The lobby at GLIDE was buzzing with activity on the morning of March 3rd, crowded with visitors looking for a brief reprieve from the cold San Francisco winter.

As staff and visitors milled, a voice cut through the crowd with a tone of urgency as bone-chilling and silencing as the wind outside – “Give me all the Narcan we’ve got, I need all the Narcan we’ve got!” The room froze as the collective heart skipped a beat. Undistracted, Iris swept up armfuls of the nasal sprays and ran outside hastily. The lobby filtered out behind her as she belted down the street.

At the corner of Ellis and Jones, the body of a man laid strewn on the ground, under the dark awnings of a corner store. Iris hovered over him. There was no pulse – he had overdosed. The crowd drew timidly closer as Iris began to administer Narcan. One dose, two doses, she sprayed one after the other into his nose. Tim lay still.

Three doses. The street had fallen silent.

Four doses.

Tim jolted, his sharp inhale reverberated against the walls of the quiet buildings. As his eyes fluttered open, he turned a confused gaze towards Iris.

 “You were dead, hon,” Iris said.

“What?” Tim replied.

“You were dead. I brought you back.”

In the distance, a crescendo of sirens signaled the ambulance that came four Narcans too late.

Iris stands outside of GLIDE, just hours after administering life-saving Narcan

For the People

The numbers speak volumes of a crisis that continues to wreak havoc in San Francisco – 650 lives were lost to overdose in 2021 alone in the city, a 59% increase from just before the pandemic in 2019. What’s more, nearly 80% of all opioid overdose deaths take place outside of medical settings, ushering in a new era where heroes in street clothes are stepping into the role of first responder.

“Everyone on GLIDE’s Community Safety team knows how to administer Narcan, we all get trained,” Iris explained shortly after her encounter with Tim. “I don’t wear a doctor uniform, but I’ve saved so many lives out here, I don’t even count anymore.”

Many members of GLIDE’s Community Safety Team carry doses of Narcan with them as a precaution

“In this neighborhood, anything can happen,” said Lorenzo, another member of GLIDE’s Community Safety team. On the morning of the overdose, Lorenzo was key in alerting Iris to the emergency. For both colleagues, there was a deeper connection to Tim that heightened the urgency of their response. “GLIDE knows who Tim is, personally,” Lorenzo explained. “I see him every day, he eats here every day. This was something that I needed to do.”

The Community Safety team at GLIDE holds some of the closest relationships with clients, interacting with hundreds of people each day and slowly building trust through their honesty, transparency, and genuine acts of service. In this way, clients like Tim know who they can turn to when they are ready to receive support, no matter where they are on their path to stability.

Unconditional Love

Several weeks after his overdose, Tim returned to GLIDE to pick up a meal and speak with Iris. As he recounts, the close call was spurred on by a syringe containing unknown substances.

After hearing of Tim’s experience, Iris took the opportunity to connect him with GLIDE’s Harm Reduction services, where he can access clean needles, free HIV testing, and his own supply of the Narcan that saved his life just weeks ago.

“It was a big mistake,” Tim recalls. “But if you didn’t come up, Iris, I could’ve been way worse. They said I could’ve been dead.”

As the two parted ways, Iris left with a reminder – “I love you, Tim. Give me a hug.”

GLIDE Voices is highlighting Asian American & Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander Month. We asked Clinical Director Roderick Penalosa what GLIDE values resonate with you this month and why?

My family and I migrated from the Philippines to the United States in search of equitable opportunities. The benchmark of success for many immigrants like myself is to thrive in America unscathed and to earn the privilege of American citizenship. The journey towards achieving the American dream comes with social, environmental, and political values that can stifle and oppress our voices and visibility in this country

My race has always been the most prominent marker of my identity, and for an Asian-American who came here as an adolescent, I was incessantly entrenched in the model minority myth – stereotypes that perpetuate the characterization of all Asians as the ideal persons of color to emulate because of our perceived natural capacity to comply, obey, excel, and succeed. This mythical belief is detrimental to our mental health and wellbeing because it takes away our right to be included, counted, and supported, particularly in times of crisis, due to the assumption that we are not susceptible to socio-economic and psychological stress. Many of us in the AAPI community suffer in silence because of the social stigma and shame that comes with help-seeking behaviors.

As an Asian-American, I resonate deeply with the GLIDE values of truth-telling and unconditional compassion. I’m a strong proponent of social justice advocacy that starts with self-responsibility. The courage to show up every day in our most authentic selves, in all circumstances, is a healing form of conveying our truth and an unconditional expression of self-compassion.

Revealing my true nature, even in my helplessness and most vulnerable moments, is an affirmation of my identity as a proud gay Filipino American immigrant man who belongs and deserves to be heard, seen, and recognized in America. Owning my authenticity and capacity to love myself and others is the truth that I share deeply with GLIDE and with humanity. In my role as GLIDE’s Clinical Director, I aspire to redefine the meaning and value of trauma-informed service that is healing-centered and culturally compassionate.”

Roderick Penalosa, PhD, LMFT
GLIDE Clinical Director

GLIDE’s Women’s Center, in conjunction with community partners The Healing Well, La Cocina, YWAM San Francisco, and Simply the Basics, hosted a Womxn’s Wellness Fair on Friday, May 7–the start of Mother’s Day Weekend. The free, day-long event was meant to celebrate and serve all unhoused, and housed women-identified residents in the Tenderloin and took place in the Tenderloin Community Resource Hub at Ellis Street and Taylor in front of GLIDE.

