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GLIDE’s Unconditional Legal Clinic

When Gary woke up in a Daly City hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage, a hospital administrator informed him that his car had been towed. Unable to leave his hospital bed, Gary called the tow company to explain why he was unable to move his car. But despite explaining that he was not only hospitalized but homeless, and that his car was also his residency, Gary was told that his car would not be released until he paid $9,000 in fees.

This was in part due to San Francisco’s 72-hour law, which says that all vehicles parked on city streets can remain parked in the same spot for only three days in a row, at which point the city is permitted to tow the car without notice.

Gary spent the holidays hospitalized, trying to focus on recuperating, while his phone rang incessantly with demands to pay mounting tow costs—costs that were rapidly rising with exorbitant storage fees for every day his car remained impounded. By the time Gary was finally released from the hospital, the tow company had sold his only home at a lien sale, leaving him without any shelter or his belongings.

A civil justice gap

Across the United States, minor civil infractions like Gary’s are derailing the lives of low-income people who lack the savings necessary to cover an unanticipated expense. And few cities provide legal resources to support people who can’t afford a lawyer or other legal costs.

Legal resources are more readily available for some specific areas of the law, such as immigration; and in criminal cases, a defendant has a constitutional right to a court-appointed attorney. But what does a low-income person do in child custody cases, or evictions, or when they return to their parking place to find out their car has been impounded?

Founding the Unconditional Legal Clinic

James Lin, GLIDE’s senior director of mission and spirituality, recalls the day in September 2013 that “a preppy-looking white guy wearing a polo shirt” walked into GLIDE and introduced himself as Charlie.

At the time, Charlie Crompton worked as a lawyer at one the largest law firms in the city, Latham & Watkins. But Charlie was looking to help a clientele that rarely entered the privileged space of his office building. Charlie’s interest in public service led him to the Tenderloin, where he saw the need and the opportunity to integrate legal resources with the wide range of social services offered at GLIDE.

Word quickly spread that there was a trustworthy lawyer at GLIDE who got things done, for free. By leveraging his extensive legal network, Charlie was able to streamline the on-site, no-cost, drop-in legal services that would become the Unconditional Legal Clinic.

The free legal counsel and resources folded perfectly into GLIDE’s holistic approach to services, which provides loving non-judgmental support for people seeking to obtain and maintain the essentials of life—housing, jobs, benefits and family—amid the hardship of poverty and related challenges.

Like other services provided at GLIDE, the Unconditional Legal Clinic was born out of a need in the community, and it grew organically in its commitment to that need.

A new partnership

When, in 2014, Governor Jerry Brown tapped Charlie to be a superior court judge, the future of the Unconditional Legal Clinic seemed uncertain.

But Charlie is a creative problem-solver, and he once again turned to his network for possibilities. Having sat on the board of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR), Charlie went to them with a proposal and ultimately secured the collaboration of LCCR pro bono attorneys, supported in its administrative costs by two years of funding from his old firm of Latham & Watkins.

GLIDE was now a secure bridge for immigrants whose first language might not be English, for refugees who may not know their rights, and for low-income communities of color in need of legal guidance and support, all of whom could benefit from connecting with lawyers committed to protecting and advancing the civil rights of anyone and everyone in need.

Representation and dignity

“It has been very healing,” says Bréyon Austin, who studied Tribal and Criminal Law in Albuquerque before joining LCCR and who for the past year has been working at GLIDE’s Unconditional Legal Clinic. “I grew up homeless and will always feel that I am part of this community. I wanted to use my law degree to support people in the same situations I myself experienced.”

This is the uniquely reciprocal nature of GLIDE’s Legal Clinic: not only does it provide members of the community with the legal services they need, but it also offers lawyers an immersive experience into the reality of impoverished communities in San Francisco, people struggling to navigate through a confusing and often unjust maze of legal barriers.

For low-income people fighting to survive on the fragile footings of poverty, the results of minor violations can be devastating, especially considering how quickly they tend to snowball.

A vehicle tow, for instance, can mean the loss of transportation, or shelter, or both, which can lead to loss of employment as well as the loss of access to education and medical care. Not only is retrieving a car from a tow lot expensive, but it is also incredibly time-consuming. And for each day the car remains impounded, further fees accrue, as in Gary’s case.

In 2018, Gary visited GLIDE’s Unconditional Legal Clinic and connected with an attorney from LCCR, who provided him with the legal assistance and representation he needed to file a claim against the City and the tow company.

The result was justice: The judge ruled that the city should not have towed and sold his vehicle considering his inability to comply with the 72-hour parking law.

Of the more than 200 clients served per year by the clinic, more than half are experiencing homelessness and the majority are people of color over the age of 50.

Bréyon says the most common issues she hears about are City confiscation of personal belongings and housing-related matters. For housed clients, she deals with everything from eviction prevention to landlord harassment and uninhabitable living conditions in apartments infested with rodents and mold, and lacking running water, heat and electricity.

“The work is intense because it is bearing witness to injustice,” admits Bréyon. “But the healing comes from knowing I can help people achieve what they need with the representation and dignity they deserve.”

Bréyon Austin, Clinic & Pro Bono Coordinator at LCCR

The Unconditional Legal Clinic, a program of GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice, is open on a drop-in basis, Monday and Thursday from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, at GLIDE.

