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Lisa Pelletier-Ross, a beloved staff member at GLIDE, serving as a trusted Community Safety Team Shift Lead, shares her reflections and grief during these exceptionally challenging times that demand justice, humanity and an end to the teaching of hatred and fear that fuels the brutality of bigotry and racism. We are so grateful for her courageous truth-telling and unshakeable faith in a more just, loving and inclusive world.

Has the whole world gone crazy? 

Why is it that it is the 21st century and we are still dealing with people being racist? This makes no sense to me. In the first place there should not have been no slavery, period, that’s reprehensible to me. What right did anyone think that it was a good idea? When the constitution was written it stated ALL MEN are created EQUALALL MEN means EVERYONE.

Skin color should not matter, but somehow it does, which is complete ignorance and arrogance, and atrocious! We are supposed to all be brothers and sisters. People should be judged by the type of person they are, not by what color their skin is. Yet, every day people get judged by their skin color, by how they dress, what they look like, and who they hang out around. If I’m not mistaken this is profiling. Just because you look a certain way, your skin color, or you wear certain kinds of clothes doesn’t mean that a person can assume that you are up to no good. The saying “don’t judge a book by the cover” applies to everyday living and the police have no business to assume that you are automatically guilty of something just because of your skin color, how you dress, or who you are with.  It’s like saying every black person is a drug user, but we know that this is not true, or every white person is a racist, but we know that this is not true.  What needs to happen is all the hatred needs to end. 

Hatred starts in the home.

It gets taught to children in their upbringing. I can speak on this because I was brought up in a house of bigotry. When I was in kindergarten, I met a girl named Tisa. We became best friends. We would play at school and after school. Her aunt lived down the street from mine. One day, my father saw Tisa and me outside playing, and I got in trouble. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to play with her anymore or I would get a spanking. The reason was Tisa is African American and my father was racist. Well I didn’t want to stop being able to play with my friend, so every day after school we would play, and every time I was caught playing with my friend Tisa, I would take a spanking.

Everyone’s in charge of their own destiny.  You are the one who can make or break the chain.  Just because I grew up in a house of bigotry doesn’t mean I had to be that way. I broke the chain and let the hatred end there. If I had to judge somebody, I’d judge them by the kind of person they are, not by the color of their skin. Adults could and should learn from children. When a child makes friends, whether at school or the park, they don’t care about what color their skin is, they just care that this is their friend. We need to stop teaching children hatred when being raised.

As far as the police are concerned, instead of them being trigger happy all the time, maybe they should go to CPI (Crisis Prevention Intervention) training. GLIDE Safety Team has taken the class and it helps us de-escalate situations with difficult clients. The Safety Team has to get re-certified every two years.

Police officers are the ones who set the tone when they first encounter a person. If they approach a person with a nasty or sarcastic attitude and are disrespectful, then how do you think the person is going to respond? The person will likely be disrespectful back because they feel disrespected. If an officer approaches a person and speaks to that person with respect, then they have a better chance of getting a cooperative response from the person because the person won’t feel like they were being disrespected. 

The police need to learn that every person is different, and each person needs to be dealt with differently, depending on the individual’s situation. There are all walks of life out there, some people are experiencing homelessness, mental illness, or substance use disorders. Whichever the case may be, each encounter must be dealt with depending on the circumstances. 

We must STOP profiling and lumping everyone into the same category. Just because you live in a certain area or hang around with certain people, doesn’t mean that you are a product of that environment.

WAKE UP people!

All this hatred towards one another must STOP

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

Reflections on an African American role model

LeRon L. Barton has been an active GLIDE community member since 2014. He currently serves as the Co-Chair of the GLIDE Racial Justice Team that grew out of the Ferguson Rally held at GLIDE. The Racial Justice team has interviewed African American youth about race issues with the hope of creating a curriculum for the San Francisco Unified School District as a primer for conversation about racism among students. Below are his reflections on Black History Month and an African American leader that empowered and inspired him.