Womxn’s Wellness Fair activities included fellowship, fun, food, art, resources, music, carnival games, bingo, and even free yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture. Women could access resources like hygiene products, mental health support services, harm reduction kits, free snack bags, and $5 vouchers for the newly opened La Cocina Marketplace. The fair is part of ongoing outreach efforts by GLIDE’s Women’s Center to support women who are living on the street, in an unstable housing situation, or need social support.

“Our event was a tremendous success!” said Shannon Wise, manager of GLIDE’s Women’s Center. “Thank you to our 24 participating agencies and all the women in the community who came out. We served about 300 people that day. It was great for agencies to network with each other on-site, and in-person providing up-to-date information and community resources.”

“I am so happy that they have a Woman’s Fair, said attendee Hoamy “Linda” Ung. “I have been waiting and praying for it.”

“I really believe in women empowering women and women having a platform just to better themselves, just to be happy to be who they are, said participant and organizer Juthaporn Chaloeicheep. “We should praise women for the good jobs they do.”

When women get together, we’ve been able to do amazing things.” “I just wanted to come out because I’ve been locked up so much,” said Marquita Stroud, who lives in a nearby hotel. “My favorite part has been playing all the carnival games.”

Wise is hopeful that the Wellness Fair will make more women aware of the services available through the Center. “We’re here and we can help,” she said. “We just want people in the community to know that we are a resource for them.”

GLIDE’s Women’s Center provides a safe haven for women on the road to recovery from trauma, violence, and isolation. Through its essential support services, the Center helps women, and their families stabilize their lives and thrive. To find out more about the Women’s Center, please visit glide.org/program/womens-center.

Four years in, GLIDE Church’s congregational life group devoted to “courageous conversation” across the divides has learned a thing or two

At GLIDE Memorial Church, we practice unconditional love. More than a mere platitude, unconditional love is an ethics. It teaches us that difference does not make someone fall out of the boundaries of beloved community. Unconditional love says difference is what will allow us to cover more creative, spiritual, philosophical, and political ground. In Different Together conversation circles, progressive and conservative, Republican and Democrat, learn to listen without judgement or losing ground of their beliefs. Instead, the participants dismantle the walls of racial, social, economic, and political histories that have kept people separated into ideological enemies. The work of Different Together creates a space of vulnerability and truth. It’s okay to be affiliated, enlisted, or a member of the winning or the losing party. It’s not okay to launch from that win or loss, into hate. Whether online or in-person it’s the “Together,” of “Different Together,” that brings people into proximity to all of humanity and back from the brink of our mutual annihilation.

Marvin K. White, Minister of Celebration

The following conversation with Different Together co-founders and facilitators Chris Collins and Winne Fink was conducted by Rob Avila and Casey Zhao from the communications team in December 2020. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Different Together (originally called Bridging the Divide) is a congregational life group at GLIDE Memorial Church that formed after the last election in 2016. How do you describe the project and what are some of the foundational texts or guideposts you use?

Chris: I say that we create opportunities for courageous conversation between people who might not otherwise interact or might avoid each other. Much of that is the progressive and conservative divide, but it doesn’t necessarily stop there. That does not fully capture what our divisions are. Our divisions are also across race, across class, across religion. We try to be mindful of that and bring that in as part of our focus and our conversations. 

Was there one book or source that served as an initial framework for the group?

Chris: There are several books. One was by a sociologist named Jonathan Haidt called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. There’s one [by Jason J. Jay and Gabriel Grant] called Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized WorldRoadmap to Reconciliation [by Brenda Salter McNeil] was another book that I consulted. So there have been a few that were instrumental. 

While you bring up books: I was also looking for a book that could help guide me through all this and I wasn’t really finding the one that I felt I really needed, so I’ve written my own. It’s actually being published in January. Hopefully, that will be a foundational text for other groups that want to do similar work across the country. I talk a lot about GLIDE in it and how GLIDE was a perfect place for a radically inclusive community to also be radically inclusive to people across the political divide as well. It’s based on my experience and the collective experience of the group, which I try to share. 

Winnie: We did start with books and we started with a workshop format for GLIDE-only folks, having discussions by using a particular author’s approach/theory. And I’m smiling because leading an in-depth discussion of a formal theory is not as comfortable for me. So when Chris said we’re going to workshop, Winnie, we’re going to use the Righteous Mind. I was like, Oh Lord. So that was learning for me. But I think we’ve also just evolved by realizing what people have really liked—when we do topics like gun control or taxes, those have been successful; the one we did on health care was really hot. That was probably our first one that was particularly contentious. We had a lot of on-the-ground learning about how to deal with that.

How do you deal with a contentious issue like that?

Winnie: You know, we do this thing on social media where you just one-dimensionalize the other side. They’re an asshole. It just becomes that simple. We’ve really tried to do a lot to get people to use empathy and turn it around. The interesting thing for me doing this project at GLIDE is that, yes, we say we’re inclusive, but it’s really been about people who are struggling the most. Right? We’ve not necessarily made a lot of effort [to reach] people who might have privilege the other way, or who might not be the ones that care in the same way or in the way that we think is enough or right.