Join us for a special GLIDE Sunday Celebration at GLIDE Church on Sunday, October 27, 2019. We’ll hear from Minister Marvin K. White, Isoke Femi and Rita herself as we celebrate, honor and pay tribute to her work at GLIDE. RSVP and Invite Your Friends!

“You Are GLIDE. I Am GLIDE. Without Exception, We Are All GLIDE.”

After 30‭ ‬years of nonprofit work‭, ‬the last 17‭ ‬years in leadership at GLIDE‭, ‬Executive Director Rita Shimmin has decided to retire‭. ‬Below‭, ‬Rita shares some thoughts about GLIDE and her retirement.

Rita‭, ‬why do you think this is a good time for you to retire‭? ‬

There are a lot of beautiful people here who will take GLIDE forward. I am impressed with and confident in our staff and congregants’ ability to carry on the emotion, spirit, values and good work of GLIDE. GLIDE’s staff and reputation are our most important assets. We are doing a lot that continues the vision of GLIDE as a community of unconditional love and radical inclusivity: the LEAD program, the OPT-IN program, the Leadership Academy, our outreach to women in the local jail, innovations in the Meals program, and new social justice programs led by Rabbi Lezak, to name a few. Our work continues to attract wonderful people like our CEO and President, Karen Hanrahan. The best is yet to come! 

I know the organization is in a good place, and I am ready to open myself to new opportunities. When people hear the word “retire,” they often think that someone is just going to stop doing things. That’s not the case for me. I feel excited about who I am and what will come next. I’m still young. Apparently 75 is still very young. I recently saw a YouTube show about well-known celebrities over the age of 90, and quite a few who had reached 100! So I’m looking into planning my next 30 years.  

Rev. Cecil Williams and Rita Shimmin at Sunday Streets
With Rev. Cecil Williams in 2013.

How did you first come to GLIDE and what was that like? 

I came to GLIDE as temporary management replacement in May of 2002 for eight weeks. 
I managed the Safety Team, the Meals program and the Walk-In Center. I loved working with the staff, some of whom are still here. At that time, the manager’s office window looked right out on the meal line. I got very excited, listening to the spirit and the energy of the folks talking together in the meal line. I heard wild conversations, and very intelligent, political and philosophical conversations. I got a thought then that I continue to hold: that the people in our lines are the people who will lead us, into the future, into liberation, into everything. Because they are able to see outside of convention—the convention of politics, the convention of reality, the convention of religion. They see and experience outside the boxes that have many of us trapped. I fell in love with the staff and the people we serve. My first experience at GLIDE told me this is a very uniquely exciting place with many possibilities for changing the world.   

“…‬the people in our lines are the people who will lead us‭, ‬into the future‭, ‬into liberation‭, ‬into everything‭…‬‮”

Felicia Horowitz and Rita Shimmin at SF Pride.
With Felicia Horowitz at SF Pride.

 

How did you end up staying‭ ‬at GLIDE so long‭?

In November of 2002, I joined GLIDE as the Associate Executive Director in charge of programs. I was confused about GLIDE for a while. Was it a church, or a foundation, or programs? At that time, I was responsible for different service centers, representing many different programs and business models—a primary healthcare clinic, a family and childcare center, a 364-day meals program, and an array of social services. And the church, of course, overlapped with many of these activities. Every day was different, and I never had a dull day. When I think of leaving GLIDE now, I have tremendous gratitude for the visions of Jan and Cecil. GLIDE is a playground, a place to have big fun! GLIDE is a platform from which to express your life and your life purpose. 

GLIDE has to be experienced, a place that exists beyond what can just be seen. For me, it’s been a place to stimulate the expansiveness of my soul and mind and heart. It is not a place to be comfortable. There are many opportunities here to feel centered, to feel grounded, to feel joy. But very soon you’ll be uncomfortable for some reason. And those times of discomfort are the times when growth and love happen. My capacity to care and love has grown here. GLIDE will always be with me. I will always be with GLIDE.   

 

W. Kamau Bell and Rita Shimmin
With W. Kamau Bell at GLIDE in 2016.
Rita Shimmin and Minister Marvin K. White at SF Pride
With Minister Marvin K. White at SF Pride 2019.
Rita Shimmin, Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani celebrating Cecil's 90th Birthday
With Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani at Cecil’s 90th Birthday, September 2019.
Rita Shimmin, Rev. Cecil Williams, Karen Hanrahan, Janice Mirikitani and India.Arie at the 2018 Holiday Jam
With Rev. Cecil Williams, Karen Hanrahan, Janice Mirikitani and india.arie at GLIDE’s Holiday Jam 2018.

Rita Shimmin Rita Shimmin at her staff retirement party

We wish Rita much happiness in her future endeavors and are so very grateful for her love and contributions to the success of GLIDE and our community‭! ‬♥

GLIDE celebrates Native leadership on the 50th anniversary of the Alcatraz Occupation

We hope you will join us at 9:00 am this Sunday, October 13th, at GLIDE Church for a very special Celebration. In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Marin Theatre Company will be presenting a scene from the powerful play Sovereignty by playwright, attorney and activist Mary Kathryn Nagle about the historic and continuing struggles of the Cherokee Nation for jurisdiction over their land, including a female attorney’s fight to ensure protection of Native women under the Violence Against Women Act. Join us in honoring the history and the ongoing struggle, and celebrating the contributions, cultures and resilience of our indigenous communities.