When I think of all the historical figures I have admired, Malcolm X stands in front. The man formerly know as Malcolm Little is such an important figure in my life. The way Malcolm X talked about racism and the treatment of the African American, how he lived, and the commitment he made to the liberation of his people was just amazing.

I remembered hearing about Malcolm in my household, but he was not heralded like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When the movie based on his life was released, I wasn’t interested in seeing it. I look back on that and laugh, because the film Malcolm X is one of my favorite movies of all time.

While in the 11th grade, a teacher introduced me to The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I can say without a doubt, it changed my life. I identified with Malcolm X because he came from the bottom. Malcolm grew up in poverty and was told that he could not be a lawyer because he was Black. Think about that – How many children are told they cannot be something by their teachers because of who they are? Malcolm got into crime and became a drug dealer, thief, and pimp, earning the name Detroit Red, running the streets of Harlem.

Later, Malcolm embraced the Nation of Islam and discarded that negative lifestyle, and dedicated his life to fighting racism/white supremacy and lifting the consciousness of the Black man and woman. In the ’60s, seeing a Black man stand tall, have confidence, and no fear as he talked about the challenges Black folks faced was incredible. Malcolm was in a time where Black folks still stepped to the side when white people were on the sidewalk, drank from different water fountains, and were killed for being “uppity.” He was fearless and I loved that. Malcolm loved Black people. He loved being Black. That is what shines through. He loved us so much that he was willing to hold a mirror up and say, “This is where we are.” Reading the Autobiography made me proud to be Black, in a world that says you shouldn’t.

Malcolm’s speeches are amazing. He is the greatest orator I have ever heard. There are times where I just listen to him, hear the way he talks, what words he uses, and how he responds to racist comments. It has helped me so much in talks and discussions.

There are many things that I admire about Malcolm X, but the one trait that I take to heart is his commitment to the truth. He was steeped in it. When Malcolm learned of Elijah Muhammad’s infidelity and the Nation’s indiscretions, he left, embraced traditional Islam, and formed his own organization. Malcolm always wanted the truth and to “stand on the side of right.” I try to live my life around that. If the information I have is not correct or what I believe is not true, I will discard it and find the truth.

When I write about race, I sometimes wonder, “Would Malcolm approve? What would he think of my essays?” Malcolm X flows through me. In my opinion, the man also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz is the greatest intellectual of the 20th Century. In a discussion with my friend Jon Jeter about Malcolm X, he said, “Malcolm could see around the corner.”

 

Nancy Goh is among GLIDE’s most dedicated volunteers, a loving soul and an inspiring member of this community. Not only is she a regular in GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program, but she has incorporated raising awareness and support for GLIDE into her passion for running. Below, Nancy reflects on the reciprocal nature of volunteering and the power of community-building through service. 

My first volunteer shift was a Sunday lunch service.

I had just moved from New York City and was looking for something more than just a network in San Francisco, I was looking for community. I had volunteered at soup kitchens before but trying to find a high-impact volunteer opportunity in a big city was always tough when you only had a couple hours a week to contribute. Usually you had to fill out applications and commit to a certain amount of hours per week.

What instantly stood out to me about GLIDE was how easy it was to sign up for a volunteer shift via the online portal, and that you could dedicate one or two hours of your time in the Meals program and serve hundreds of people.

I come from a programs management and operations background, so I appreciate effective processes and good leadership. I was instantly impressed by the lead kitchen staff at GLIDE. They were so engaged and not only made sure everyone knew their role in the cafeteria but that everyone felt that their contributions were of equal importance. When you work in the corporate world for as long as I have, you see a lot of people who don’t love their job because they don’t find purpose in it. GLIDE was the opposite experience. I remember leaving my first volunteer shift heartened and humbled.