Shirley from Bridging the Divide

Tell me about the meeting that you held the day before Election Day?

Chris: The idea came about that the night before the election is going to be one that was going to be anxiety-filled for everybody, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. Especially for us on the progressive side, we don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s probably not going to be pretty. No matter what the outcome of the election is, there are a lot of unknowns. Unlike any other year. So we wanted to have some sort of event where we can come and be grounded as we enter Election Day. 

We developed this conversation that would have an arc to it. Just to give you a sense of the structure of how we do this: We have a group of 33 people, we have some opening remarks, we present a question, we break up into small groups of four, come back as a big group. There’s a little bit of a debrief, and the next question, then you’re in a new group. We did that for a series of questions. What gives you anxiety about what’s to come? What has given you hope over the last few years?  

Winnie: We’ve been doing this enough where one of us, usually it’s Chris but I will also facilitate, we just sort of take it, we own it, we have a conversation, and we go. With this one we were extra thoughtful, careful. [Minister] Marvin opened us. David Fredrickson, he teaches mindfulness and compassion, he did a closing for us. As we return to the big group, we have people react in writing. We’ve learned that the more we can interact, and the more modalities we can learn, the better the experience is for folks. The idea is really getting people to be thoughtful and hear from each other and realize what I’m worried about is also what they’re worried about, and they think totally differently than I do. Get people to put their curiosity and empathy hats on, which is what the whole project is. Just very simply: be curious, be kind. It’s not that complicated but we don’t it very well collectively. 

Chris: The conversation ended on a note of, How do you want to be treated if your candidate doesn’t win? How will you treat other people if your candidate does win? It was naming the anxiety that’s there, naming how you feel about other people who disagree with you (that was one of the questions), and put all answers into the space and, in the end: OK, how do you want to be treated and how are you going to treat other people? Speaking personally, I felt that, going to bed that night, because of this event, I felt warmth, I had a full heart. That sense of community, across the political lines, before what was most likely going to be a toxic election, was very, very meaningful for me and I heard that reflected in many people that were there. 

Now that we are passed the election, what lies ahead for the group? 

Winnie: I think there’s some learning to do. For me, I joined [four years ago] because I didn’t know what to do with myself after the election, I was in anguish, lost, didn’t understand. I thought about where I grew up in a small town in Kansas knowing many or most of those folks who voted for Trump. That’s where most of us who wound up in that room from GLIDE [were coming from]. We just got whupped. How that felt.

Now I think there’s learning to be done on the other side of that. I don’t think what we have ahead is anything that radical other than keep going, be kind, and be curious. I don’t think it’s much harder than that. But figuring out how to do it—I do think what we’re really clear on is that we’re still ridiculously polarized. There are still so many people who don’t participate. At least on the left. My circles, most of my friends are pretty lefty, it’s hard to get them to come. They’re like, I can’t talk to those people. It’s hard for me to get my friends to participate. So, we’ve got work to do. I also think that it’s largely been the privileged arm of GLIDE membership who have participated so I’d be very interested in also expanding our membership and reach.

Chris: I think that’s beautifully said. I would also like to see us continuing to do outreach across the country and finding a church community in the South or somewhere that’s not anything like San Francisco and having a series of conversations with them. Maybe a series of three conversations. That type of outreach. Sometimes the conservative attendance is low, sometimes it’s not that bad. What we have seen in this project, and in the movement across the country, is that the participation leans on the progressive side. Even if that’s the case, we keep on finding the opportunity. When conservatives are ready to join, they are welcome to join. But if we have low numbers of conservative participants there’s still plenty of work for us to do. Winnie and I, as white people, we have lots of work to do to bridge divides with communities of color. That’s one example. 

Casey: I feel like within my generation, I’m 21, nobody really sits down and just has a conversation, it’s just aggressive, back and forth. I think there’s a lot of toxicity, especially within my generation, within politics. 

Chris: It’s interesting that you say that because, in talking about Different Together, there’s definitely a generational divide. I would say the participants are mostly 50, 55 and above. In my experience it doesn’t seem like the younger generation believes in this. I think older generations reflect on a time when politics wasn’t so toxic and want to go back to something that was like that, a little more friendly sport. Politics my entire life, going back to the 1980s, has been toxic. It’s just a different world that we’ve experienced. That is a struggle for this project and for the movement nationwide. 

Different Together is one of many Congregational Life groups meeting regularly, online for now, at GLIDE Memorial Church. Different Together meets on a monthly basis. To reserve a spot at an upcoming meeting, email DifferentTogether@glide.org. For more Congregational Life Online, visit this page on our website.

San Francisco teen and GLIDE volunteer finds a creative way to support her community from home: cooking for a cause

With so much going on in the world right now, many of us wonder how we can step up to meet this moment, while keeping ourselves and our communities safe. One San Francisco teenager and longtime GLIDE volunteer creatively navigated these uncertain times and, in the process, raised much needed funds for GLIDE programs.

Ali Fishman, a San Francisco high school student, found herself tackling the art of cooking during the long days of shelter-in-place. She soon discovered her friends were doing the same thing. So Ali began requesting recipes from her fellow students. The responses delighted and surprised her—everything from “Tik Tok coffee” to “Mac and Cheese Balls.”