This year, Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend coincides with two important anniversaries, as we commemorate 50 years since the Native re-occupation of Alcatraz Island and the struggle for Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. Fifty years ago, GLIDE’s community supported both of these struggles and the movements that gave rise to them.

The 14-month occupation of Alcatraz by Native Americans, led by the group Indians for All Tribes, sught the reclamation of Indian land and justice for treaties broken by the United States government.

“GLIDE provided an office for AIM [American Indian Movement] back in the ’70s, and had a deep and meaningful relation with them and their elders,” notes GLIDE Co-founder Janice Mirikitani.

“We supported the Alcatraz movement and the indigenous community who were there by housing their possessions while they occupied the island. We also involved AIM leaders with other civil and human right groups, including the Black Panthers, and activists in the Latinx and Asian America communities in coalitions around many common issues.”

Reverend Cecil Williams and Dennis Banks, Executive Director of the American Indian Movement (AIM), in 1974.

 

The student strike at SF State demanding the inclusion of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University altered the curriculum of education and the course of history not just in the Bay Area but across the nation.

In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we celebrate and reflect on these efforts of truth-telling and self-determination with one of GLIDE’s longtime community members: educator, artist and Native American activist Dr. Betty Parent.

“I relate so deeply to this anniversary of the Indian occupation of Alcatraz,” says Betty. “The occupation was a lightening moment for the modern Native community because it followed the relocation period when Indians both voluntarily and forcibly migrated to metropolitan areas where they found themselves surrounded by sagging promises.

“Alcatraz was an abandoned prison and, according to treaties, when land is taken for a purpose like the military and not used anymore, the Native people should take it back. This occupation catapulted the city and San Francisco State into the national news.”

Betty, as a member of the Yup’ik tribe, grew up in a tiny village on the banks of Alaska’s Kushokwim River. “Eskimo was my first language and even still, when I am feeling creative, it is difficult for me to express it in English,” she says. “It just makes more sense in Eskimo.”

Migrating from her indigenous community to the big city, Betty describes her early experience of “urban life” living alone in a busy metropolitan area as a “spiritual desert” — until she found GLIDE.

“When I joined GLIDE, it was like being picked up and taken home,” she recalls. “It was a very supportive spiritual environment where you could openly express yourself, which is something I really needed and continue to need.”

Betty’s quest to be a teacher eventually led her to the Bay Area. After graduating from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, she received her master’s from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. After that, she became the first Alaskan Native American woman to earn her doctorate from Stanford, in 1984. She went on to spend the next several decades as the first full professor in American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University, where she developed the curriculum and established a model of excellence in teaching, research and community service.

Betty’s legacy continues to break through barriers. San Francisco State now offers the Betty Parent Achievement Award scholarship to support the academic endeavors of American Indian Studies students. When asked about her hopes for the future Betty reflected on her college days. Carved into the interior sandstone walls of Stanford’s Memorial Church is a quote that Betty describes as summarizing her philosophy and inspiring her education efforts. The inscription reads:

“We must not desire to begin by perfection. It matters little how we begin provided we resolve to go on well and end well.”

GLIDE Harm Reduction Services director Paul Harkin demystifies fentanyl and shares the known solutions to the opioid crisis

Friday, August 30, is Overdose Awareness Day, dedicated to remembering lives lost and lives saved in the opioid crisis, as well as to informing the public about humane and evidence-based ways to mitigate the risks and fatalities associated with drug use. Here in the TL, we’ll be gathering from 1:00 to 3:00 pm at the Tenderloin National Forest (511 Ellis Street) to honor the lives lost, as well as to celebrate the power of community—by sharing information, Narcan trainings, our stories, and good food and music. This day and everyday, it’s important to remember that there are things we can all do to reduce risks and harms in our community. The first step is educating ourselves on the facts about drugs and drug use, including the known health interventions out there. Current media attention on fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid helping to fuel overdoses in the Bay Area and across the country, is too often inclined to focus on the sensational or to even trade in misinformation. We know that sensationalistic stories only make matters worse. So to learn more about fentanyl and the proven health interventions that can reduce the risks it presents, we spoke with Paul Harkin, director of GLIDE’s HIV/Hep C and Harm Reduction Services. The following conversation has been shortened and lightly edited for clarity.

Can you give us some context for the current focus on fentanyl?

Paul Harkin: I came to San Francisco in 2000 to work at the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center. My first week at work I saw people who were using fentanyl. Even back then, there were people for whom that was their drug of choice, because it’s fast-acting and it doesn’t last as long. There was not the same hysteria around it then. I just saw it as another opioid among the many opioids that are available to people, whether it’s a pharmaceutical or street drug.

About three years ago, we saw a real uptick in fentanyl in the drug supply in San Francisco. One of the first things we saw was Xanax pills that were counterfeit and had fentanyl. So, you’ve got people that are taking a pill that they thought was a benzodiazepine and it’s full of fentanyl, and they died, or they overdosed.

It was very perplexing. You’re wondering, who would do that? We don’t know if some of this is cross-contamination. There’s been fentanyl traces in a lot of different substances.

And we’re still seeing a lot of opioid users dying from fentanyl overdosing because it’s very strong and the onset is so quick. If I were doing heroin, an overdose is probably about 30 minutes from the shot to the point where I have respiratory failure. There’s quite a decent window there to save me, if there’s anybody around. With fentanyl, that respiratory failure can happen within five minutes.

