time at GLIDE.”

Matt and Jeff along with about 25 law enforcement professionals spent three days at GLIDE, discussing everything from racism in the criminal justice system to the causes of the opioid crisis to what truly compassionate human interactions should look like. They also volunteered as a group in our Meals Program and met with GLIDE staff from across the organization to learn about our values-based approach towards serving our Tenderloin community.

“The vision was to create an opportunity to change the paradigm, to bring law enforcement leaders into this experience of opening our minds and broadening our perspectives, even if it’s just a little bit, to a different way of approaching the issues that affect us all: homelessness, poverty, addiction, mental illness,” says Jeff. “The goal and the prayer is for law enforcement leaders to develop more hope, more understanding and maybe change the way we do the job a little bit.”

GLIDE Senior Director of Programs Kyriell Noon speaking to the group about GLIDE services and community engagement. Photo credit: Alain McLaughlin

The training left a positive and lasting impression on the participants, so much so that Rabbi Michael and GLIDE are already prepared to welcome another group after Thanksgiving this year. Michael, along with Director of the CSJ Miguel Bustos, are in the process of refining the curriculum and in conversation with various law enforcement professionals about instituting it as part of the core training for officers in departments across the west coast.

“This partnership at GLIDE is the only one of its kind in the country,” says Matt. “What’s wonderful about what you did for us is that it’s a re-connection, a reminder of our responsibility to leave no one behind. We have to serve everyone.”

Chief Matt Carmichael speaking during the final session of the training. Photo credit: Alain McLaughlin

 

Angela Coleman has worked at GLIDE in various roles for 13 years, and is currently a much-loved Case Manager with our Walk-In Center. GLIDE recognizes the need to work closely with formerly incarcerated women and their families. New research shows that formerly incarcerated people are nearly 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public, with Black women experiencing the highest rate of sheltered homelessness – nearly four times the rate of white men, and twice as high as the rate of Black men. As a Case Manager with GLIDE’s Walk-In Center, Angela has been doing this important work for years. Angela took some time recently to discuss why she works with imprisoned and formerly incarcerated people, and what societal and systemic changes she wants to see. Continue reading “Lending Hope”

In August, 2017 GLIDE introduced two full-time Meals Navigators to the Daily Free Meals program, which is GLIDE’s largest and longest running program, offering meals three times daily to all in need or some 750,000 meals a year. Pamela Brown and Diane Truong help connect people in our community to other services at and beyond GLIDE. Pamela specializes in assisting people with disabilities, while Diane offers English-Cantonese translation to our many Cantonese-speaking community members.
Continue reading “Meet Diane and Pamela: GLIDE’s Meals Navigators”

Eddie is a Meals Program Team Member who first walked in the doors at 330 Ellis looking to volunteer. Two and a half years later, Eddie can do just about everything in the Meals Program – coffee house, prep room, main dining hall, opening shifts, closing shifts and everything in between. He does it all with a big smile and a heart of gold! And because he speaks FIVE languages, including three dialects spoken in China, he’s adept in communicating with our guests who come from other cultures and countries, particularly our senior community.

We are grateful to him for sitting down to talk about volunteerism and daily life in Meals and for sharing some stories from his time working alongside clients and volunteers. Eddie, we’re lucky to have you around! 
Continue reading “Giving Back to San Francisco with Eddie”

Kent first came to GLIDE as a homeless teenager in search of a hot meal and assistance navigating San Francisco’s affordable housing system. Today, he returns every Monday and Thursday morning to volunteer in the kitchen, which comes easy to him – he has years of experience in the restaurant industry! He believes little things, like a smile or a warm greeting, can make a big difference – two things he provides plenty of each week during his breakfast shifts. Thank you for getting up early and making breakfast a wonderful experience for our community, Kent!
Continue reading “It's Never Too Late (Or Too Early!) to Make a Difference”

Welcome to our Volunteer and Staff Highlight Series! Throughout the next five weeks we will be shining the spotlight on a few of our amazing volunteers and staff members in the GLIDE Daily Free Meals program. These people pull off something miraculous every day — three times a day. If you’ve ever joined us for mealtime you know it’s a major operation, requiring nearly 100 people a day to get right. But the real mark of success is when our guests don’t have to think about anything except enjoying their food, a welcoming atmosphere, some friendly and familiar faces, and a sense that they belong.
James Sampaga is a Meals Program Shift Lead in his 13th year at GLIDE. Everybody knows James. Recently we caught up with him in the middle of closing a lunch time shift. Amid the clamor of clanking dishes and soul music over the dining room speakers, James offered his thoughts on the importance of the Daily Free Meals program as well as the incalculable value of volunteering.  
Continue reading “Serving Lunch (and Love) with James Sampaga”

Paul Harkin on what you need to know

This month, Barbara Garcia, director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, announced that the city was looking to pilot two Safe Injection Sites (SIS) for intravenous drug users as early as July 1. This announcement comes amid a spiraling opioid crisis that has encouraged many city leaders across the U.S. to consider adopting some of the evidence-based approaches already working in other countries. Locally, Director Garcia’s announcement comes less than a year after the Board of Supervisors created a task force to investigate the feasibility of operating such sites in San Francisco. The task force’s findings strongly supported the idea.


With Director Garcia’s announcement, San Francisco is now poised to be the first city in the country to open a SIS. This development has great significance for the people and communities GLIDE has long served. In their outreach work throughout the Tenderloin, GLIDE’s Harm Reduction team is literally on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. Given the recent developments, we are reposting excerpts from an earlier interview with Paul Harkin, manager of GLIDE’s Harm Reduction Services, who speaks to the scope of the problem and to the arguments in favor of Safe Injection Sites (also known as Supervised Consumption Services) as a viable, compassionate and rational approach.
Continue reading “Safe Injection Sites Are Coming to San Francisco”