The second time I volunteered, Curtis assigned me the position of greeting people at the door and handing them utensils when they first enter the kitchen. It was very impactful for me. I admit that coming into this experience I, like many, had preconceived notions about people experiencing homelessness. But being in that kitchen, in a setting where everyone is considered equal and everyone deserves a delicious meal, deconstructed my prejudices. It was shocking to see the range of people in the meals line. It was then that I became an instant advocate for GLIDE.

I had been running for over ten years when I decided I wanted to run to raise awareness and support for GLIDE. I created a Go Fund Me page in 2019 with a list of all races I would run on behalf of GLIDE. In 2019, I completed two half-marathons and wore my GLIDE hat for each of them.

The more I volunteered at GLIDE, the more I felt a sense of community. It was the highlight of my weekends, walking into GLIDE and saying hello to the staff and volunteers. It brought a new regularity to my life that I didn’t have before. I met people with incredible stories working in the Meals program, many of whom were original recipients of these meals. I built beautiful connections with people I may have never had the pleasure of crossing paths with, like Lee. Lee had recently been released from San Quentin State Prison, where he was a runner in the 1,00 Mile Club. I had recently signed up to run the San Francisco Half Marathon and learned that Lee had too! In the weeks leading up to the marathon, Lee and I built a friendship based on our shared love of running, checking in with each other about how our training was coming along.

This is just one example of the sustainability model behind GLIDE’s Meals program. Access to a good meal can be the foundation for changing one’s livelihood. You start with giving someone something as basic as a meal and, while the impact doesn’t happen over night, the long-term results are the building of a community that continues to serve each other.

Nancy and Lee serving lunch in GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program.

 

By Erin Gaede

Reflections on the Complexity and Compassion of Case Management

Demarco McCall describes his occupation and its greatest challenge in the same breath: “a Housing Case Manager in a city without housing.” The reality is that case managers at GLIDE must meet the diverse and complex needs of the most vulnerable members of San Francisco’s unhoused community even in the midst of a seemingly intractable housing crisis.  If that seems like a thankless task, it nevertheless remains a critical one, which daily makes a profound difference in the health and wellbeing of many individuals and families across this city. And, as you’ll read below, it takes unusual reserves of heart, strength and creativity.

Demarco’s answer to our question–”What does a case manager do?”–is the first in a series examining and honoring the complexity and compassion of the case manager’s job– a profession that is often mentioned but not necessarily well understood in its details or scope, especially here on the front lines of GLIDE’s essential work in the community. 

Case management in this city is really hard and totally overwhelming. I am a Housing Case Manager but there is no housing. And let’s be honest, GLIDE is rough. I am exposed to so much trauma just walking to and from work–everything I see, everything that comes into my eyes, all the pain I bear witness to. When I first started working here, that was all that was on my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the people I was working with. I’d go home from work still trying to figure out what I can do for this person and that person. I missed out on so much sleep.

I applied to work at GLIDE because I love the values. It’s what makes this organization unique, our ability to meet everybody and anybody where they are at and show them unconditional love. If you visit other organizations, you’ll notice that the building may be neater. But we allow anybody and everybody from the community to come in and feel free to use our bathrooms and feel free to roam our halls because we have an open-door policy.

Even with difficult participants we don’t use a hands-on policy. Instead, we say you can leave the building for one week and come back for a “restorative chat.” That is, a mutually respectful conversation re-establishing the basis for a cooperative relationship that can truly serve the client without taking away from or jeopardizing the help being offered to others. In the meantime, they can still access all our critical services. We will bring them bagged lunches and clean needles and any other supplies they may need.

Some people have a cap on how many participants they case manage, but I don’t. It’s hard but how do you say no? I just took on five new clients today for rental assistance. That puts my caseload at a total of around 30.

The needs of each client vary, but it is always about housing. Filling out housing applications, doing housing searches, knocking on the doors of landlords, signing people up for payee services, filling out rental applications and helping folks with their credit history.

Often clients don’t have the necessary documents to complete housing applications so I help them navigate the system to access social security cards and birth certificates. I am always making copies of all their important documents and keeping all their files organized and up-to-date.