What’s the approach you and GLIDE take to this situation?

[Fentanyl] has been here for a long time. It’s given to pregnant mothers in maternity wards during childbirth. Any approach that’s hysterical is counterproductive. We just need to look at it rationally: It’s an opioid. It’s a strong opioid. It’s a fast-acting opioid. People have used it for years and not come to harm. Other people have used it once and died. Like with a lot of drugs. We can’t be shaming, stigmatizing, sensationalizing. We just have to educate people that overdoses are reversible. No matter how much somebody takes or how quickly they go into an overdose, if somebody there has Narcan they’re going to be able to reverse that overdose. That means we need to have Narcan distribution.

But we also have to create a climate where people are not using alone, because then nobody can reverse your overdose. It’s like having a designated driver, having somebody with you when you get high. For some folks that’s a challenge because they don’t want to be outed—they might be using drugs secretly. That’s an ongoing community intervention, trying to de-stigmatize use so that people can feel safe to have somebody with them.

Can you elaborate on the life-threatening consequences associated with stigma?

When we look at stigma, whether it’s drug use or sexual behaviors, it’s always been counterproductive. It makes people want to keep secrets; it pushes people further away. By de-stigmatizing substances and substance use you make it easier for someone to talk about it. You can check in with them. “Hey, I’ve noticed you’re getting high a lot more lately. What’s going on? Is everything OK?” You can have that conversation. That’s what we have to get to.

It’s just like with gay men and HIV. We saw that stigma helped promote the infection, because people were feeling unable to discuss their status or getting tested—there was shame, there was stigma, there was criminalization. All of these things are counterproductive. We need to move away from that model. People need the facts, told in a calm and composed way. And then we work with them, based on the facts, on how to reduce the harms.

What are the known health interventions that can reduce or eliminate the threat of overdose deaths?

When we talk about the shocking uptick in opioid overdoses, we should also be talking about the known solutions.

Number one is having overdose prevention available to you through Narcan. If everyone who used had somebody sitting there with Narcan there would be no more overdoses.

Another intervention would be having safe consumption sites where people are medically supervised, or they’re supervised by community members trained in overdose prevention. We have these all over the world. There’s never been a single overdose death in any of them.

Another intervention that we use at GLIDE is giving people fentanyl test strips. It’s not sufficiently adequate because it’s just saying, yes, there is fentanyl in this drug. It’s not telling you the degree of contamination, the percentage of the drug that is fentanyl. However, if you bought ecstasy and it tested positive for fentanyl then that’s a big deal. Now, if you’re buying heroin and it tested positive for fentanyl, that’s also a big deal but it’s still in the same class of drug. So maybe you take less of it. You do a test shot, or you smoke a bit. There are different tried and tested methods that reduce the possibility of overdose.

With those test strips, another good thing about them is that they help us generate conversations about overdose and make sure that people are very aware of how strong fentanyl is and the uptick in the incidences of overdoses, including fatal overdoses.

But, to me, we’re not going to get beyond the opioid deaths until we get to safe consumption sites. There’s really no downside, except for people who see it as a moral failing and they’re morally outraged. It’s coming from an ill-informed position. Let’s talk to drug users, and let’s talk to people who work with drug users and have expertise. You’ll see that the evidence shows that this is a highly efficacious intervention.

It’s like people who say our thoughts and prayers are with you after mass shootings, but they don’t want to touch gun legislation—saying you’re outraged at the opioid crisis and all these deaths, but you won’t implement evidence-based solutions. It’s really time for the people who work with this population, the medical experts, to say we need to do these interventions. The time has come.

Paul Harkin (above, second from left) is the director of GLIDE’s HIV/Hep C and Harm Reduction Services.

A look at what our community’s kids and parents can count on.

Summertime is almost here—a time when children suddenly have seemingly endless hours of free time. But what do the working parents of low-income families do about childcare once school is let out?

It’s no secret that the cost of childcare in San Francisco, along with the cost of living as a whole, has skyrocketed. According to a study by The Insight Center for Community Economic Development, the median cost of childcare for preschool-age kids rose 40% in the Bay Area between 2014 and 2018, from about $1,000 a month to more than $1,500. This cost can prove prohibitively expensive for many parents, even those working multiple jobs and/or taking shifts at odd hours to do their best for their families.

FYCC Field Day, Summer 2016. Photo credit: Alain McLaughlin.

Many parents are simply moving out of the city. In fact, San Francisco has the lowest percentage of people under 13 of any major city in the nation.

The inequities and acute challenges faced by low-income parents, including during the summer months when children are no longer in school, are why GLIDE’s Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC) exists.

“We go where parents are most likely not going to have the means to go… Not everybody has a car and can drive to Marin.” —Juan

In anticipation of summer break, we spoke with Juan and Selina, two of GLIDE’s wonderful teachers, about FYCC’s thriving Afterschool and Summer Program.

“In the summer, we’re here with the kids much longer,” explains Juan, lead teacher for the second-graders. “We go from spending three hours a day with them to nearly nine hours.”

While the hours may be long, Juan and Selina make it clear that the summer program is fun and rewarding for both the children and themselves.

We go on field trips every Tuesday and Thursday,” says Juan. “We do hikes, we go swimming, do art… We’re going to dissect an owl’s pellet, which,” he admits, “is a little gross, but the kids are going to think it’s cool!”