Cuisine can tell us a lot about a culture, and Ali found the collection of recipes to be a reflection of the times. “It was a funny depiction,” she admits, “of what is going in the world right now.”

Cooking for a Cause

As she passed the days at home with her family, Ali was acutely aware of those who did not have the privilege of staying safely at home, especially essential workers and people experiencing homelessness. “If I get to sit at home all day,” she reflected, “I might as well use it to do something good for the people who don’t get to be sitting at home.”

With this in mind, Ali decided to publish her newfound collection of recipes as a cookbook and to donate the proceeds to GLIDE.

Ali first visited GLIDE on a school field trip when she was in the fifth grade and has returned to volunteer through GLIDE’s volunteer program ever since. She still remembers what her tour guide told her class on that first trip: “GLIDE is a radically inclusive community. We serve anyone and everyone.” Ali says it’s an ethic that has informed her life ever since.

A recipe for action

For Ali, the best part of the fundraiser was engaging and collaborating with her broader community. Her social media followers sent in the recipes, her friend illustrated the book, her parents’ friend offered marketing support, and her school advisor mentored her along the way.

When the 70-page cookbook, entitled “A Book for When Postmates Is Not an Option,” was finished and posted online for sale, the response was another pleasant surprise. In a matter of weeks, she had sold well over 100 books and raised over $1,500 for GLIDE’s programs for individuals and families in dire need.

“Honestly, I was not expecting for people to love it so much,” says Ali. “When you are doing something in the moment, you’re thinking you are making something for a certain audience. But when friends share it with their networks, there is exponential reach.” 

Reflecting on her cookbook publication and fundraiser, Ali says, “the process has been fun and not a burden at all. We are all in the city together, we are all responsible for each other, and we are all supposed to be there for each other. I am making sure to be proactive.”

Cooking for a cause sound inspiring?

Ali’s tips for starting a fundraiser:

  1. Make it fun and exciting for you and the people that are going to be supporting you.  
  2. Make it community focused; get as many people involved as you can so that it’s a team effort, and there will be support for the final product.

While this is Ali’s first self-organized fundraiser, she sees now that when it comes to philanthropy, “young people need to take ownership.” She says this is especially true for teenagers.

“We are going to be adults soon enough, so the lesson that we are all supposed to be there for each other is vitally important.” 🧡

Ali seems to be at the forefront of a movement: Young people organizing fundraisers for GLIDE is trending! From holding virtual concerts to Instagram Live Yoga fundraisers, GLIDE’s youngest volunteers are stepping up and finding creative ways to contribute remotely during this physically distanced time. “A Book for When Postmates Is Not an Option” is available here.

While GLIDE hasn’t been able to host our in-person volunteer program during shelter-in-place, there are many ways to stay involved. If you have an idea for a fundraiser or donation drive of your own, please contact Lauren Bernstein, in GLIDE’s Fund Development department, at lbernstein@glide.org.

Banner image: Ali in the kitchen (left) and friend Natalie.

The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957

What does the Beloved Community look like as it sits between the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systematic racism? Do we need to redraw the boundaries of Beloved Community to include more people awakening today to the moral injury they have caused or victimized them? At the center of it all, the aim is still to bring people together through this century’s pandemics and into liberation’s light. She has not dimmed. I want us to be in Beloved Community. And I want us to move towards freedom together. And I want us to know that freedom is not “over there,” but instead, freedom is at hand, in hand, and as close as your heart is to you. Freedom is at the center of it all, and at every step in this journey, we must recalibrate as often as the news brings us worse and worsening news.

I want you to know Beloved that this moment is the only one you get, so you must use your gifts now and not delay them. You must understand that if in whatever moment you find yourself in, if it doesn’t feel like you have a praise report today, a stockholder’s meeting with God, to share today the dividends with God on God’s investment, if you can’t say to those new on the road to freedom, the coordinates of your freedom road, then you are not present in this moment. But all is not lost. What is pleasing to God in the middle of twin pandemics is that you experience God’s peace today, experience God’s love today, and experience God’s justice today. This is pleasing to God. You must be the peace, the love, and the justice, and you must inspire other people to peace, love, and justice, for this is pleasing to God.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. Isaiah 55:10-13

At the center of it all, like everyone else, I just want to bring people together in Beloved Community. My job is to help people to interpret this moment through both trauma-informed and joy informed lenses. We miss out on the promise if we unearth trauma and not unearth the joy that sits directly beneath it, ready to be excavated. And at the center of it all, your flight, or your fright response, God is walking with you through whatever moment whispers to you in the quiet hours.

For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Did you leave the sanctuary in joy? Has that joy carried you through these four months of the pandemic? At the center of it all, like everyone else, I just want to bring people together. And make sure that we are grounded in this moment. Make sure we are not romanticizing the past but being present and shaping a future. A New York Times article came out three days ago with the headline: Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are Confronting Coronavirus Cases. It said, “More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans got back to normal.

I have known that the architecture of our church’s sanctuary, and the rituals we perform on Sundays, are the optimal conditions for the virus to spread. I’ve known that I have been grieving the loss of the congregation as I knew it, the pulpit as I knew it, the podium as I knew it, the microphone as I knew, the choir as I knew it and the band as I knew it. I have known that it will be hard to bring people to think that Facebook Live is what “bringing people together” means. I have known that “online” had to take on new meaning. I have known that I had to take on a new meaning. I have had to shapeshift before. I have had to call myself something else when I was called worthless and lucky that I could get any kind of love, let alone the one I desired. Then I realized that the charge has not changed. And that this moment was not wrong, church was not wrong for moving from unsafe to safe, and our rituals were not suddenly wrong or weakened because we are online. Being asked to believe in a God that “will punish us if don’t go back to worshipping as normal” or believing that a “God will protect us if we go back to worshipping as normal” is wrong.

