But he had a date with Bill Clinton so I guess it is ok.
One afternoon last week, Sam and I went into the city to meet Cam and attend the San Francisco Connect Launch Party. Because of the volunteering I did with Hands-On Bay Area at the Edible Schoolyard, I was invited and encouraged to bring friends.
You may remember me mentioning SF Connect before. It is an initiative our mayor, Gavin Newsom, started as Project Homeless Connect back in 2004. Last week, they had a party to announce the Launch of San Francisco Connect. This initiative will continue to address homelessness but will now also include three other initiatives, Project Green Connect, Project Youth Connect and Project Tech Connect.
The event was near
I paid the parking lot attendant and Sam and I headed out. I have to admit that upon leaving the lot, I crossed the street with Sam to give the homeless guy a wide berth. (I am not yet trained or equipped to be able to help him.) From our side of the street, Sam noticed another homeless guy who was sleeping on the ground near where our friend had been sitting. He asked me why the man was sleeping on the ground. I said that maybe he didn't have a bedroom. In the meantime, it looked like the first guy was urinating on a nearby tree. Lovely.
I don't know if I would have gone to a party for Project Homeless Connect. Generally, Homeless people make me uncomfortable. I remember being bothered by them as a child when my family would vacation. Once, when I was about 12, we were in Washington D.C walking down the sidewalk, minding our own business. My brother, who was about 9, was wearing a shirt that said, "Yes." I don't know why his shirt said, "yes" but it did. What makes this memorable is that John's shirt caught the eye of a homeless person who decided to yell, "No" at my little brother several times while we passed.
When I was 16 or 17, my dad had a conference in
The first time I faced homelessness on a daily basis was when Sam and I moved to
Our apartment in
But across the street from our apartment were some really sketchy apartments. Once, we heard a gunshot and found out later from the police that a guy there had accidentally shot himself while sitting on the porch. "What else could he have accidentally shot?" I wondered.
Normally, we just parked our car on our side of the street, walked up our steps, locked our door and didn't pay the low-income housing much mind. Occasionally, however, I was approached by someone looking for a hand-out or help. One woman had such a good story that I actually drove her to an ATM and pulled out $40 which she promised to pay back. Of course, I never saw the woman or that money again.
At some point, I realized I was broke and that the money I was giving these people was money I was taking away from my son. I decided I had to stop and from that point on, nearly never gave money to anyone on the street. I gave to the United Way through payroll deduction when that was offered and tried to assure myself that there were resources available to help people in need. After less than a year in
When we moved to
Part of why I started volunteering at the National Runaway Switchboard, whose mission is "keeping at-risk youth safe and off the streets," was to learn more about the resources available to all people on the streets. I did learn and interact directly with people who needed help and was thrilled to actually be able to help them. I learned there are shelters where people can go if they are in a desperate situation (sometimes).
I've been looking for something similar to do here. Project Homeless Connect provides a direct service opportunity to help people who are on the streets. Cam, Sam and I went to the Launch Party to learn more about it. Honestly, we were a bit disappointed in the party. I guess for a party it was ok, there was wine, veggies, crackers, fruit, pasta salad, music, mingling, etc.
We had just gotten situated with our snacks. Sam was dancing. Then we were ambushed by a really off-putting, aggressive, Chicago-bashing, volunteer. We made small talk for a bit, explaning that while we were happy to be here, we really liked Chicago an awful lot, etc. When we were able to ditch him, things were better but we didn't really mingle much more. Shortly, the music started.
Unfortunately, it was way too loud. Many people in-line with the speakers were covering their ears. One older couple appeared to be physically in pain from the volume of the people singing, "Ain't My God Good?" The Runaway Switchboard is non-sectarian and I liked that. It was a bit weird to have a religious organization associated with a government-sponsored initiative but I guess the church whose choir we were listening to is an instrumental part of SF Connect. Still learning.
After the Glide Gospel Chior finished singing, the speakers started presenting. The first guy, I can't find his name, was pretty good. He seemed genuine and shared things from his personal life that illustrated why he was personally motivated to be involved with SF Connect. Next was the pastor of that church who was ok but not great.
We were waiting in anticipation of the mayor. The pastor from the Glide church gave a big introduction then explained that the mayor wasn't able to be there today. Apparently, Bill Clinton had called and asked him to attend a summit on global warming in LA. There was a short video address from the mayor. It was pretty anti-climatic. One more guy spoke but none of them were really inspiring.
They didn't talk much about the work or the people we were working to help. There wasn't anywhere to actually sign-up for or talk to people involved with a particular project. They did tell us to go to their website; it was launched that day too. Today, I went to the website and signed up to help with a Project Homeless Connect event next Thursday, August 10th, my dad's birthday. I signed up to help with Check-in.
I think in this role, I will be talking with homeless people, who come to the event, to asses their needs. During my volunteering for the Runaway Switchboard, I learned that because I genuinely care, am non-threatening, try to be non-judgmental and supportive, I was best at doing this part. Of course, those were usually teens and they were on the phone. This will be different. I hope I will be able to help someone. If so, it will be worth it. Wish me luck.