“We also have tons of [guest instructors] who come in and do activities with them like music and dancing,” adds Selina, the lead kindergarten teacher, who has been with FYCC for over a decade. “I believe there is a ‘bubble lady’ coming in, too. She puts the kids inside bubbles!”

FYCC Field Day, Summer 2016. Photo credit: Alain McLaughlin.

One of the best things about FYCC Summer Camp, according to Juan and Selina, is that many of the children get to experience certain joyful and eye-opening activities for the first time in their lives, like flying a kite, or visiting the Marin Headlands.

“We go where parents are most likely not going to have the means to go,” explains Juan. “Not everybody has a car and can drive to Marin.”

Selina adds that they try to show the kids the diversity of Bay Area neighborhoods and natural parks.

“The kids get to do a private tour of Oracle ball park,” she notes. “And, the older kids get to go camping through CYO [Catholic Youth Organization]. It’s for children from eight to 15-years-old. It’s for a whole week, and it’s entirely free to the families here, including the food.”

FYCC instructors Juan Ruiz and Selina Ng pose in front of a mural that Juan painted on his classroom wall.

Of course, when working with children, there is never a shortage of hilarious stories. Selina recalls one summer a couple years ago when FYCC teachers took the kids day-camping in the Presidio.

“All the camping supplies are supposed to be provided, stored in a locker for you on-site. It turned out that somebody took the logs we’d planned to use to make the fire. When we finally found some, none of us teachers could figure out how to build the fire!” Selina recalls, laughing.

“The kids were just like, what is going on? We had supplies to make hot dogs and s’mores… The kids were really good about it. They had a really positive attitude, but it was so funny. I was like, well, we grew up in the city, I never went camping! Luckily, we found a high-school teacher right across from us at the campsite, so they helped us build the fire,” she says.

“City people tryin’ to camp. That’s what happens,” Juan laughs.

A GLIDE FYCC teacher leads a group of children on a field trip.

Juan and Selina express gratitude for the support and enthusiasm the program receives from organizations and institutions that reduce or waive fees to make field trips possible, and to individual San Franciscans who generously donate to the program.

“Afterschool programs that are income-based are great because a lot of families here don’t have the means to keep their kids elsewhere,” says Juan. “And you definitely don’t want to have your kid at home alone, or alone in the city. The fact that we can provide care, with a kick of education along with it, is great.”

Especially given what’s going on in the political landscape, I think it’s very important that we keep cultivating equality, social justice and acceptance of cultures other than our own. — Selina

Selina, who is a mother herself, adds that San Francisco now has the most expensive childcare in the nation.

“Especially when you remember that, in the Bay Area, a family of four making $110,000 is considered low-income, and then you factor in how much our FYCC parents make, which is way, way less than that,” she notes. “I think that programs like this are an asset and that we need more of them.”

“I want my child to be with other kids and do things that they don’t get to do during the school day,” she continues, “When they come to FYCC, there are electives! There’s PE, cooking, art, music—things that are not necessarily offered at school anymore. It’s also a safe place and, as a parent, knowing where your child is after school gives you peace of mind. Childcare should be a right; it shouldn’t be a privilege.”

FYCC Field Day, Summer 2016. Photo credit: Alain McLaughlin.

Not only are the families FYCC serves low-income, many of them are also immigrants and face challenging linguistic and cultural barriers. During the academic year, FYCC teachers offer assistance with homework to the kids, as many of their parents do not read or write English. Teachers prioritize instilling an appreciation and love of diversity in their classes, and these values of acceptance and inclusion are reiterated during the summer program.

“We introduce a lot of kids for the first time to another part of the world,” says Juan.

“Especially given what’s going on in the political landscape, I think it’s very important that we keep cultivating equality, social justice and acceptance of cultures other than our own,” says Selina. “FYCC [is] a safe place for everybody.”

The FYCC summer program begins on June 10 and lasts until August 9. For more information about GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center, visit FYCC’s page on GLIDE’s website.

 

In keeping with our values of radical inclusivity and acceptance, GLIDE has a long-standing policy of welcoming all people, as well as their animals, through our doors. On any given day at GLIDE, you will see dogs in backpacks, strollers, baby slings, tote bags and on leashes. In celebration of the unconditional love that animals and humans provide one another, here is a look at some of the dogs and their humans that have made an impact on us over the years.

Richard and Kane.

“All the GLIDE staff are wonderful to me and Kane. Now I have a real apartment. I save $300 a month to pay my rent. This has given me back my dignity. GLIDE allows me to be an individual and Kane is recognized as an individual, not just a dog.”

Bailey and Marley.

The sweeps are what originally caught my eye about GLIDE Harm Reduction, the fact that you can go out and collect all the needles in the street. I live about three blocks away, I take my dog on walks around here and it’s dirty! I have to make sure my dog’s not stepping on dirty needles! It’s a really awesome program and as soon as I started helping with the sweeps I wanted to do more.

Marley was five weeks old when I got him. It was the night of a blood moon and I was sleeping in the woods in Oregon at the time. When I brought him to my camp, we stayed up together and howled at the blood moon.

For a long time I was very nomadic. This is the first time I’ve lived indoors in the last six years. Before that I was sleeping outside under the stars. But sleeping in the city, in doorways, is really scary, and he’s always protected me. I’ve been in the weirdest situations while hitchhiking by myself, and he’s got my back.