God says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater” and that means that you should not wait, water the earth beneath where you stand. Be the praise, and do not wait for the praise. Give the seed, which replicates your joy, to the one who is joyless and gives the bread of your efforts to a hungry world. And now, every time I hear someone say, “Let’s get back to normal.” I hear, “Let’s Make America Great Again.” I hear, “Who I am only fits who I was.” And I ask, “Who benefits from ‘normal’ and who benefits from that ‘greatness’?” You are not normal if you come to GLIDE.

The article said that the outbreak, “happened in churches that reopened cautiously with face masks and social distancing in the pews, as well as some that defied lockdowns and refused to heed new limits on numbers of worshipers.” One pastor said, “in his own church, congregants were social distancing and mostly wearing masks. And he had live-streamed services initially on Facebook, but some congregants begged to return to church, and others did not have reliable internet access.” Another pastor whose church was a virus ground zero, said, “…we had people who were away from fellowship for so long and in isolation. They were hurting. We just got to a point where we thought, we need to have normal church services.” They acquiesced, they gave-in, they broke, and the virus swept through their churches. There is a truth in begging.

People fear for their spiritual lives more than their physical lives, no matter how many times I tell them that, “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the lord.” No matter how many times I say, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” But the questions, “How do we learn to live with COVID?” And “How do we adapt?” But the questions, “How can we live in fear of the virus?” and “Is the virus bigger than God?” are interesting to me, because we are not saying “Under no condition, will I stop shining my light because of COVID.” I am a black man, which meant that my mother lived concerned, because of the expectations. I have always been aware that the dreams often end prematurely. These experiences make me feel deeply about the new national worry that COVID surfaces. I worry about your cancer. I worry about your AIDS. I worry about your age. I worry about your lack of sleep. I worry about you being alone. I worry about your financial state. I worry about COVID and how it could be a devastating last straw. What I realize at this moment is that church is a microcosm of the global conversation in these twin pandemics of COVID and Racism: The disparities in treatment between rich white churches and GLIDE.

The church’s COVID 19 conversation is about safety and what equity looks like. It is definitely and always a spiritual conversation because it is a conversation about culture and community care and the diminishing spirit and spirituality of our people. And it is about reimagining this moment. Yes, it is about the economy restarting, and it is so much more. It is about getting the hope going- that a spiritual economy restarted inspires. It is getting the cultural economy restarted. It is about getting our community’s community pride economy restarted. It is about the economy of black children’s dreams restarted. It is about getting the inspiration that comes uniquely through the creative economy restarted.

We need what religion and spirituality is offering in this moment. We need to point to our sacred text and lift the stories to let the world know how to persist, and how to get off the grind and have some leisure time, how to rally courage, and how to find the deepest wells of power (even when the well has run dry). We Need that! We Need the church! The news is getting worse, how do we reimagine what we need for these times? What negative messages do you think our families are receiving today? When everything we do and invite people to do has to be reimagined…

  1. Connection
  2. Handholding
  3. Hugging
  4. Singing and Shouting
  5. Moving
  6. Dancing
  7. Sweating
  8. Passing and sharing food, and printed matter

And now we know that “closed spaces are the virus’ favorite space to be.” 650 cases. So, “No, not yet. No in-person service.” I hear you begging for normalcy, and I know the hurt from being separated from the community you love, and that loves you. But no, not yet. One day. Okay, what is the center of my joy and my belief? Okay. Love. And do I believe that I still preach joy and love without a physical church? Okay. Yes. And is love bigger than our building? Yes. At the center of it all, I just want to bring people together. I just want to remind you that you are the Word of God, and that should animate you exactly where you stand, and you should kiss it up to God. God is expecting you to open your gifts. This completes God. So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Our love of what we do is exhibited in the church and arena, but the church and the arena do not generate the love. Our congregation and visitors bring it, and it is just more visible because of the numerosity, the number of folks that are gathered.

So, we are in our 5th month of our “Sunday Celebration Online.” We stream live twice every Sunday from the eight different remote locations of our participants, and we mix it together with historical clips of the choir singing. Love in the time of Corona says we have to be like the entrepreneurs in tech, because this is a season for reimagining. This is the part in the story where your multi-million-dollar start-up tanked, and you aren’t defeated, because the idea is still good, and how you do it, how you remember the lessons, and how you start again, just has to be imagined differently. God is still good. Your dreams are still valid. You are not off course, off base, too late, or too early. You are not behind on your payments. At the center of the church experience is the self’s transformation through an encounter with the spirit of love that gets exhibited when two or two hundred or more are gathered. And lastly, I know that we have to have a plan. We cannot just “open back up.” But I also know that we cannot allow ourselves to be “shut down,” creatively, emotionally, or spiritually either.


Amid the ongoing pandemic, the most profound social upheaval since the 1960s, we reflect on the origins of the LGBTQ liberation movement and GLIDE’s historical support of LGBTQ communities, including LGBTQ communities of color. Since the early 1960s, GLIDE has embraced the demand for and celebration of radical inclusivity.