Many of my clients don’t have cell phones, so I am calling property managers, returning calls about potential housing leads, and making appointments at the DMV.

I help folks with their interviewing skills by practicing the questions they might be asked, so that they feel less anxious and more prepared.

Everybody, from all walks of life, needs a case manager. Some people want a case manager because they have been in social services their whole life. Many grew up in juvenile hall or foster care. Now they are 55 and they feel the need for a case manager.

I spend a significant amount of time showing people how to set up an email account and how to use Google Docs to keep track of their rental applications and housing searches. If they are on probation, I collaborate with their probation officer to make sure we are utilizing all the resources available.

A lot of people in this city also have literacy challenges, which they don’t tell you about. I have never had a client tell me, “Hey, I can’t read or write.” Instead they will say, “I need help filling out applications,” or, “I need help looking for housing.” They are worried about saying they can’t read or write because they are afraid of being taken advantage of. They feel scared and vulnerable. So, they seek out a case manager.

Unfortunately, society doesn’t recognize the importance of this critical work. Civil servants, social workers, case managers, early education teachers and care givers are not given the respect they deserve. My job title is Housing Case Manager but I also see my role at GLIDE as smiling at everyone, to share a friendly hello with each person I pass, to cultivate hope in the community by letting people know that it is not as bad as it seems. I see myself in everybody. In the good and the bad, the rich and the poor. That’s me. And that’s why I am a Case Manager at GLIDE.

 

 

 

By Erin Gaede

Crickette Brown Glad shares her truth and experience with GLIDE’s harm reduction outreach

GLIDE Church has a long-standing tradition of featuring voices from the community in a segment of Sunday Celebration called “I Am GLIDE.” Personal testimonies on the strength and power of unconditional love from our program participants, congregants, donors and volunteers provide what we often refer to as “the GLIDE sacred text.” We feature these inspiring stories here when we can.

Continue reading “We’re talking about our family”

Laura Thompson, founding member of the GLIDE Legacy Committee, remembers her mother by living GLIDE’s values

GLIDE Church has a long-standing tradition of featuring voices from the community in a segment of Sunday Celebration called “I Am GLIDE.” Personal testimonies on the strength and power of unconditional love from our program participants, congregants, donors and volunteers provide what we often refer to as “the GLIDE sacred text.” We feature these inspiring stories here when we can. Recently, Laura Thompson, founding member of our wonderful GLIDE Legacy Committee, spoke to the congregation.

I was raised by a badass single mom.

She survived an abusive childhood at the hands of a schizophrenic mother and alcoholic father, and escaped to San Francisco in the 1960s as a young adult, where she found GLIDE.
Continue reading “A Family Affair”

Unconditional Love. Radical Inclusivity. And Doing Your Part.

GLIDE Church has a long-standing tradition of featuring voices from the community in a segment of Sunday Celebration called “I Am GLIDE.” Personal testimonies on the strength and power of unconditional love from our program participants, congregants, donors and volunteers. We feature these inspiring stories here when we can. Emily Cohen, Co-Chair of the GLIDE Legacy Committee, spoke to our congregation on April 29.

I grew up in Petaluma. I was raised Jewish and secular. My father is Jewish and my mother is I think what she would call a “recovering Protestant”. My childhood was good. It was safe. And I felt loved.

One thing I did not do growing up was go to church. I did go to Hebrew School but about a year before my Bat Mitzah I told my mom I wanted to be a Buddhist. I was 12. So I have always been spiritually curious. I have always believed that there is something much more magical and important to us than us. But I never believed it could be found in the walls of any church or religious institution. I never believed a church could be the vehicle for me to have a meaningful spiritual human experience… Until it was.

emily and amy volunteering
Emily Cohen (second from right) volunteering in the GLIDE kitchen with fellow Legacy Committee members.

The first time I came to GLIDE was with my father. We had no intentions beyond just checking it out. But after that service I felt like I had found something I had been looking for my entire life.