Bill, GLIDE Harm Reduction Syringe Access Outreach Coordinator, and Rosie.

As far as the people we serve, people experiencing homelessness or struggling with chaotic substance use, a dog can take them to a grounding, centering place. I think also give them a sense of meaning, purpose and connection, especially if they’re lacking a healthy social support network with humans. Dogs will at least give them some love in their life, and we know that everyone does better with a little love in their life!

Rosie helps me to be grounded and centered, more so than I would be without her. If I get frustrated or angry, I look at her and everything melts away. How can I be pissed off when I’m looking at that little face? She contributes to this whole office area being a better place!

John and Odin

I used to not be homeless and I lived on the East Coast and hiked the Appalachian Trail a lot. One fateful night six years ago, me and a buddy are out camping and we stopped for the night. We hear whining and small barking! I’m like, whatever, somebody camped near us. We’re chilling, we’re hanging out, we’re talking, and it gets closer! We ignore it for a good 10, 20 minutes. Finally it drives me nuts to the point where I open up the tent and I look out and about five feet away he’s sitting there staring me in the eye going, “Dude!”

We look around, there’s no campfire, there’s no lights, I hollered for people to see if anybody had lost their dog. I pulled him into the tent, he had no collar or tags, no nothing. As soon as he got into the tent, he ducked into my sleeping bag, curled up, and passed out! Done! I thought, all right, well I guess you’re sleepin’ here tonight!

I can’t sleep without him now. He keeps me calm, he keeps me going. Eventually my girl and I are going to end up getting some land in Arizona and starting a farm. The whole premise behind it is Odin and our other dog.


Amber or Syringe Access Services and Daydream.

Daydream has been my dog for a little over seven years. She’s 11. She was my partner’s and when he passed away, I got her. She has absolutely saved my life. Without her, I don’t think I would be on this plane anymore. That was one of the hardest times of my life.

We pretty quickly ended up on the streets and she helped to keep me sane. She would keep me warm at night, and safe from all sorts of external issues like sexual assault, robbery… I didn’t start having seizures until after I got her. She’d been my partner’s seizure alert dog. I had no idea what was going on the first time, and she knew exactly what to do and took care of me. After that, she became able to let me know before I would get them, and I got on medication. Thankfully I don’t get them very often anymore, but I’m able to recognize what that feels like when they’re coming on. Without her, I don’t know how far along I’d be on that.

GLIDE’s Assets Are Held in Trust for the People of San Francisco, Not the United Methodist Church

To the supporters and extended family of GLIDE,

The GLIDE Foundation filed a countersuit yesterday in its legal dispute with the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (CNAC) and Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño. In the countersuit, GLIDE explains that Lizzie Glide put her 330 Ellis Street property into a charitable trust in 1929 so it could be used for religious, charitable, and educational purposes, held in trust for all people of San Francisco, not for the CNAC or the United Methodist Church (UMC).

Over the past ninety years, GLIDE has been true to Lizzie Glide’s wishes and used the 330 Ellis Street property to operate programs ranging from a Women’s Center to the Daily Free Meals Program (which serves over 750,000 meals annually) to GLIDE’s church. Since the 1960s, when Cecil Williams, an ordained Methodist minister, and later his wife Janice Mirikitani, first arrived, GLIDE has focused its efforts on helping and empowering the most marginalized in San Francisco. Since then, GLIDE’s 330 Ellis Street facility, in the heart of the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood, has been home to GLIDE’s many programs.

These efforts and programs have resonated across the city and far beyond.

GLIDE’s countersuit says CNAC and the Bishop’s lawsuit filed in December is baseless because it ignores Lizzie Glide’s wishes, the CNAC-GLIDE relationship over the past ninety years, and the revolutionary changes at GLIDE that started in the 1960s under The Reverend Cecil Williams, which have placed GLIDE at the center of efforts to help San Francisco’s most vulnerable. GLIDE’s suit also claims that the Bishop breached fiduciary duties and interfered with its activities as trustee of the 330 Ellis Street property.

“GLIDE exists to help the less fortunate, to give hope, provide unconditional love, spiritual nourishment, and to make San Francisco and the world a better place,” said Mary Glide, a board member and great-great granddaughter of Lizzie Glide. “My great-great grandmother was clear: She wanted her property used to help and benefit the people of San Francisco. GLIDE’s community services are extensive and vital to the people of San Francisco and fulfill the commitment, purpose and legal parameters of the original trust and assets of Lizzie Glide.”

As stated in the suit filed in San Francisco Superior Court by our lead attorney, Scott T. Nonaka of the law firm Sidley Austin LLP, “This case is about one California nonprofit organization (the CNAC) trying to seize control over the operations and assets of another nonprofit corporation (GLIDE).” GLIDE’s complaint asks the court to protect GLIDE, its services, and its assets from a hostile and unwarranted attempt by CNAC and Bishop Carcaño to seize control of GLIDE operations and assets without a valid claim.

Over the past many months, GLIDE has been preparing for all contingencies to ensure our work continues and our donors’ intent is honored no matter what happens with this lawsuit. Our staff are focused every day on what is most important—stepping up to meet the growing need in our city for meaningful solutions to help those most in need. The future of GLIDE is at stake in this legal battle, but we are confident we will succeed, not just because we are on the right side of the law, but also because we are on the right side of the facts. Everything we do is grounded in religion, charity, and education, just as Lizzie Glide wanted.