GLIDE as a place for all people, whatever their experience or background or faith, goes back to 1963. In that year Reverend Cecil Williams joined a group of progressive pastors who together took an early stand for same sex couples, presiding over their weddings nearly four decades before the legalization of gay marriage in California.

At a time of intense criminalization of homosexuality, which included the practice of arrest and police violence leveled at LGBTQ communities, Rev. Williams and other GLIDE ministers were also among the founders of The Council on Religion and the Homosexual in 1964—along with the renowned LGBTQ rights pioneers and activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. The San Francisco-based community organization joined LGBTQ activists and religious leaders in an effort to educate religious communities about gay and lesbian people and to speak out against homophobia and discrimination through inclusive, collective dialogue. It was the first organization in the U.S. to use “homosexual” as part of its name.


On January 1, 1965, the Council famously sponsored the Mardi Gras Ball at California Hall, to celebrate both the founding of the organization and the inclusivity it aimed to cultivate. Although the SFPD had issued a permit, the evening celebration was interrupted by a forceful police raid. The event would later become known as “San Francisco’s Stonewall.”

The following year, one of the first LGBTQ uprisings against police brutality took place in the heart of the Tenderloin, marking the beginning of the transgender liberation movement in San Francisco. The pivotal revolutionary act—among a group whose members included young people who had found a safe space and support at GLIDE—came to be known as the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, which preceded by three years 1969’s famous Stonewall Riots in New York City. In her 2005 film, Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, filmmaker, author and professor Susan Stryker called the uprising, “the first known incident of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment in U.S. history.”

GLIDE’s commitment to the self-expression and liberation of each member of our community continues to this day. On August 26 of last year, the 53rd anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, GLIDE held a Reflection and Reconciliation Session in which leadership from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) listened to the lived experience of LGBTQ residents and formally apologized for a history of violence and injustice against the community. The community conversation was facilitated by GLIDE’s Minister of Celebration, Marvin K. White; Pastor Megan Rohrer, a trailblazing transgender Lutheran pastor and SFPD chaplain; and Commander Teresa Ewins, the highest-ranking member of the LGTBQ community in SFPD. Reconciliation is a road we’re still on, and one that requires real structural change. Meanwhile the hopes, needs and critiques that were courageously shared at the gathering were only the first in a planned series of ongoing listening sessions.

While we are a long way from justice and reconciliation, particularly for LGBTQ folks at the intersections of racial and economic injustice, vital victories continue to be won in the struggle for love and equality as the basis for a better world. In our second PRIDE Month during the struggle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remember to celebrate our victories — particularly the decisive 6-3 vote that came in June 2020, when the Supreme Court ruled that the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that forbids discrimination in employment based on race, religion, national origin or sex extends to protections for gay and transgender people.

Even with this historic step forward, one which makes a profound difference in the lives of millions of people, it is still legal under federal law for landlords, stores, restaurants and hotels to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

We proudly celebrate the steps toward the better world we have fought for together with unconditional love and solidarity, and we also recognize that there is more to be done. The struggle continues. But this year’s Pride celebrations, both online and in the street, send the message loud-and-clear: The time for radical inclusivity is now!

By Erin Gaede

A lifeline in a landscape stalked by poverty and the coronavirus

As most of San Francisco remains at a relative standstill to slow the spread of the coronavirus, GLIDE Harm Reduction Case Manager Felanie Castro is behind the wheel, crisscrossing the city seven hours a day.

Piloting GLIDE’s community outreach van, and accompanied by a rotating roster of GLIDE health systems navigators and other Harm Reduction staff (Rita Bagnulo, Ali Lazarus, Jason Norelli, Amy Rodriguez, Amber Sheldon, Mike Thompson), Felanie makes between 20 and 35 stops a day, supporting unhoused San Franciscans for whom social isolation and resource scarcity have only deepened in the context of the current public health emergency.

“Everybody I’m seeing is getting a meal and water, and if they have any SAS [Syringe Access Services] needs, they’re getting that,” explains Felanie during a recent phone conversation.

“I’m also screening people—asking them if they’re having a new cough, experiencing a fever, having shortness of breath. I have a non-contact thermometer that DPH [San Francisco Department of Public Health] gave me. And I’m passing out tents. I think I’ve passed out over 400 tents since the 25th of March. I’m passing out hand sanitizer and hygiene kits. Masks when I get them.”

In practice, mobile outreach is nothing new to Felanie and her Harm Reduction colleagues. GLIDE introduced its customized community outreach van—complete with a phlebotomy chair and other equipment for on-site testing—last year as part of a new program called OPT-IN.

OPT-IN, part of a five-year grant operated in partnership with DPH, is designed to further the reach of GLIDE’s Harm Reduction program in serving the most marginalized populations across San Francisco with successful health interventions for addressing the HIV and Hep C epidemics and other harms among the city’s unhoused residents.

But in the context of a global pandemic—and the necessary scaling back or shuttering of restaurants and most other businesses, all in-person cultural events and many city services—priorities have shifted. More than ever, Felanie and crew act as a literal lifeline to people living an increasingly precarious existence in makeshift encampments and enclaves that fan out from the city center—from SoMa and the Mission to Excelsior, Potrero Hill, Bayshore, Bayview Hunters Point, all the way to the far side of Candlestick Park and beyond to the water’s edge.