I continued to come back on Sundays ,  even when it meant skipping Sunday brunches with friends. I think it was confusing for people — all of a sudden I was going to church. “What has happened to Emily?”

But I was inspired by the message of GLIDE. Of their work for social justice and equality for all. Of unending compassion. And a commitment to serve people at the very margins — the places other religious institutions do not go.

For me, GLIDE has been a kind of mentor. It has shaped my sense of the world. Of what it means to be connected to humanity.

At GLIDE I’ve seen unconditional love through their work in harm reduction. In their free meals program. In their programs for survivors of abuse. For men unlearning violence. In their programs for children. In the Walk-In Center where someone can get a clean pair of socks and speak with a person willing to meet them where they are.

We live in a society that TALKS about being compassionate and loving your neighbor and serving and giving back. But we also live in a society that tells us every day to reject that message. To consume more and give less. To turn away from the things we don’t want to see or feel. To explain to ourselves that you are not my problem. Your suffering is your own fault. We live in a society that gives us every excuse to explain away our selfishness.

For me, GLIDE has been a kind of mentor. It has shaped my sense of the world. Of what it means to be connected to humanity. Of what it means to be compassionate. To understand that it might seem that I have nothing in common with the people sleeping outside of this church   or waiting in line for their next meal. But the truth is, we have everything in common. For someone who is privileged , that can be a painful truth to face. Because then you know you’ll have to do something. GLIDE gives me a place to recognize how privileged I am and then to do something with it.

emily christmas
Emily volunteering at GLIDE’s Annual Toy Bay Giveaway, December 2017.

It is easy for people of privilege to talk about poverty. It is easy to talk about mental illness. It is easy to talk about affordable housing. Or homelessness. Or addiction. Or suffering. Or violence. Or racism. Or sexism. Homophobia. Xenophobia. It is NOT easy to work to change these things.

We have enough people in this world — and in this city — who do nothing. Who don’t give their time, energy or money to anything outside of themselves. We see this every day in the glaring inequality and disparity that we accept right here, right underneath our self-proclaimed “liberal values.”

Am I listening to the voice inside that reminds me that the men and women suffering outside are still a part of me?

Too many people believe it’s not up to them. But you are not one of those people. I know that because you’re here at GLIDE, a place that values and inspires action above everything else.

I call on the people sitting here today and the people listening at home to ask yourself: “Am I walking the walk? Am I listening and RESPONDING to the voice inside me that is trying to remind me of what it is to be human? To be connected? To love unconditionally and to give back in all the ways that I can? Am I listening to the voice inside that reminds me that the men and women suffering outside are still a part of me?

I look around this room — full of so many different types of people — in color, religion, upbringings, down-bringings, in age and gender, all here because we believe in or are curious about this idea of unconditional love and radical inclusivity. And I ask myself “am I giving enough back to this incredible place? Are you?”

GLIDE, to me, is radical because it does not wait for a better, safer, kinder future for the world. It creates that future.

GLIDE has provided an avenue to focus my energy, time and money towards something much more important than me. GLIDE has taught me what it really means to be just one person. Which is that I AM ONE PERSON! GLIDE has taught me what it means to step up and step in and say “I am somebody with something to learn and something to give.”

I use GLIDE as my vehicle because it is reflective of my values, beliefs and my desires for making this world — and our community—a better place. GLIDE, to me, is radical because it does not wait for a better, safer, kinder future for the world. It creates that future. But GLIDE can’t do it without you and me. So I’m asking you this morning to give more than you ever have. Whatever that means to you. Whether it is your time, your energy, your money. Step up. There is much work to be done.

I read a quote a few years ago and for me, it embodies GLIDE’s mission:

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

Being an active part of GLIDE has changed my life and I am certain it will change yours too.

My name is Emily. And I am GLIDE.

legacy committee group pic
The 2018 GLIDE Legacy Committee. Emily is pictured in the front row on the far right.