Again, as stated in February 27’s court filing, “Many know GLIDE as a beacon and refuge for the people of San Francisco. For the city’s fortunate, GLIDE has inspired, prodded, and nudged us to follow our better angels. For the city’s marginalized, GLIDE has given us a community of unconditional love, hope, and inclusion. To those touched by GLIDE, it’s more than an organization: It’s a source of physical and spiritual nourishment, a place of healing, an advocate and guidance counselor wrapped into one, a place to gather and worship, thousands of volunteers, a social service center and health clinic, and a place to celebrate the spirit. Put differently, to many San Franciscans, GLIDE is our city’s conscience and soul.”

This dispute with CNAC and Bishop Carcaño is nothing short of a fight to keep the GLIDE we all know alive.

Thank you for your continued support and the innumerable acts of love we have received since this dispute arose last year.

Karen Hanrahan

President and CEO

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.

It’s no secret that at GLIDE, we believe in love. We believe in radical, unstoppable, unconditional love. We also know that love manifests in as many ways as there are people in our community—people like Elena and Zach, two GLIDE interns who are helping to link hard-to-reach members of the community to harm reduction and HIV/Hep C services.

Zach and Elena are much loved members of the Tenderloin’s harm reduction community.


GLIDE Harm Reduction Peer Program: An entryway to connection, education and community

Recently, GLIDE’s Harm Reduction team initiated its first-ever Peer Program, managed by Outreach Coordinator Bill Buehlman. The purpose of the fledgling program is to provide internship opportunities to people who have struggled with substance use themselves, so that they can not only learn about harm reduction and direct service but, in turn, reach out to others in the community who are otherwise not receiving services—either because they get overlooked by other programs or they tend to distrust traditional service providers.

“We’re trying to engage people with lived experiences,” explains Bill, “active participants who want to do any level of service work.”

Bill serves as both a trainer and a mentor to participants in the Peer Program, who are usually people who currently use or have formerly used GLIDE’s harm reduction services.

“The people who are difficult to reach are the people we most want—especially with regard to Hep C testing, education and treatment. Seven out of 10 injection drug users in this city will test positive for Hep C antibodies. We are good at outreach, but that doesn’t mean we can reach everybody. That is part of what this program is about—using people within the community to navigate in there and help link folks to services.”

Another member of the Peer Program, Bill Buehlman, Elena and Zach pose together after a Friday afternoon harm reduction outreach.

 

Elena and Zach arrived in San Francisco last year after many years of travel, and were immediately drawn to GLIDE’s Harm Reduction Program.

“With Zach and Elena,” reflects Bill, “they really want to be in this world of harm reduction.”

Harm reduction principles are founded on respect for individuals’ choices, and a deep understanding of the often winding and difficult road to recovery. The Peer Program reflects these values by operating with a compassionate and judgment-free approach.

“As long as they can show up and do the work, that is all that should matter. And that is what Zach and Elena have done, consistently, and it’s been unbelievable.”

Elena and Zach

Elena and Zach met in a park on a hot day in Oregon, while they were both travelling independently around the country. Elena is from a small town in northeastern Ohio, while Zach is from Texas.

“We feel very strongly that people deserve clean equipment and good health care. To be in a position where we can advocate for that is really amazing because no one was ever there to advocate for us.” — Zach

“It was really special. We were both backpacking separately across the country,” recounts Elena. “I saw him and he had a Grateful Dead tapestry, which is one of my favorite bands. I had just been in Washington mining for quartz and crystal, so I had a really big case of nice shiny rocks and gemstones. I showed them to him. It’s a really odd thing to be interested in. Not many people share a love of minerals! But he did too, and so we’ve been together ever since. That was three years ago.”

Through their shared interests in music and minerals, Elena and Zach formed a strong bond. Together they grew an extensive collection of gems.

“After we met, we made that our focus, and we went on mining expeditions while we were moving around the country. You can go in any national forest or Bureau of Land Management land and you’re legally allowed to remove seven to 20 pounds of minerals every day,” Elena explains. “We have the gift of gab, so we took our cases of rocks out on the sidewalk in any city we were at and sold them on the street.”

Elena walks through the Tenderloin on a Friday afternoon outreach.

 

But when they arrived in San Francisco, Zach and Elena committed fully to volunteering at GLIDE. Today, they help run our Syringe Access Services, lead community outreach and needle sweeps, and were sponsored by GLIDE to become certified as Hep C/HIV test counselors.

“We were the first peers that Paul [Harkin, Director of GLIDE Harm Reduction Services] sent to become certified,” says Elena with justifiable pride.

“We’ve both had our fair share of experiences in places where there was no harm reduction,” adds Zach. “We feel very strongly that people deserve clean equipment and good health care. To be in a position where we can advocate for that is really amazing because no one was ever there to advocate for us. We’ve definitely needed these services, and we definitely used them all when we first got to San Francisco.

“We’ve since straightened our lives out in a different way, so we’re not using every day, but there was a point when we were using three, four, five times a day, coming here for supplies and hitting GLIDE up when they were on outreach.”