“I’ve seen over 2,400 people since the end of March. Distributed over 2,000 meals,” recounts Felanie.

“There are 10 to 15 locations a day that I visit all the time. I’ve been to certain places where they’re saying, ‘Thank you, because you’re the only person coming out here. You’re the only person to ever come out here. And you’re repeatedly coming out here.’”

“The distribution of water and hygiene kits is a critical intervention to prevent disease transmission among persons with no access to running water, such as in the Warehouse district,” adds Harm Reduction Program Manager Daniela Wotke.

In addition to basic necessities and harm reduction services, information has been another valuable offering to help guard the health of people living unhoused.

“I’ve been passing out some literature, too. Little half-page booklets. Dispelling some of the myths that they have,” says Felanie of the people living outside.

“It’s still abstract for a lot of people who are already kind of remote. I’m also giving them the information about MSC South. There are a lot of people who tested positive at MSC South. There are probably people who are positive who were at MSC South and who are out in the community. So physical distancing and having a mask are really things to pay attention to.

“I’m really good with boundaries,” continues Felanie. “I’m wearing my mask; I ask people to keep their distance. So, I lead by example in that respect. Different pockets have different levels of anxiety and stress over this—all coupled with their stress about, ‘Hey, how am I going to get food and water, and basic things to clean myself with, if you don’t come out?’”

To date, no one Felanie has screened for symptoms presented signs that would necessitate further evaluation at SF General. “I haven’t had anybody yet,” notes Felanie, “and I’ve screened maybe 350 people.”

GLIDE Harm Reduction team members Felanie, Amy and Jason with the OPT-IN van on February 6, 2020. (photo: Rob Avila)

Fortunately, regular services like the ones offered from the OPT-IN van, including the basics of food and water and modest shelter, mean many unhoused city residents have the ability to shelter where they are without having to risk venturing into the more congested centers of town.

And, as Felanie makes clear, the outreach is a community effort:

In addition to logistical support from DPH, and the regular SAS outreach conducted by San Francisco AIDS Foundation (another member of the OPT-IN program), GLIDE’s OPT-IN team relies on a network of allies for sourcing such critical supplies as tents (Coalition on Homelessness), hand sanitizer (via homeless rights activist Christin Evans), meals (GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals team, with donations from Gate Gourmet and others), hygiene kits (The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence), and masks (some homemade ones, some from a local drive instigated by District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, to which many generous individuals contributed).

For now, the OPT-IN mobile outreach remains a vital and, for many, a unique line of support as unhoused people across the city weather a season of increased deprivation, uncertainty and risk.

“When you talk about Market Street all the way to the water on the East side, I can’t think of a street that I have not been on,” says Felanie. “There was one or two days when I was between Bayshore and the water all day. I put 50 miles on the van, just in that area. That’s going every single block.”


Reflections of a powerful young voice from the global movement for justice

Bee Ling recently came to GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice as part of the International Research & Exchanges Fellowship (IREX) on tolerance and conflict resolution. Having Bee here with us was a rare and very special opportunity. We learned from her, and we shared with her, as we came to see the Tenderloin and San Francisco through her eyes—and in a global context. Astute, compassionate, kind and courageously dedicated to supporting the most vulnerable members of society, Bee is now a friend and ally for whom we are deeply grateful. Before returning home to Kuala  Lumpur, Bee spoke with us about her perspective on global practices of social exclusion, discussing her plans to set up inclusive initiatives to involve people experiencing homelessness in policy processes and local service responses.

I am from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, where gentrification has been forcing many residents out [onto the streets] and causing displacement. I call it banishment, because my neighbors on the street are being forced to move with nowhere to go.

The government calls this voluntary but the high rent prices and the foreign investment companies that are buying up real estate for wealthy people, many of whom don’t even live in Kuala Lumpur, are pushing people into poverty. These new apartments stay empty most of the year. Officials claim that Kuala Lumpur is empty, but what they mean is there are not a lot of middle-class people living there anymore. The hundreds of migrant workers and homeless people are never mentioned.

The Destitute Persons Act, which was legislated during the British Colonial period in 1872, has been at the core of federal and state strategies for dealing with poverty and homelessness in Malaysia. By this law, government officers have the power to conduct raids on ‘destitute persons’ and detain them in welfare homes.

The government narrative describes this as “rescuing” people but it is [actually] arresting [them]. If you dress well, they will leave you alone. But if you look poor or homeless, they take you to these welfare homes where you have no freedom to leave or access to legal counsel.

There is an economy behind all of this. Private contract companies are paid to clear the streets of poor people and their belongings, just like the sweeps here in San Francisco. The sweeps are costly and ineffective. Most people don’t understand that our tax money is being used to target the poor.

In 2014, officials claimed that the root cause of homelessness is soup kitchens, basically blaming poor people for being homeless. I knew that being poor should not be considered a crime, so it was then that I got involved in working on the issue of homelessness. For the last four years, we have been providing services to the people living on the street as a Coordinator for Kedai Jalanan [“Street Store,” a pop-up shop run by faculty and students from the University of Malaysia]. We provide the urban poor with daily necessities like hygiene supplies and clothing.


