Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Skill Share Schedule

Our first quarter of Health Skill Shares has exciting, informative, and well-attended! Our first three months grew, starting with 3 and seeing regularly 5-10 participants each week. Evaluations have showed that people have liked the topics, format, and that the level of information was "just right."
Participants have shared experiences, learned skills both in health and in group participation, and posed questions and topics for future Skill Shares.

For the next three months, we've got two special guests, 6 topics suggested by guests, and a variety of health topics applicable to all people, from the perspective of people living in poverty. We'd love to see participants and volunteers from Welcome Ministry, Senior Center, and Old First Presbyterian, as well as the larger community.
Feel free to comment on topics you'd like to see, or skills you'd like to share!

Medical Marijuana-Special Guest Alex Darr

What are the risks and benefits of medicinal marijuana use?

How to access it safely and legally?

Resources and your questions answered.

Wed. September 10,


Discrimination, Prejudice, and Your Health-

-What is oppression and what can we do about it?

-What are common forms of oppressions in our communities?

-How does oppression effect everyone's health and safety?

-How can we work against oppression that threatens our health?

Wed. September 17,


Drugs and Alcohol- Use, Abuse, and Help

Special guest Randall Ehrbar, Doctorate in Psychology of

New Leaf: Services for Our Community

He'll be talking about a variety of topics related to assessing your own use, risks and benefits to continuing to use chemicals, how and when people might decide to make changes, and what options you have for getting help. He'll be sharing information about Harm Reduction and Stages of Change. Bring your experiences and questions!

Wed. October 8, 4:30-5:30

Avoiding Isolation-

Feel like you have no family or friends?

Get lonely, even in this city packed with people?

Wonder how to get started building a support network?

We'll talk about how and why people living in poverty may become isolated, why it's harmful to our health, and how to avoid isolation by finding community and creating a support network.

Wed. October 15,



-What kinds of exercise are healthiest, and how can you access them?

-How do you know if you're getting the right amount of the right kinds of exercise for your body?

-What about exercise when your body is strained from the realities of homelessness?

-What are the choices, challenges, risks, and benefits to exercising with disabilities?

Wed. November 12 , 4:30-5:30

Too much Stuff & Clutter- Health, Safety, Housing Risks & Resources

Wondering if you've got too much stuff? Not sure what you need?

Whether you're in a home you own or living on the streets, it can be hard to manage belongings and where you keep them. If you need help with cleaning, making decisions about what to keep, or anxiety related to stuff, we've got ideas and resources to help.

Wed. November 19, 4:30-5:30

Monday, August 11, 2008

Volunteers, Donations and Contributions Needed

Volunteers Needed
Every Tuesday
  • Cook (11am - 2pm)
  • Servers (1pm - 4pm)
  • Clean Up (3:30pm - 4:30pm)
Every 2nd and 3rd Wednesday
  • Set up (4pm - 2pm)
  • Computer Room Helper (5:30pm - 6:30pm)
  • Drop In Volunteers (5:30pm - 6:30pm)
  • Clean up (6pm-7pm)
Every 2nd and 4th Saturday
  • Servers (4pm - 7pm)
  • Clean Up (6:30pm - 7:30pm)
  • Computer Room Helper (6pm-7pm)

Volunteers may drop-in or email for more information.

Donations Needed

  • Men's clothing of all sizes
  • Toiletries
  • Scent-Free Toiletries (please store in a Ziploc)
  • Staples, Spices and Non-perishable food products.
  • Socks (white with gray athletic toes and heels)
Financial support is always needed to sustain our work. You can donate online or by mail:
The Welcome Ministry
1751 Sacramento St
San Francisco CA 94109

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thinking about Privilege in Ministry

In these last 5 months since I've started at the Welcome Ministry, I often think about privilege. The other night, after locking my keys in my office for the 3rd time, I chose between asking a neighbor to let me in to sit in my building or using my key card to sit in the comfortable Munro Room at Old First. Eventually I found someone with keys, who graciously let me in and allowed me to get on with my evening resting after a few hours of inconvenience.

The same night, one of our homeless guests slept outside after waiting for hours in a crowded dirty waiting room to get a shelter bed that never materialized. Many of our guests do not get let into public buildings to use the restroom, let alone to wait for two hours for keys to arrive.

My enormous unearned privilege as a white, middle-class, over-educated professional who does not personally know addiction, mental health disabilities, or poverty sent the message to my co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers that I was not a threat and would follow the rules. But this is based on our prejudices as well as our experiences.

Why talk about this privilege at all? Why not feel comfort in the hard work I did in school, the employment with which I earn my income, or the time I took to improve my hygiene, and say that I earned the right to be treated respectfully? Because the reality is that I didn't earn it any more than my neighbors, and I don't work nearly as hard as our guests who recycle all day long, travel according to the schedule of which meal site is open for which meal, panhandle as the only source of income, or engage in sex work because they feel there is no other way to sleep inside or to have food to feed their family.

Yet, the little bits of the oppression our guests face have touched my life, which may be why I'm noticing these differences:
-As a transgender and queer person, I have experienced discrimination in the church and employment, as well as stigma at times in my life. Yet my ability to relocate to supportive communities and my other privileges have led me to be employed and housed. At times in my life when I did not have sufficient income to cover my expenses, my family has been available to assist, and I can be reasonably sure this will continue, allowing me to take risks to pursue careers based on interests and schooling rather than economic need.
-I recently celebrated 20 years of diabetes without complications- complications that I avoided due to excellent medical care and health insurance, disability discrimination protections, stable clean housing, consistent access to healthy food, and not being addicted. But I see family members for whom one or two of these missing who have not avoided complications, and I wonder how our guests with diabetes survive. Imagine injecting insulin when you can only shower once a week and have no privacy or bed- if you can manage to get the insulin and supplies in the first place.
-As a person on the autistic spectrum, I have experienced discrimination in employment as well as social stigma. But as someone with access to education, I have been able to find places where my disability is mitigated by privilege. Having access to housing has meant that I can avoid many of my sensory triggers- imagine sleeping in a shelter when loud sounds hurt your ears and you can't read the danger signs from other residents! Far too many people on the autistic spectrum, let alone people with cognitive, brain injury, or mental health disabilities are institutionalized or limited to few choices for independence and autonomy. Yes, today, even adults with physical disabilities are institutionalized not due to necessities of their disability care, but due to a combination of lack of social/medical support, social value, and poverty.
-As a person who grew up as a girl, I have seen sexism. As an adult who identifies as genderqueer but passes as male, I can avoid being minimized due to my gender as long as I don't out myself. But I am acutely aware that women, particularly women living in poverty, are still treated as children, steered into lower-paying work, silenced in education systems, and subject to violence and rape.

This is a short list, but an important one. We who are privileged to have jobs where we work in positions of power with people who have experienced great oppression must always consider these questions:
-What privileges do I experience?
-What power do I have over others?
-How can I use that power and privilege to get out of the way of the power of others, to convince others that this oppression is wrong, and to work towards truer equality?
-What power must I personally give up to do this?

I pray today confessing my abuses of power and privilege, and asking that the God who gave up all power in order to enter into our human suffering forgive me and empower me to enter into my neighbors' suffering. Let me be open to sharing the gifts of our guests and neighbors, and to work that the world might also know these gifts. God of the Israelites, of Jacob and of Paul, liberate us from our oppressing! Amen.