“The people around us are extremely supportive of what we’re going through, and that’s amazing. I couldn’t do it without them, and especially not without Zach.” — Elena

“Now, we’re actually providing the services that we used to come here to get ourselves. That really adds to our passion for it,” says Zach. “If it wasn’t for these guys, we wouldn’t have gotten the things we needed.”

Elena and Zach speak candidly but thoughtfully about their relationship with drugs over the years. Elena struggled with opioids for six years, and other substances before that.

“There were times when I was off and on, but there wasn’t any time when I was off that I wasn’t thinking about being on,” she says. “I’m dealing with 15 years of depression right now, in this time of transformation. The people around us are extremely supportive of what we’re going through, and that’s amazing. I couldn’t do it without them, and especially not without Zach.”

As for Zach, he has been injecting drugs for over three years, but says that he has been doing opiates since he was in his early teens.

“I remember a specific point in my youth when I decided to steal a bottle of Jack Daniel’s out of my dad’s closet. I was on opiates soon after that,” he explains. “I got addicted to drugs because I have problems that I’m trying to cope with.”

Now, Elena and Zach are studying for their Community Health Worker Certificate at the Community College of San Francisco (CCSF), and both intend to pursue BA degrees afterwards.

“I was concerned about going to school while homeless, but it’s been good. The teachers are supportive,” says Zach. “We are slowly moving forward in our lives.”

Elena plans to develop a strong application for UC Berkeley through her extensive harm reduction experience and CCSF coursework. Her goal is to have a profession in clinical research for an organization that focuses on the mental health benefits of controlled use of psychedelic medicines, such as psilocybin and MDMA.

“I’m interested in studies looking at these substances being used to treat depression and PTSD, and LSD being used for alcoholism and other disorders. The FDA is approving things that we never thought would be approved. That’s the field where I would like to see myself in eight to 10 years,” Elena says.

Zach wants to continue his education and work in harm reduction as well.

“I look forward to getting into a position where I can help troubled kids find their path and stay out of trouble because that is where I was when I was a kid. No one could relate to me, no one tried to relate to me. I really want to be that somebody that kids can relate to and help them find a good productive path,” he says.

Zach carries harm reduction supplies for distribution in the Tenderloin.


Radical love

As with any recovery journey, Zach and Elena’s love story is far from a fairytale. They have faced relapse. They are technically unhoused, currently living in a navigation center and unsure of where they will find a roof at the end of the month. And, while they thankfully have free tuition at CCSF, they still need to find affordable ways to access readings for their courses, purchase food and navigate complicated government systems to ensure they stay housed, healthy and safe.

Through all of this—years of substance use, mental health issues and financial insecurity—they have maintained their love for each other and for the community they serve. Their ongoing story is a testament to the power of unconditional love to not only transform individuals but whole communities and society at large. It is no small coincidence that harm reduction approaches are simultaneously the most effective and the most compassionate ways to address substance use disorders.

“GLIDE has helped me in ways that no one else ever has,” Zach said.

Elena agrees.

“I don’t think I’d be where I am at without these people at GLIDE,” she says. “Working here is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me in my entire life. They took me as I was—and look at the work I’ve been able to do.”

A dedicated volunteer whose legacy lives on through his bequest to GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program

Longtime volunteer Jonathan Leong passed away on October 19, 2017, leaving a very generous bequest to GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program. Just days after creating his living trust, he told his sister Bonnie, “A person dies. A great charity organization lives on and on, helping the poor and needy.”

A native San Franciscan who grew up in Chinatown, Jonathan gave his time and money to many nonprofits.

Jonathan was born near Vallejo and Mason streets, just one mile away from GLIDE. He attended Lowell High School and graduated from San Jose State University. He worked in San Francisco for the US Postal Service for nearly four decades.

Jonathan had a wide range of interests. He loved learning new languages and was fluent in Cantonese, Japanese, Spanish and German. Inspired by his father, Jonathan traveled all through Europe and Asia. He loved Montreal and went there annually to attend the International Jazz Festival. His favorite hobby was chess, and he was a frequent visitor to The Mechanics Institute’s famous chess room.

 

 

When Jonathan retired, he started volunteering at St. Anthony’s and GLIDE’s dining halls.

His sister Bonnie describes her brother as someone who was a big believer in community. He wanted to help those less fortunate, she explains, people who had less than he did. In addition to GLIDE and St. Anthony’s, Jonathan also supported the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, organizations that reflected his values.

“Volunteers like Jonathan are the heart and soul of what we do here in the Meals program, which is nourishing the body and soul every day,” says Daily Free Meals Program Director George Gundry. “We rely on them (up to 85 volunteers a day) for their generous donation of labor in getting food prepped and served for hundreds of folks a day, but it’s really so much more than that. The human connection made across this most fundamental social act, the offering of food to a neighbor, is a powerful experience for both sides. It’s impossible to measure, but you feel it here. I know Jonathan felt it. We all do.”

Jonathan completed his living trust and gave a copy to his sister, not knowing that he had only a year of life remaining. Jonathan’s legacy of love and support will live on through a substantial bequest gift he made to support GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program. We are extraordinarily grateful and humbled by his generosity.

 


Hallie Brignall is GLIDE’s Annual Fund Manager. If you would like information on making your own legacy gift to GLIDE, you can reach Hallie at (415) 674-6186, or HBrignall@glide.org. Or visit www.myglidelegacy.org 

 

GLIDE Volunteer serves a meal in Mo’s Kitchen