Volunteers from the University of Malaya help set up racks, organize clothes, and lend a listening ear at Kedai Jalanan’s pop-up free market for those people experiencing homelessness in Kuala Lumpur.

I was a student when I started this work and didn’t realize the complexity of the problem and power of institutionalized racism. We need research to persuade our local city council and statistics to repel the Destitute Persons Act, but they are not easy to attain because the government doesn’t produce these statistics. When I talk to city council members they tell me that we have to focus on the bigger picture. But poor people never become the bigger picture. Every day the homelessness problem grows bigger and bigger, but when will it be seen?

I joined the IREX fellowship in hopes of developing a tri-national plan. Before coming to San Francisco, I was in Japan at a conference brainstorming global movements. Rather than working alone, we must join forces together in a movement towards global justice. That is what I hope to accomplish as part of my fellowship at GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice. I want to connect and combine resources to better understand the global forces that are causing people to suffer.

Since starting my year-long fellowship at IREX, I have realized that the way authorities target the poor in the United States is the same as in Southeast Asia. We don’t have as much freedom and as many resources as people in the United States, but I hope to use everything I have learned to run campaigns that address what we can do together to push back against authoritarianism globally. My goal is to activate a community of homeless people in Kuala Lumpur to be part of organizing and standing up for themselves rather than advocates like me speaking for them.

I think it is time we talk about transitional justice, because we can’t move forward until we heal the historical wounds. For example, in Malaysia, we still can’t talk about communism. There is no narrative from the bottom. I want to record the powerful narratives of the poor to inform middle-class conceptions. Poor people have dreams, too.

By Erin Gaede

Reflections on Client Advocacy, or What Is a Case Manager? (Part 2)

Walk-In Center client advocate Nikki Dove says her role at GLIDE is a constant reminder of how hard life can be. “Working here isn’t easy,” Nikki explains. “It’s not for the faint of heart or cold of heart. You’ve got to have humility. And you’ve got to recognize that not everyone knows how to help themselves, which is why spaces like the Walk-In Center are so important. We help anybody and everybody figure out how to navigate systems for themselves.”

The following reflections from Nikki (lightly edited for publication here) comprise the second installment in our series on the vital but little understood work of case managers. (You can read our first installment here.) What does a case manager do? In this series, we examine and honor the complexity and compassion of case management and client advocacy, here on the front lines of  GLIDE’s efforts to support the wellbeing and self-determination of our community.

We have all been there, navigating a system that we aren’t familiar with. It is irritating and frustrating. Now think about how stressful that would be if your needs were immediate–like shelter.

As a Client Advocate in the Walk-In Center, I spend a lot of time trying to support people in communicating their needs. I hand out tokens for transportation, deliver hygiene kits, and support people with their housing applications.

Because access to housing is so scarce now, I am constantly having conversations with folks who are struggling to adjust to how difficult things are. A lot of people I work with are unhoused for the first time in their life. So I help them with their DMV vouchers and support people in navigating the complicated process towards permanent housing, transitional housing, getting into treatment and finding shelter in the city.

The Walk-In Center is the real starting point for many folks.

Sometimes, in other programs, it feels like the goal is just to push people through or move you on to the next department so that you are not in my face anymore, so you are not my problem anymore. There is a different connection that you get when you meet folks at GLIDE.

I try support each person individually in determining what resources they need to move forward. An important part of this process is figuring out what questions clients need to be asking to avoid being pushed off or running around in circles. I am always trying to make sure that their next step is the right step for each person’s unique circumstances.

But mostly I view my role as seeing people. Folks need to be looked at in a way that their presence is acknowledged. We all go through our lives wanting to make sure that we are leaving some type of stamp or legacy, so someone knows that we were here in the future. Everyone here wants that, too. So making eye contact, asking if they need help with anything, and then listening without judgment is the most important part of my job.

This job has taught me that it is not the people at the bottom that are the problem. Sometimes things just happen. It is not always your fault and your reality is not always chosen. We forget that with this community. I haven’t met anybody that grew up thinking that they want to be unhoused on the streets of San Francisco. There is a lot of trauma [involved] that effects all of us. It is really sad to me the way the finger is often pointed at folks who are experiencing homelessness. There are ways to address this multilevel problem without having to blame the people who are experiencing the problem.

Instead of calling this, “The Homelessness Crisis,” we have to question what is happening with our social services and within our government that is allowing things like this to happen to our neighbors. What is happening within our education system, our homes, our communities? We need to ask, “What happened to you?” in order to create compassionate solutions.

That’s why GLIDE is such an important community, a place where anyone can find connection.

GLIDE offers people the opportunity to be connected through various avenues like Harm Reduction, Recovery services, the Women’s Center, volunteer opportunities, the Meals program, senior social events, Sunday Celebration for spiritual support, holistic support at the Wellness Center. And it doesn’t end there!

People always come back when they are doing well to say thank you and show their appreciation. It can be hard for me to take responsibility and accept their praises because it is work they did. I always remind people that we are here to support but you did the work, you took the necessary steps to move in this direction.

I consider GLIDE to be a supportive space where it is okay for whatever you decide. No matter what, we will be here for you if you need us. So come back and let us know how you are doing. Come back and bring someone else in need of help. Come back if you need support figuring out your next steps. That is why we are here. That is why I am here.


By Erin Gaede